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Perez gets Qatar GP pitlane start as further F1 penalty looms for car rebuild

Sergio Perez will start the 2023 Qatar Grand Prix from the pitlane and may yet cop a penalty for Red Bull breaching Formula 1 regulations to build a third car.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing RB19

Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

The Mexican was eliminated on lap 10 of 19 in the Saturday sprint race at the Losail circuit to confirm team-mate Max Verstappen as a three-time world champion.

When Esteban Ocon passed Nico Hulkenberg on the inside, he could not see Perez’s car on the far right, so did not leave the Haas with enough room. This triggered a three-car sandwich that spat Ocon and Perez into the gravel. All drivers were investigated and no further action was taken.

The sidepod and floor of the RB19 appeared to be significantly damaged and were later found to be beyond repair which required Red Bull to make up a second chassis.

Since this chassis build progressed beyond the survival cell stage (containing the fuel tank and cockpit) without FIA supervision, it is deemed to be a third car.

Additionally, this work took place two hours after the chequered flag was shown for the sprint race. Per the FIA sporting regulations, within this time frame all cars “must be covered and ready for FIA seals to be applied in order to ensure that they remain secure until the following day.”

As such, the matter has been referred to the stewards, who have subsequently summoned Red Bull.

Recent precedent points to Perez being forced into a pitlane start for the grand prix and could also have a 10-second penalty added to his race time.

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing

Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Perez is now required to start the GP from pitlane after exceeding the prescribed number of power unit components by taking a fifth internal combustion engine, turbocharger, MGU-H and MGU-K plus a fourth control electronics package as part of the repairs. 

Since a pitlane start has previously been the punishment for breaching the third-car rules, he will now likely have to serve an additional 10-second race time penalty to account for the parc ferme infringements. 

Recent precedent for this was set by Logan Sargeant in Japan. Following his Q1 Suzuka shunt, Williams also breached the two-hour FIA seal rule and built a chassis beyond the survival cell stage. 

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Williams then fitted parts of different specifications to those used in qualifying. Given the spec change, Sargeant was required to start the race from the pitlane. 

As a result, according to the FIA: “As a start from pit lane is already imposed for the modification of parts, a further penalty for having a third chassis available was appropriate. 

“The Stewards recommend that this issue gets discussed again in the Sporting Advisory Committee.” 

Since the pitlane start was already required, Sargeant was also handed a 10s penalty.

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