The qualifying session for the Italian Grand Prix in Monza witnessed a heated exchange between Lando Norris and Esteban Ocon, who almost crashed at the Parabolica corner before starting their flying laps. The McLaren and Alpine drivers held each other responsible for the incident, which was caused by the need to follow the lap time delta set by the FIA.
The FIA had implemented a new rule for this weekend, requiring the drivers to stay within a certain lap time between the safety car lines 2 and 1, which are located before and after the Parabolica. The purpose was to prevent drivers from slowing down too much on their out-laps and creating traffic jams on the track.
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However, this rule also created some confusion and frustration among the drivers, who had to manage their pace carefully and avoid being overtaken by others. This was the case for Norris and Ocon, who were both preparing for their first runs in Q1.
Norris and Ocon controversy
Ocon had overtaken Norris before the Ascari chicane, but Norris then overtook him again on the straight leading to the Parabolica, as he was about to start his hot lap. Ocon tried to stay close behind Norris and attempted to overtake him again on the inside of the corner, but Norris defended his position and forced Ocon to back off.
The two drivers barely avoided contact, but they both lost time and momentum for their laps. Norris managed to recover and set the third fastest time in Q1, while Ocon was eliminated in 17th place.
After completing his lap, Norris complained to his team on the radio: “What the Alpine driver did was very dangerous, by the way”. He later explained his point of view to the media: “I was on my limit of delta time. I couldn’t go any slower otherwise I would have got a penalty. So I had no choice but to overtake him [Ocon] again because he overtook me before Ascari. And then he tried to overtake me into Parabolica when I’m doing 340kph or whatever it is. It’s just dangerous” .
Ocon, on the other hand, accused Norris of being disrespectful and breaking an unwritten rule among the drivers. He said: “he closed me completely on entry when I was alongside him. So it was very close to a big one” .
The stewards investigated the incident but decided not to take any further action, as they deemed that neither driver was wholly or predominantly at fault. They noted that both drivers were trying to comply with the lap time delta rule and that there was no clear evidence of impeding or dangerous driving .
The incident highlighted the challenges of qualifying in Monza, where slipstreaming is crucial for gaining speed on the long straights. The drivers often try to find a tow from another car ahead of them, but this can also lead to traffic problems and risky situations.
Norris and Ocon will have another chance to fight on track in Sunday’s sprint race, which will determine the grid for the main race. Norris will start from fourth place, while Ocon will have to make his way from 17th. Both drivers will hope to avoid any further drama and score some valuable points for their teams.