Not happy with what has become an “acceptable practice by precedent”, Martin Brundle has proposed creating a middle lane in the pit lane for those who want to pause on their way out to build a gap.
Max Verstappen, George Russell, and Fernando Alonso were investigated after qualifying at the Mexican Grand Prix for “unnecessarily impeding” at the pit exit.
But citing the fact that the pit lane is the only place where they can create a gap without falling foul of the delta lap time regulation, all three escaped without punishment.
An ‘unseemly sight’ of ‘very unsporting behaviour’
It’s an issue that has become more of a problem throughout this season with the race stewards stressing the delta lap time regulation. That states that drivers must be below a set lap time with the timer for that starting when they reach the second Safety Car line that’s found after the pit lane.
Brundle has called it an “unseemly sight” of “very unsporting behaviour”.
“In qualifying we witnessed the unseemly sight of drivers parked at the end of the pit lane holding up all those behind whilst they made a suitable gap for their qualifying laps,” he wrote in his latest Sky Sports column.
“Furthermore, other drivers were holding up rivals beyond the pit lane but before the critical white-painted Safety Car line.
“To avoid the scary closing speeds when drivers are cruising pre and post their qualifying laps whilst others are flat-out, it was decided to create a maximum time allowed between this line and the other safety car line just prior to pit entry. This has largely worked well in avoiding high-risk incidents on fast straights which could injure drivers, marshals, and even fans.
“This means the drivers manage the situation before that rule kicks in at the first line, and many penalties were expected for what appeared to be very unsporting behaviour, but the FIA decided that in fact the drivers did a good job of spreading themselves out around the track and it’s better to be very slow in the pits than on the track.”
The former F1 driver has proposed Formula 1 creates a “middle lane” in the pit lane for drivers who want to stop and wait, although he concedes that’s not a perfect solution for an issue that has now become acceptable practice by precedent.
“In the pit lane, in theory, you can pass another stationary car, but perhaps they should be obliged to stop in the middle lane rather than the fast lane,” he added.
“However, there are two issues there, the cars wouldn’t then be spaced out particularly well on track, and some circuits like Monaco don’t have the space for a spare middle pit lane like that.
“It does seem unfair for teams positioned at the far end of the pitlane, and those drivers who need to get out and get on with regard to their qualifying lap preparation. For now, I guess we have to explain that it’s an acceptable practice by precedent, let the drivers and teams sort it out among themselves, and look for a better solution.”
A rather bizarre qualifying session in Mexico City
As for qualifying itself, the commentator felt Saturday’s outing was rather bizarre with its unpredictable timesheet.
That the Ferraris locked out the front row ahead of Max Verstappen was a surprise in itself, but so too was Daniel Ricciardo’s fourth place with Alex Albon and Valtteri Bottas, not the usual Q3 contenders, finishing ninth and tenth respectively.
“Qualifying the day before to set that race grid had been one of the most unpredictable and confusing that I can remember,” he said.
“A combination of slippery circuit, low downforce due to the thin air at 2240m above sea level, a slowly reducing but still very high track temperature, the wind strength and direction moving around a little, ability to prepare the tyres perfectly on the out lap, and perhaps small variability between individual sets of new soft compound Pirellis, are the likely causes.
“We had drivers like Alex Albon who’d been flying all through free practice who couldn’t get anywhere near those lap times and was convinced his car was damaged. Then we heard the Ferrari pair, who locked out the front row, to all intents and proposes saying to each other afterward “where the hell did that lap time come from?”.
“Carlos Sainz summed it up when he said “I’ve only managed to hook one lap up so far this weekend and that was it”.
“Daniel Ricciardo was having, and continued to have, a very solid weekend in the AlphaTauri, who have a good car but so far this season hadn’t really managed to get it dialled in. He would qualify fourth, ahead of Perez in the Red Bull seat he once again covets, and also ahead of both Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell.
“Also impressively in the top 10 were both Alfa Romeos of Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu, but they would go on to finish last and last but one which rather sums up the bizarre qualifying session.”