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Formula 1 Austrian GP

F1 needs to fix racing rules to avoid "another 2021", says McLaren

McLaren says action must be taken in response to Austrian GP incidents if F1 is to avoid return of 2021-type controversies

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12 and Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B collide

Formula 1 should seek to “fix” clear flaws with the racing rules that emerged from the Austrian Grand Prix, reckons McLaren boss Andrea Stella.

He thinks such action is essential if F1 is to deliver a good spectacle on track rather than the kind of controversies that famously marred the 2021 title battle between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton.

Stella saw his driver Lando Norris eliminated from the Austrian GP after a late-race collision with Verstappen, who the Briton had been battling with for several laps.

But their clash on lap 64, which Verstappen was given a 10-second penalty for, was not the only aspect of the race that has left McLaren feeling things needed to be handled better by the F1’s governing body.

He believes that the FIA should have been tougher on Verstappen’s moving under braking earlier in the race, that common sense should have been applied for Norris getting a track limits penalty after running wide following a failed overtake, and that Verstappen’s punishment for the coming together did not fit the crime as he still came away from the race with his championship lead extended.

Stella believes there are enough grounds from the incidents for F1 to conduct a deep-dive into the issues at play, and work out ways to avoid such battles in the future ending in more crashes.

“This race has given us a lot of good information to fix some of the aspects which are needed to go racing in a way that we can enjoy this kind of battle until the chequered flag,” explained Stella.

“For me it's a big shame that we didn't see the last six or seven laps, because they would have been quite entertaining.

“They were not entertaining because simply the rules were not enforced. It would have been enough to give Max the warning [for moving under braking], like a black and white flag - so don't do it again. And he would have been much more prudent in closing the door on Lando.

“Then, when it comes to track limits - I think if the track limit is because you're trying to overtake somebody and you lock a little bit - then I'm wondering what kind of racing are we going to have if this is enforced in this way?

“Drivers will not even attempt to overtake, because 'oh, it will cost me one of the three strikes I have available'.

“This one I think can be easily resolved. We are not upset about this, we think it is wrong but it's important that it's addressed for the future, because we want to see a distinction between track limits that are genuine, because you're trying to take an advantage in terms of racing line, and track limits that come with a big loss of advantage because you went off and they have to do with the racing manoeuvres that we all enjoy.”

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38, retires from the race with a rear puncture and damage after contact with Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20, whilst battling for the lead

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38, retires from the race with a rear puncture and damage after contact with Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20, whilst battling for the lead

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Stella has also questioned the level of sanction handed out to Verstappen, with the 10-second penalty not actually costing the Dutchman a position – and him overall coming out of the incident with the bigger gain because Norris had to retire.

With memories in F1 still very fresh of the repeated collisions between Verstappen and Hamilton in 2021, Stella hopes F1 can take action to not risk a repeat of those kind of troubles.

Speaking about the penalty, Stella said: “It's complex, because sometimes the outcome can be minor. Sometimes it can be big, like in this case, with a car taken out and the other car with a race heavily compromised.

“I don't want to be in a position where I make everything simple or 'oh it was clear', but I think the 10-seconds, as a matter of fact was ineffective.

“We have the driver that we are trying to chase in the classification gain 10 points. It definitely deserves a reflection.

“I'm sure the FIA will approach this case, like I said before, as an episode which gives us a richness of cases that should be analysed and think, how do we move forward?

“We don't want to see another 2021. I thought that was not a good point in Formula 1 racing. It might have been entertaining, but not for good reasons.”

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38, retires in the pit lane after contact with Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20, whilst battling for the lead

Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38, retires in the pit lane after contact with Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20, whilst battling for the lead

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

Better enforcement

Stella suggests that the biggest change he would like to see is a stricter enforcement of the rules, rather than new regulations needing to come into play.

“It should be taken as an opportunity to tighten up, to clamp up the boundaries and, in fairness, enforcing some of the rules which are already in place,” he said.

“We need to be very clear that these rules cannot be abused in a way that then it leaves margin to do a couple of times the same manoeuvre and the third time there's going be an accident. Even statistically, there's going to be an accident.

“Like I say, there's obviously frustration but, for me, what's important is that this is now taken as an opportunity for the FIA, and for the sport, so that we can in the future, hopefully, enjoy more of these battles.

“This means that McLaren is in condition to race Red Bull, but knowing that this is not going to end up with a collision.”

Stella also confirmed that McLaren had the clarity of thought in the moments after the collision when Norris returned to the pits to serve the five-second penalty he had been given for a track limits infringement.

Had the team not served the penalty in that way, then Norris would have been handed a grid penalty for the British GP.

Asked if McLaren had not touched the car for five seconds as the rules demand, Stella said: “That's what we did. And then we sort of assessed that the car was not in condition to continue because the bodywork was completely destroyed, unfortunately, not only the floor."

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