The FIA has decided that drivers will no longer be allowed to stop in the fast lane of the pit lane during qualifying sessions. This will come into effect from the Brazilian Grand Prix. The decision is part of the FIA’s approach to combating long lines in the pit lane. Over the past few races, it has caused drivers to delay others in the pit lane.
A recent step by the FIA to prevent dangerous situations on the track during qualifying has led to the introduction of a maximum lap time for entering and leaving the pit lane. However, this has had an unintended consequence in that drivers cannot find obvious gaps behind their rivals once they start their preparation laps, so they try to create this clear space in the pit lane. There have been several instances where drivers slowed down significantly or even stopped completely at the pit exit, delaying their pursuers. This is a possible violation of the rules that prohibit obstructing other cars.
Such tactics reached a peak at last weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix, when Max Verstappen, George Russell and Fernando Alonso were all investigated for stopping at the pit exit in Q1 to create an opening, although they all later passed without penalty could. In any case, it led to a meeting at the FIA. Formula 1 race director Niels Wittich stated that a new standard of behavior was now expected of the drivers, both in qualifying and sprint qualifying. He indicated that drivers are now strictly prohibited from holding up rivals in the fast lane of the pit lane during qualifying sessions, and laid down strict guidelines on where drivers can find their openings.
‘As Article 33.4 of the Formula 1 Sporting Regulations prescribes, drivers are not permitted to drive unnecessarily slowly, which includes stopping a car in the fast lane of the pit lane. During sprint qualifying and qualifying, drivers are allowed to create a gap between the pit exit lights and the SC2 line (safety car line, ed.). Any driver wishing to do this must drive as far to the left as possible to allow other drivers to pass them on the right side of the pit exit,” Wittich’s notes read.
Stella and Brundle saw the problem getting worse: ‘Immediate action must be taken’
McLaren boss Andrea Stella said in Mexico that the problem of pit lane obstruction was so serious that an urgent solution was needed. “I think immediate action needs to be taken,” the Italian said. ‘It’s not a good show. It makes it very difficult because you send your car out and you don’t actually know when your car is coming onto the track. It exposes all drivers too much to the arbitrariness of other drivers. And this is starting to feel unfair to me. We have to create policy aspects and regulatory aspects to control the situation, which I just think is inappropriate.” Former F1 driver Martin Brundle also thought there should be a solution. He mainly saw that it took time away from other drivers to complete a qualifying lap. It looks like the FIA has answered their prayers.