FIA to use strict maximum lap time to stop slow warm-ups

Henry Valantine
FIA race director Eduardo Freitas. Barcelona May 2022.

FIA race director Eduardo Freitas. Barcelona May 2022.

The FIA will be implementing a strict minimum lap speed around Paul Ricard at the weekend, to try and halt driving unnecessarily slowly during qualifying.

Race director Eduardo Freitas will be enforcing a rule whereby drivers must not exceed a lap time of 1:48 while going around in qualifying and pre-race laps once the pit lane opens, to try and ease congestion around the circuit as drivers wind up for flying laps.

It is not uncommon for drivers to bide their time and queue for a gap to emerge before winding up for a full qualifying run, but the ruling will stop drivers from sitting and waiting for too long.

This maximum lap time is around 15 seconds slower than the drivers had managed at full pelt in free practice on Friday, and around 4.2 seconds slower than the Formula 2 pole time achieved by Logan Sargeant on Friday evening.

This does not leave much room, then, for drivers to ease off the throttle for too long as they warm up for a flying lap, with the danger of drivers on ‘push’ laps having to take evasive action against those on slower laps.

The statement from the FIA read: β€œIn order to ensure that cars are not driven unnecessarily slowly on in laps during and after the end of qualifying or during reconnaissance laps when the pit exit is opened for the race, drivers must stay below 1:48.0 between the Safety Car lines shown on the pit lane map.”

Freitas and fellow race director Niels Wittich began using the specified lap time rule earlier in the season, but are likely to act more strictly on any infringements moving forward – with 55 violations of the agreed delta time having taken place at the Spanish Grand Prix earlier in the year.

Former race director Michael Masi began policing drivers going too slowly on the eve of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix last season, following increasing complaints on the issue.

A multitude of stewards’ summons have taken place surrounding drivers going too slowly on out laps, with Charles Leclerc, Carlos Sainz and Alex Albon all being called to the stewards under the allegations in Canada – though all were eventually cleared of wrongdoing.