During the early stages of Q1, an encounter unfolded between Ocon and Norris at the Ascari chicane. Ocon initially overtook Norris but got re-passed by the McLaren driver as they entered Parabolica, moments before Norris ignited for a hot lap. The received interpretation was the Alpine driver’s suspicious veer towards the McLaren as they rounded into the curve.
Upon finishing the lap and heading back to pit lane, Norris conveyed his concerns to his team, pointing out “what the Alpine driver did was very dangerous, by the way.”
In a post-session interview, Norris expanded that he had to overtake Ocon because race director Niels Wittich had enforced a stipulated maximum lap time for the intense Monza qualifying round, designed to prevent drivers from slowing excessively to locate a gap or cool their tyres.
Norris contributed his thoughts about the rule, explaining, “I think it helps in many ways. It makes some things worse. You’re forced into some situations rather than putting yourself into situations.”
Coming back to the situation with Ocon, he said, “Esteban had overtaken me earlier in the lap. So, I was slightly behind my delta and had to catch it up, forcing me to overtake him.”
Norris added, “He had plenty of time left on his delta and could probably have afforded to slow more than I could. He was trying to trap me, but I had no choice but to pass, or I would have been below my delta.”
Contrary to his expectations, Norris found the session to be cleaner, perhaps because a tow turned out to be less beneficial with the 2023 aero packages than in previous years.
“Tows were much more prominent in 2019, 2020, 2021; they would provide around six-sevenths, seven-tenths with a slipstream,” he noted. “Now in today’s qualifying, slipstreams only offer a maximum of one or two tenths. Nobody seemed bothered to go first or to hunt for the perfect slipstream, because I don’t think that existed today.”
When questioned about the incident by F1 Initiative, Ocon shrugged off claims that it was “dangerous”. He reasoned, “It’s always going to be extremely tight with this maximum lap time. He was probably on the edge with his time, compelling him to overtake.”
He further added, “I still had a slight margin. I think we managed quite well, both of us. That was not an issue. I don’t believe it was dangerous.”