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Mazepin penalised for blocking Norris in qualifying

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Haas driver Nikita Mazepin has been penalised three grid places at the Spanish Grand Prix for impeding Lando Norris during qualifying -- a penalty that will have no impact on his grid position as he was due to start last anyway.

Mazepin held up Norris through the final three corners of the lap during the first qualifying session, costing the McLaren driver time and forcing him to run again to ensure he made the cut for the second part of qualifying.

The situation was complicated by the presence of Kimi Raikkonen and Yuki Tsunoda in front of Mazepin, but the stewards believed the Haas driver could have queued behind Raikkonen and Tsunoda, waited for Norris to pass and then started his own lap behind the McLaren.

The block had the knock-on effect of forcing Norris to use an extra set of new tyres in Q1 to set a faster time, meaning he only had one set of fresh soft tyres when he made it to the top-ten shootout at the end of the session.

Mazepin, who qualified 0.6s off the pace at the back of the grid, was due to start last anyway, but the three-place grid penalty also came with a single penalty point on his superlicence, bringing his total to two points from four races. Amassing 12 penalty points during a rolling 12-month period would result in a race ban.

The stewards acknowledged Mazepin was in a difficult position, but issued the following reasoning for the penalty.

"During the Q1 session, Mazepin was setting up for a fast lap," the stewards' ruling said. "As he approached turns 10 and 11 Mazepin was informed that Norris was closing on a fast lap behind him and was informed of the closing gap all the way through to the incident. Mazepin then slowed to maintain the gap to [Mick] Schumacher ahead of him with both setting up for their fast laps.

"Between turn 13 and 14, Raikkonen and Tsunoda, who were coming into the pits, jumped ahead of Mazepin. Both cars had also been informed of the fast closing Norris, and it is clear that they did this to get out of Norris' way. However, this created a difficult situation for Mazepin.

"The stewards determined that having been clearly informed of Norris' whereabouts, Mazepin's decision to pull out and re-pass Raikkonen and Tsunoda clearly impeded Norris, who lost significant time.

"The stewards recognize that this sequence of corners creates a special challenge to the drivers in qualifying and that Mazepin was faced with a difficult situation. This was also pointed out by Norris in the hearing.

"However, had Mazepin waited for Norris to pass, he could have pulled out and followed Norris and the stewards determined this opportunity was available to him without significantly compromising his next lap.

"The stewards therefore order the usual penalty for "unnecessary impeding" of a three grid place drop and a single penalty point."

Speaking before the ruling was handed down, Mazepin told media: "It's very difficult when two cars overtake you going into the last chicane, which is very slow and tight, where a length of the car, which is 2.5 metres, means you cannot put a third car there, especially if the fourth car is arriving at full speed.

"So I didn't feel like boxing up behind was an option because that would have left my rear end on the racing line and the only option was to go, which I did, and unfortunately all these things came together.

"I'm not upset about it, because there is really not much I could have done apart from disappear, which unfortunately I am not yet able to do."