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Lando Norris

Norris: Sainz get-out-of-jail-free card 'frustrating and unfair'

Should Carlos Sainz have been allowed to restart from third on the grid after sustaining a puncture on lap one and falling to last?

Lando Norris Carlos Sainz
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Lando Norris felt Carlos Sainz's free pitstop was "frustrating and unfair" after witnessing his good friend claim a podium finish in Monaco that was never on the table halfway through the opening lap.

From third on the grid, Sainz tussled with McLaren's Oscar Piastri out of Ste Devote, culminating in the Ferrari sustaining a puncture that saw him lock up on the entry into Casino Square, and immediately dropping to the back of the pack.

Fortuitously for Sainz, carnage had unfolded behind him on the run up the hill as Red Bull's Sergio Perez and Kevin Magnussen in his Haas wiped each other out, collecting the latter's team-mate, Nico Hulkenberg, in the process.

It sparked a red flag, allowing Sainz to return to the pits and change tyres. Additionally, following a 40-minute delay, the FIA opted for the original grid order for the restart.

Sainz did not make the same mistake twice, and in a processional race devoid of additional tyre changes for the leaders, he netted third place, despite coming under considerable pressure at times from fourth-placed Norris in his McLaren.

"It's always fun to drive around here, but at the same time there's nothing you can do, especially with the red flag at the beginning," assessed Norris, speaking to media, including RacingNews365.

"That ruined any other opportunities that might have come our way with strategy, tyre saving and stuff like that. So it's a bit of a shame."

Immediately turning his attention to Sainz, he added: "Carlos got quite lucky that there was a red flag because he was out, or last, and that was his own fault.

"For him to get it [third on the grid] back was obviously annoying because it put me back down to fourth. You win some you lose some in those situations with a red flag. Sometimes it helps you out, sometimes it hurts you a bit.

"We lost out from it, and Carlos was the lucky one. Otherwise, there was nothing you could do, no pitstops, nothing, just driving slowly until the end."

Suggested to Norris that what unfolded was unfair, the British driver rightly declared: "Yeah, but they're the rules", highlighting Pierre Gasly's triumph in the 2020 Italian Grand Prix.

On that occasion, the Frenchman benefitted from a crash involving Ferrari's Charles Leclerc that allowed him to claim what is his only F1 victory to date. Clever strategy had also prevailed earlier in the race that propelled him into contention after starting from 10th on the grid at Monza.

"He won because he got a free pitstop onto some different tyres," recalled Norris. "Unless you want to say you're taking that win away from him, all of a sudden, it's the same situation."

Norris, however, highlighted a fundamental difference between Gasly's win, and Sainz claiming third in Monaco.

He added: "I guess this one was more that he [Sainz] made a mistake himself. He ran into Oscar and gave himself a puncture.

"So that [restarting third] is just very lucky. I don't think it's the most fair thing, but I'm sure there have been moments in the past when maybe I've been fortunate from it, and they [the team] fixed the car a little bit, or something like that.

"When you think of it, in just a blunt way, it is frustrating and unfair. That because someone makes a mistake, and because of a certain amount of cars, or whatever the rule is, didn't cross the line before the red flag and blah blah, that he gets to undo that mistake and gets a free pitstop. It's unfair."

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