FIA make crucial change to combat growing F1 issue ahead of Brazilian GP

Jamie Woodhouse
McLaren driver Lando Norris joins a queue of cars leaving the pit lane in Austria.

McLaren driver Lando Norris sits in the pit lane.

The FIA’s Formula 1 race director Niels Wittich has moved to ban drivers from stopping in the fast lane of the pit lane after recent impeding incidents.

A recent move to combat dangerous slow-moving traffic in qualifying, that being to impose a maximum permitted time for an out-lap, had led to an unintended consequence.

The United States and Mexican Grand Prix rounds both saw drivers picked up by the stewards for impeding in the pit lane by stopping their car in the fast lane, thus blocking others drivers behind them in the queue.

FIA ban pit-lane impeding ahead of Brazilian GP

Max Verstappen, Fernando Alonso and George Russell were all summoned by the stewards and later cleared over pit-lane impeding at the Mexican Grand Prix, drivers able to create a gap to a car ahead on-track by delaying their departure from the pit exit.

And with McLaren boss Andrea Stella calling for changes to be made ahead of the Brazilian GP, he has his wish.

From now on, any driver who attempts to create this gap by extending their stay in the fast lane will be deemed to have been driving in an “unnecessarily slow” manner and therefore face punishment from the stewards.

In his pre-event notes, Wittich wrote: “As per Article 33.4 of the Formula 1 Sporting Regulations, drivers are not allowed to go unnecessarily slow, that includes stopping a car in the fast lane of the pit lane.

“During the [sprint] shootout and qualifying, drivers may create a gap between the pit exit lights and the SC2 [Safety Car 2] line.

“Any driver who wishes to do so must drive as far to the left as possible to allow other drivers to pass them on the right side of the pit exit road.”

PlanetF1.com recommends

F1 driver numbers: Which numbers will the 20 F1 drivers be using in 2023?

Revealed: The contract status of every single race on the F1 2023 calendar

Verstappen, after the Mexican GP, said he did not understand the grounds for the pit-lane impeding investigation and had called for a different solution to be found.

“I think it’s all imperfect at the moment, so we need to come up probably with something else, but it’s hard,” he told media personnel.

“Just the thing I don’t understand is like everyone is trying to make a gap now in the pit lane, which is the only place where we can do so. So I don’t really understand how you can be impeding someone.

“I think we have to be a little bit more lenient with that, knowing that it’s a safe environment. I mean, we’re driving really slow, it’s the only place where we can make a gap because, I mean, we drive out of the box and of course we are in the beginning of the pit lane, we don’t know of course what other people are doing.

“So you are constantly of course then trying to judge the gap. You don’t want to start a lap within three, four seconds of someone, because that’s really bad for following.

“But then on the other end, if we wouldn’t have had this kind of minimum lap time, then maybe you have some impeding into the last sector again, so it’s quite tough I guess to find a good compromise.”

Wittich’s update means drivers will now need to find a different way of creating gaps to a car ahead without busting the maximum time.

Read next: Lewis Hamilton turns heads in Brazil with incredible Ayrton Senna tribute fit