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Verstappen: F1 qualifying traffic rules "all imperfect"

Max Verstappen says the attempts to address traffic problems in Formula 1 qualifying are currently “all imperfect”, after he faced a post-session investigation into his Q1 pitlane driving in Mexico.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB19

Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Verstappen, George Russell and Fernando Alonso were all summoned to explain their actions in the Mexico City pitlane as the pack massed at the end of Q1.

All three escaped sanctions for pitlane impeding around the rules requirement to drive to a maximum laptime (or minimum speed) when not on push laps, which has been in place since the 2023 Italian Grand Prix.

They were all cleared here in part because the stewards and FIA race direction officials feel it is safer to have pitlane bottle necks rather than a potential crash between cars on different run plans.

Slow pitlane driving also occurred in qualifying for last month’s Singapore GP, where again Verstappen’s actions were assessed and he was also cleared as the stewards there felt the current rules do not adequately cover what is occurring.

This is that in order to respect the new requirement to stay below a maximum laptime delta to avoid traffic problems in qualifying, where major speed differences between cars on hot and slow laps can be dangerous and risk collisions.

The drivers are instead slowing in the pitlane to leave gaps to cars ahead to avoid the still prevalent ‘dirty air’ aerodynamic effect on their car handling.

When asked if he felt the maximum lap time is a good solution or if there is a better alternative by Autosport in the post-qualifying press conference in Mexico, Verstappen replied: “I think it's all imperfect at the moment.

Esteban Ocon, Alpine A523, Logan Sargeant, Williams FW45, out of the pit lane

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Esteban Ocon, Alpine A523, Logan Sargeant, Williams FW45, out of the pit lane

“So, we need to come up with something else, but it's hard.

“The thing I don't understand is like everyone is trying to make a gap now in the pitlane, which is the only place where we can do so.

“So, I don't really understand how you can be impeding someone.

“For me, I think we have to be a little bit more lenient with that, knowing that it's a safe environment.

“I mean, we're driving really slow, it's the only place where we can make a gap

“[As Red Bull drivers] we drive out of the box and [from] the beginning of the pitlane, we didn't know what other people are doing. So, you are constantly then trying to judge a gap.

“You don't want to start a lap within three [or] four seconds of someone, because that's really bad for following.

“But, on the other hand, if we wouldn't have had this kind of minimum laptime, then maybe you have some impeding into the last sector again.

“So, it's just all quite tough, I guess, to find a good compromise.”

Carlos Sainz, Scuderia Ferrari, pole man Charles Leclerc, Scuderia Ferrari, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, in the post Qualifying Press Conference

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

Carlos Sainz, Scuderia Ferrari, pole man Charles Leclerc, Scuderia Ferrari, Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, in the post Qualifying Press Conference

Leclerc, who clinched pole ahead of Carlos Sainz and Verstappen in Mexico, said that for him “the biggest thing that we got rid of is [a] dangerous situation, especially in last sectors” with the maximum laptime requirement.

He added: “Not necessarily for here, because the last sector is pretty low speed [in Mexico] but in Spa, for example, sometimes we will have difference of speed between cars that will be crazy.

“And with that, I think it's been quite a good solution for that. On the other hand, it has created other problems that are not great.

“Obviously the end of the pitlane. But this is, I think, the least of the problems.

“The biggest one that I find myself quite a lot in, especially in Q1, [is where] you've got two cars that are in a different sequence and if you get out the pits and you pass the safety car line two at the same time as a car out on track, then you are basically done, because both of the cars are respecting the [maximum] lap time and you cannot open the gap.

“You just have to either fight the car, like I did in Qatar with Fernando, or your lap is done.

“So, this is something that it will be good to look at it, because there is a bit of randomness in that which is not great.

“And again, on the thing at the end of the pitlane, it is the only place where we can open the gap so difficult to do otherwise.”

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Speaking alongside Verstappen and Leclerc, Sainz revealed F1 drivers “already had a couple of ideas to improve it for next year”, but added, “it needs some changing regulations and stuff like that that requires a different year and a change from the FIA rules”.

Sainz also suggested that if “we would qualify with harder tyres and we could do a lot faster out laps, obviously the [maximum] lap time doesn't come into play”.

He concluded: “But the problem would still be there because there's too many cars for the six-to-eight second gap that every car chases.

“If you multiply 20 cars by eight seconds, you're always going to have traffic at some point in Q1 or Q2. So, yeah, it's not an easy situation.”

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