FIA to shine ‘magnifying glass’ on Q3 to stamp out deliberate crashes

Michelle Foster
The broken Red Bull driven by Sergio Perez removed. Monaco, May 2022.

The broken Red Bull driven by Sergio Perez on the recovery truck. Monaco, May 2022.

The Monaco Grand Prix stewards will be looking at any Q3 mistakes with a “magnifying glass” after two late crashes –  not “usually” deliberate – led to red flags in the past two seasons.

Crashes at the Monaco Grand Prix are part and parcel of racing around the tight and twisty street circuit with Charles Leclerc into the barriers late in Q3 in 2021.

That crash handed him pole position as those behind him on the track weren’t able to improve their lap times, the clock stopped and Race Control calling time on the session. At the time Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff suggested F1 change to an IndyCar style rule where if a driver crashes, his loses his best time from the session.

A year later again there was a driver in the wall, this time Sergio Perez crashing at the entrance to the tunnel with Carlos Sainz caught out in it.

But the driver who lost the most as Max Verstappen as he’d been on a flier but had to settle for P4, one place behind his Mexican team-mate.

Almost six months later that Perez crash took a sinister turn when it was suggested that Verstappen wouldn’t yield a position to him at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix because the Mexican driver had confessed to Red Bull that he’d deliberately crashed that Saturday in Monaco to keep Verstappen behind him.

This year Verstappen says he’ll get in his best lap on his first lap just in case someone crashes, although that “usually” isn’t deliberate.

“I will have to do a good lap on my first run, I think,” he said.

“Crashes are of course more common here in Monaco, just like on other street circuits. You have to learn to deal with that.”

“But,” he added, “usually it doesn’t happen on purpose.”

Sainz says this year the FIA are giving some consideration to changing the rules to state if a driver crashes, he would lose his best time from the session.

But, as the Ferrari driver points out, declaring it intentional isn’t an easy call.

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“It is a rule that the drivers have tried to put on the table,” he said, “because when you have a front row on the first try, you always go to the second with less to lose with the others.

“It is true that the FIA already told us in Baku that they are going to be looking with a magnifying glass and if it seems half-intentional they are going to review it.

“But how can they know if it is intentional or not?”

Verstappen is in favour of the rule being changed.

“In other categories, you see someone who causes a red flag immediately loses all his lap times in qualifying,” he said. “That might be something to think about, but it doesn’t seem like the FIA wants to.

“As I said, I have to make sure that I finish a good first lap anyway.

“This is important because I think it’s going to be a bit more difficult for us here in Monaco. It’s closer here.

“We have a good car, but we are not at our strongest over one lap and there can always be a surprise here.”