Given Formula 1’s regulations mandate all drivers have to make one pit stop during a grand prix, Ted Kravitz was perplexed by the late-race drama in Azerbaijan.
As the laps counted down in Sunday’s Grand Prix at the Baku street circuit it was evident that two drivers, Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Ocon, were playing the long game with the hard tyres they started the race on.
Hulkenberg was the first of the two to stop, doing so on Lap 49 of the 51-lap race while Ocon stayed out.
But while pundits questioned whether Alpine had forgotten to pit him, even asking what happens next if he doesn’t come in for the mandatory tyre change, in came Ocon at the end of lap 50.
As he came down the pit entry, though, crowds of photographers and marshals had entered the pit lane in order to prepare for Sergio Perez’s race win. They had to scramble out of the Alpine’s path.
It was a scary moment for Ocon who says had he missed his braking point slowing from 300kph to 80 as quickly as possible, it could have been a disaster.
As it was, everyone escaped unharmed with the FIA parc ferme representatives summoned to the stewards where they admitted it was a “dangerous situation” and that the procedures would be revised.
However, Sky Sports’ pit lane reporter Kravitz says “everybody who was paying attention” should’ve known there was still one more pit stop to come. After all, it’s mandatory.
“Normally we get to the end of the race and we normally get to the point that everybody knows that everybody has made their pit stops so we’re probably not going to get any more pit stops – though that doesn’t mean that there won’t be,” he explained.
“The parc ferme barriers come out and official photographers are released by the FIA and local marshals through an access gate so people can get into position and get ready.
“There is also a photographers’ tower so they can get an elevation above people’s heads to get the celebration shots of the podium. That is what normally happens.
“That doesn’t mean that there can’t be pit stops at the last lap.
“What was unusual about today was that everybody who was paying attention to the race knew there was guaranteed to be one last pit stop with Esteban Ocon.
“I was down in the gap where team guests are let in, which is not the same as where all the official photographers, TV crews and people from the FIA let people in.
“The team guests’ garage was down between Alpine and McLaren and we were all completely aware – not least because I reminded the security guards there that there was a pit stop still to happen – so it wasn’t team guests.
“These were FIA-sanctioned photographers and that’s why the FIA person in charge of this parc ferme arrangement has been summoned to see the stewards. It is effectively the FIA investigating themselves.
“Clearly the lesson needs to be learnt about when they can let people in for pure safety’s sake. F1 had a bit of a lucky escape today.”