The recent Mexican Grand Prix saw a high-stakes drama unfold as Max Verstappen, George Russell, and Fernando Alonso found themselves under investigation for their actions in the pit lane during qualifying. However, in a turn of events, no further action has been taken against these drivers. Let’s delve into the details of what transpired and how they managed to escape grid penalties.
The Pit Lane Conundrum
During the Mexican Grand Prix’s qualifying session, the FIA race director, Niels Wittich, enforced a minimum lap time between the SC2 and SC1 lines. These lines mark specific sections of the track: SC2 is located after the pit lane exit, and SC1 is positioned before the entrance to the pit lane. The objective behind this ruling was to prevent drivers from going too slow in the final sector of their out-lap to create a gap to the car in front. The concern here was that a slow-moving car could pose a significant danger if another driver was on a flying lap in the same part of the circuit.
The stewards, responsible for maintaining fairness and safety in Formula 1, launched an investigation into the actions of Max Verstappen, George Russell, and Fernando Alonso. These drivers had slowed down as they exited the pit lane, inadvertently causing several cars to queue up behind them. This situation resulted from the enforcement of the minimum lap time, which, in the stewards’ view, was the correct measure to prevent the dangerous backing-up of cars during qualification.
In their statement, the stewards acknowledged the challenging situation faced by drivers. They emphasized that drivers had conflicting requirements: respecting the minimum lap time to create manageable gaps while also avoiding unnecessary stops at the pit exit or driving too slowly. In the stewards’ view, it was safer to have the potential for cars to back up in the pit lane or at the pit exit rather than risk large speed differences on the track, which could lead to dangerous situations.
The stewards commended the drivers involved for acting in good faith and prioritizing safety. They also supported the race direction’s approach in applying the minimum lap time. However, they expressed the need to find a better solution for the pit exit, although the specifics of that solution remained unknown at this stage.
Grid Positions Maintained
The outcome of this investigation was pivotal for the affected drivers. Max Verstappen, set to start in third place, was granted the opportunity to retain his grid position. This decision placed him behind the two Ferraris on the front row of the grid, ensuring a thrilling race ahead.
Lewis Hamilton, who qualified in sixth place, faced a separate investigation regarding alleged speeding under yellow flags at Turn 3 during Q1. The stewards, after a thorough review of onboard video footage, cleared Hamilton of any wrongdoing. The video revealed that there was no light or flag displayed to Car 44 on the straight into Turn 1, and a green light showed as he entered Turn 2, followed by two pulses of a yellow light. Moments later, the light panel became blank, indicating no breach of the regulations.
Logan Sargeant’s Penalty
In a separate incident, Logan Sargeant received a ten-place penalty for overtaking Yuki Tsunoda under yellow flags. Although he was due to start from the last position on the grid regardless, this penalty had implications for his F1 superlicence. With the two points added to his superlicence, Sargeant’s total points reached six over a rolling 12-month period. Accumulating more than 12 points in a 12-month period would result in a race ban.
The stewards’ statement highlighted that Sargeant’s overtake of Tsunoda, even though he saw a green panel ahead, was a breach of the regulations. They clarified that the presence of a green panel or flag does not signify that overtaking is permitted in a yellow flag zone, emphasizing that overtaking can only occur after passing the green panel or flag. It was also noted that Sargeant did not make a sufficient reduction in speed.
The Mexican Grand Prix’s qualifying session was not short on drama and investigations, but in the end, Max Verstappen, George Russell, and Fernando Alonso managed to escape grid penalties. The stewards’ decision to prioritize safety while recognizing the challenges faced by drivers ensures that the competition remains fair and exciting. As Formula 1 continues to evolve, it’s clear that these decisions play a crucial role in maintaining the integrity of the sport.
1. Why were Max Verstappen, George Russell, and Fernando Alonso under investigation?
These drivers were investigated for impeding other cars in the pit lane during qualifying at the Mexican Grand Prix.
2. What was the reason behind enforcing a minimum lap time between the SC2 and SC1 lines?
The minimum lap time was enforced to prevent drivers from going slowly in the final sector of their out-lap to create a gap to the car in front, as this could be dangerous for other drivers on flying laps.
3. How did the stewards justify their decision not to penalize the drivers?
The stewards believed that the incidents were a result of the implementation of the minimum lap time, which aimed to avoid dangerous backing-up of cars on the circuit during qualification. They considered the drivers’ actions to be in good faith and in the interest of safety.
4. What was the outcome for Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton?
Max Verstappen retained his grid position and would start in third place. Lewis Hamilton was cleared of any wrongdoing in a separate incident involving alleged speeding under yellow flags.
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