FIA stewards will likely clamp down on drivers going too slowly on outlaps in future qualifying sessions after reporting 55 violations by 18 drivers at the Spanish Grand Prix.
In keeping with the usual procedure, the FIA specified a reference time of 1m31.0s that drivers must be within between the official safety car lines of the Barcelona circuit “to ensure that cars are not driven unnecessarily slowly on all laps during qualifying”.
The stewards found that between them, 18 drivers violated this instruction 55 times and the “majority of cases were a result of drivers following another driver who was also on an outlap and as each driver attempted to create a gap to the preceding driver, they went successively slower until a “train” of drivers exceeded the time”.
Only the Haas drivers Kevin Magnussen and Mick Schumacher were investigated for “driving unnecessarily slowly” after qualifying at Barcelona and received a warning for that.
They were targeted by the stewards because it was felt that, as the Haas garages were at the end of the pitlane and therefore allowed those drivers to be the first on track, they were the drivers most in control of their speed around the lap and therefore able to ensure they respected the maximum lap time.
The stewards said that “generally the cars that failed to follow the race director’s event note were following these two cars”.
A reference time between the circuit’s ‘safety car lines’ is a well-established part of an F1 weekend, designed to police the speeds cars are travelling at certain times and assist judgements of whether drivers have gone too slowly.
At the start of the season, though, this only applied to inlaps during and after the end of qualifying, or reconnaissance laps to the grid.
FIA race director Niels Wittich changed this at Imola so that it applied to “all laps” of qualifying.
For this reason, the Spanish GP stewards consider the procedure “relatively new…and has not involved a penalty up to this point”.
They, therefore, opted for leniency in the cases of Magnussen and Schumacher but have warned future breaches may incur “increased penalties”.
“As the procedure is new and in view of the fact that other drivers did violate the instruction, but not to this degree, the stewards issue a warning to the drivers concerned [Magnussen and Schumacher],” their note specified.
“The stewards note that further violations may incur increased penalties not only for these drivers but for any competitor committing a similar breach in the future.”