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F1 drivers banned from stopping in pitlane amid FIA impeding clampdown

Formula 1 drivers have been banned from stopping in the fast lane of the pits during qualifying sessions at the Brazilian Grand Prix as part of a new impeding clampdown.

Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL60, in the pit lane

Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL60, in the pit lane

Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

A recent move by the FIA to avoid dangerous traffic problems on track in qualifying has seen a maximum lap time imposed on in laps and out laps.

This has, however, triggered an unintended consequence of drivers being unable to find clear gaps behind rivals once they begin their preparation laps, so they try to engineer this clear air in the pitlane.

There have been several occasions where drivers slow down dramatically, or even stop entirely, in the pit exit – holding up rivals behind them. This is a potential breach of rules that outlaws the impeding of other cars.

Such a tactic reached a peak at last weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix when Max Verstappen, George Russell and Fernando Alonso were all investigated for stopping in the pit exit in Q1 as they tried to build a gap, although all were subsequently cleared of any wrongdoing.

The widespread nature of the problem there led to calls for a better solution to be found, which has now been enacted by F1 race director Niels Wittich ahead of this weekend’s Sao Paulo event.

In Wittich’s event notes that are sent to all teams ahead of the Brazilian GP, he said that a new standard of behaviour was expected from drivers in both the main qualifying and the sprint shootout.

He stated that drivers were now strictly prohibited from holding up rivals in the fast lane of the pits during qualifying sessions, and he laid out strict guidelines on where drivers would be allowed to find their gaps.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19, leads Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri AT04, Daniel Ricciardo, AlphaTauri AT04, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60, Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo C43, Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR23, Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo C43, and others out of the pit lane

Photo by: Motorsport Images

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19, leads Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri AT04, Daniel Ricciardo, AlphaTauri AT04, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL60, Zhou Guanyu, Alfa Romeo C43, Lance Stroll, Aston Martin AMR23, Valtteri Bottas, Alfa Romeo C43, and others out of the pit lane

In the notes, he said: “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 pitlane.

“During Shootout and Qualifying, drivers may create a gap between the pit exit lights and the SC2 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.”

McLaren boss Andrea Stella said in Mexico that the problem of pitlane impeding was so serious that an urgent solution was required.

“I think immediate action needs to be taken,” said Stella. “It's not a good spectacle. It makes the operations very difficult because you send your car and you actually don't know when your car is going to get on track.

“It puts all drivers too much at the mercy of the other drivers. And this for me starts to be unfair. We need to create policy aspects and ruling aspects to control the situation, which I think is just inappropriate.”

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