Penalty drops Norris three places on Baku grid

Lando Norris will drop from sixth to ninth on the grid at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix after the stewards of the meeting penalized the McLaren driver for failing to pit under red flags.

Norris failed to return to the pit lane when the session was suspended for an accident involving Antonio Giovinazzi at Turn 15.

The rules around red flags clearly state that all drivers should return to the pits, but Norris appeared to be caught in two minds over whether he should enter the pits and ducked into and out of the pit lane entry before making a late decision to remain on track.

Red flags are usually reserved for a serious incident that require marshals to enter the track to remove a car, meaning all other cars are required to return to the pits.

In normal circumstances, breaking red flag rules would result in a five-place penalty but the stewards explained why they had been more lenient with Norris in a statement on Saturday evening.

"The stewards heard from the driver of Car 4 (Lando Norris) and team representatives and reviewed video and timing evidence," the statement said.

"Norris was just on the long start-finish-straight when red flags were displayed. Consequently, red lights were flashing on a panel on the left guardrail and on the car's dashboard.

"During the hearing the driver admitted that he lifted the throttle, braked and was committed to and able to enter the pitlane. At that moment he was not sure what to do and asked his team over the radio. Although the team ordered him immediately to enter the pits, it was too late and Norris crossed the finish line one more time.

"The stewards assume that if a red flag is not respected during qualifying, a drop of five grid positions is appropriate.

"However, if you consider that the driver only had a very short time to react due to his position on the track, a drop of 3 grid positions is sufficient as an exception."

The three-place penalty was combined with three penalty points on Norris' superlicence, bringing his total to eight in the last 12 months.

Twelve penalty points in a rolling 12-month period result in a race ban.

Norris was disappointed with the verdict and questioned whether he could have done anything differently.

"Obviously a bit gutted," he said. "I didn't feel like I did anything wrong.

"It is a tough one because going at the speeds we do you have to make such a quick decision on what is the best and safest thing to do. I feel like what I did was exactly the safest thing to do.

For all I know the pit lane could've been blocked, and then you're not allowed to enter the pit lane and it could have been a different story -- 'why did you enter the pit lane? You should not have done that.' It is a tough one.

"I did not have time to talk to my engineer and say 'should I box or should I not?' I did everything I thought I should've done. It sucks because in the end there is a rule, but sometimes there is more leniency to certain situations when a driver has still done the best thing that is possible to do in that situation. Yes a bit gutted because it is three places back and it is going to make our life a lot more difficult tomorrow. I do not feel like it is a fair decision, but it is what it is."