MEXICO CITY — No further action has been taken against drivers who were investigated for impeding other cars in the pit lane during qualifying at the Mexican Grand Prix.
Max Verstappen, George Russell and Fernando Alonso were all under investigation for blocking the exit of the pit lane as they slowed to a stop in order to create a gap to the car in front as they left the pits.
The problem has occurred at a number of recent races after FIA race director Niels Wittich started enforcing a minimum lap time between the SC2 and SC1 lines (lines on the track after the pit lane exit and before the entrance to the pit lane) for laps during qualifying.
The idea of the minimum lap time was to prevent drivers going slowly in the final sector of the lap during their out-lap in order to create a gap to the car in front. The concern was a slow moving car could be dangerous if another driver is arriving in the same part of the circuit on a flying lap.
The stewards investigated all three drivers in Mexico and determined their slow exits from the pit lane, in which several cars were forced to queue behind, were an unfortunate but ultimately unavoidable side effect of the minimum lap time and preferable to slow-moving cars in the final sector.
“The stewards consider that the entire set of incidents occurred as a direct result of the implementation of the minimum lap time between SC2 and SC1 which is designed (correctly so, in our view) to avoid dangerous backing-up of cars on the circuit during qualification,” the stewards said in a statement.
“We note that there are contrary requirements on drivers in that they must respect the minimum time, they are attempting to create manageable gaps to cars in front, yet they are also required to avoid unnecessarily stopping at the pit exit or driving unnecessarily slowly.
“All parties including the Stewards are firmly of the view that it is better to have the potential of cars backing-up in the pit lane or at the pit exit, instead of the potentially dangerous situation of large speed differences on track.
“We consider that in the main all drivers involved in these incidents were acting in good faith and with safety as a priority. We also accept that race direction has taken the correct approach in apply the minimum lap time. It is desirable that better solution be found for the pit exit however at this stage, what that solution would be, is unknown.”
The decision means all three drivers will retain their grid positions, with Verstappen set to start in third place behind the two Ferraris on the front row of the grid.
Lewis Hamilton, who qualified sixth, was also cleared of any wrongdoing in a separate incident where he was alleged to have gone too fast under yellow flags at Turn 3 during Q1.
“The on-board video clearly shows there is no light or flag displayed to Car 44 on the straight into Turn 1, then a green light shows as he enters Turn 2, which is followed by 2 pulses of a yellow light then moments later, the light panel is blank,” the stewards said.
“The driver was slightly slower in the mini sector than on his previous push lap. Our determination is that there was no breach of the regulations.”
Logan Sargeant was given a ten-place penalty for overtaking Yuki Tsunoda under yellow flags, but was due to start from last pace regardless. He also received two points on his F1 superlicence, bringing his total to six over a rolling 12 month-period. More than 12 points in a 12-month result in a race ban.
“The driver of Car 2 [Sargeant] stated that he overtook Car 22 [Tsunoda] because he appeared to be going slowly and also because he saw the green panel ahead,” a stewards’ statement said. “The stewards determined however that this was a breach of the regulations.
“The fact that a driver can see a green panel or flag ahead, does not mean that overtaking can occur in what is still a yellow flag zone. Overtaking can only occur after passing the green panel or flag. It was also noted that he did not make a sufficient reduction in speed.”