The McLaren representative, found himself unexpectedly trailing approximately five seconds behind the head of the pack, Max Verstappen, in the early stages of the race. This predicament followed the Virtual Safety Car (VSC) being called onto the circuit due to a scattered debris, a probable aftermath of a collision between Haas driver Kevin Magnussen and Perez.
In the course of approaching the Spoon Curve, Norris came quite close to a rather sluggish Perez, who was attempting to make it back to the pit stop for necessary repairs on his compromised vehicle.
Norris was however uncertain if Perez was dealing with a potential complication and as a result, had to slow down to avoid possibly getting penalized for surpassing the Red Bull under the VSC. This eventual hesitation enabled Verstappen to widen his lead with an additional five seconds, consequently simplifying his front position.
Expressing his frustration amid the dubious circumstances, Norris revealed that he had to delay his pace unavoidably watching precious seconds slip by. In response to F1 Initiative’s query on the situation, the bewildered Norris said, “I don’t know what… he must have had a problem, right?” He further voiced his confusion stating that it was unclear whether Perez was slowing him down intentionally or dealing with a genuine problem.
Norris explained the confusing scene recalling: “He was going so slowly and then when we get the flashing dash for the VSC ending, he went into first gear and then I was on the outside of him because he was going so slowly, and then he almost crashed into me. So, I honestly have no idea.”
Norris displayed his exasperation on the baffling events saying: “I was shouting in my helmet. I was swearing quite a bit, but I was so confused. … The Ferrari guys were, I think, 1.4 seconds behind me after being I think 12s or 13s, so I lost 10 seconds. And I didn’t know what I could do at the time.”
Norris believes that, considering Perez was hobbling back to the pits due to an issue, he should have clearly moved out of the way. He then lamented, “If he has a problem, he should pull over and make it obvious that he has a problem… He didn’t and therefore I couldn’t take the risk of passing under a VSC, so no idea.”
Norris stated that while he doesn’t believe the event would have turned tables significantly, it would have at least allowed for a certain pressure to be mounted on Verstappen. Despite the mental strain, Norris affirmed that his decision was precise, “It was a frustrating time, but maybe I’ll ask next time what you’re allowed to do. I think I did the right thing, so all okay.”
Also commenting on the complicated situation was McLaren team principal, Andrea Stella, who voiced that the status was truly challenging to comprehend at the time. This was largely due to the possibility of the slow-paced driver in front potentially luring a rival into surpassing him. “We played very cautiously. We thought let’s wait, let’s ask, but this takes time and we lost some time,” he concluded.