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Alpine calls for rethink over F1 grid box rules

Alpine Formula 1 sporting director Alan Permane has called for a rethink over the grid box rules that caught out Esteban Ocon in Bahrain and Fernando Alonso in Saudi Arabia.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19, Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin AMR23, prepare to lead the field away at the start

In both cases, the drivers were deemed to have placed their cars too far to one side of their grid boxes at the start, and both subsequently received penalties.

The decisions by the stewards were based on an addition to the International Sporting Code that was introduced for 2022, which says that a car "must be stationary at its allocated grid box with no part of the contact patch of its front tyres outside of the lines (front and sides) at the time of the start signal".

While the ISC applies to F1 the same wording was subsequently added to the FIA Sporting Regulations for 2023, which is why the matter has come under more scrutiny this season.

The problem that drivers have is that they have limited visibility as they approach their grid spots, and while they can judge where to stop by looking for references out of the side of the cockpit, it's easy to be a little too far to the left or right.

There is no specific regulation regarding the width, although it’s understood that race director Niels Wittich has told teams that he is introducing a standard width this season.

"I think what seems a little bit draconian is this new regulation of where the car has got to stop on the grid box," said Permane.

"No one is getting an advantage from being 10 centimetres over on one side or the other side. I don't quite really see why.

"And they're free to paint the grid boxes as wide as they want, there doesn't seem to be regulation for that.

"I don't know if that'll be reviewed, but giving people penalties for having their wheels over in a car where the drivers can't see those lines – they can see them as they come up and then as they get close to them, they just disappear – it feels harsh, it feels unnecessary.

Mechanics make final preparations on the grid prior to the start

Mechanics make final preparations on the grid prior to the start

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

"Esteban today, he's been concentrating on it of course all week. He said he got to the grid today and he had no idea where he was. He said you cannot see, you don't know at all. It's a strange one."

Permane expects the subject to be discussed in the next meeting of F1's sporting advisory committee.

"I'm sure we will, we've got a meeting later this week, we can bring it up."

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Some observers have questioned why Ocon subsequently received a second penalty in Bahrain for work starting on the car too quickly after he took his original penalty, while Alonso's initial penalty – for a jack touching the car – was ultimately rescinded.

However, Permane said Alpine did not contest the Ocon judgement.

"Ours was a fair cop last week, we were four-tenths took quick, so no argument at all from us on that."

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