FIA Formula 1 race director Michael Masi conceded the presence of a gravel trap on the outside of turn four likely played a part in the stewards' decision to penalise Lando Norris for his incident with Sergio Perez.
Lando Norris was hit with a five-second penalty for forcing Sergio Perez off the track in Austria with the Mexican later handed the same penalty twice, on both occasions for failing to leave racing room for Charles Leclerc.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner initially described the first instance, of which his driver was the victim, a racing incident but the stewards disagreed.
Asked if the gravel lining the circuit affected the decision-making process, Masi answered candidly: "Possibly, yeah. Obviously, gravel does have an impact in those places so yes, you would say looking at it logically."
Comparing the incident between Norris and Perez to that of the lap-one coming together between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen at Imola, where grass lines the track, Masi stated this is "very difficult" to do.
He added: “I think the first corner, lap one, and you have to remember this from a team’s perspective as well, that all lap one incidents are treated in a more lenient manner.
"That has been the case for a number of years under the ‘let them race’ principles let’s call it. But each and every one, it is very difficult to try and compare, I know everyone like to group everything, but it’s very difficult to compare two completely different corners ala Imola and turns four and six [in Austria].”
Penalty points here to stay
Alongside the time penalties applied to Norris and Perez, both drivers were also hit with penalty points on their FIA super licences.
If a driver hits 12 points, they receive an automatic race ban. The two points applied to Norris put him to a total of 10 for the rolling 12 month period, something that led to widespread criticism of the system.
“To be fair, it is a penalty points system that exists so it has been there all the way through," Masi said.
"It is no different to those driving on the road in a lot of countries that have the maximum number of points that they have to abide by and they have to adjust driving style and so-forth accordingly.
“So no, I don’t think they are harsh. It was discussed late last year and it is funny because it affects different drivers in different teams in different ways and the consensus was at the end of last year from involving everyone, teams, the FIA and F1, that there shouldn’t be a change for this year.
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