New rule added on drivers abandoning cars after Russell’s Silverstone retirement

2022 F1 season

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The FIA has introduced a new rule stating any Formula 1 driver who abandons their car will be considered to have withdrawn from the session.

An updated edition of the 2022 F1 Sporting Regulations clarifies that any driver who leaves their car during an official race weekend session will be automatically deemed to have withdrawn from that session and prohibited from continuing.

Modern F1 power units feature onboard starters, allowing drivers to start up their power units from inside the car without the need of an external ignition. However, the newly-added Article 26.18 states that “any car abandoned on the circuit by its driver, even temporarily, shall be considered as withdrawn from the session”.

The revised rule means that drivers will be considered to have effectively retired from the race the instant they step out of the car, with no opportunity for them to climb back into the cockpit and continue in a practice, qualifying, sprint race or grand prix session.

Earlier this season, Mercedes driver George Russell left his car following the serious accident at the start of the British Grand Prix in which Zhou Guanyu barrel-rolled into the catch fencing. Russell stopped his car with a puncture and ran to attend to Zhou’s crashed Alfa Romeo, but was denied the ability to return to his car under a red flag suspension and continue in the race, despite his protests.

“I jumped out to see if he was okay,” Russell explained at the time. “When I came back – I couldn’t quite get the car started but I just wanted to check with my team – and when I came back the car was already on a flatbed and the FIA said we couldn’t restart. So it’s annoying because the only issue we had was puncture.”

Under the revised sporting regulations, Russell would only have been allowed to continue if his car had been undamaged. The new regulation includes a provision for drivers who abandon cars on-track during red flag suspensions in a grand prix or sprint race “in exceptional circumstances… provided they were not abandoned because of a mechanical issue, car damage or in order to gain an advantage.”

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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41 comments on “New rule added on drivers abandoning cars after Russell’s Silverstone retirement”

  1. Okay, from a safety standpoint I can understand this, but on the other hand, Russell getting out was to check his colleague’s safety too (sure long ago, but what if no one had gotten out to help Lauda after his accident).

    I do wonder whether this will this lead to drivers unwilling to leave the car hoping they can continue somehow, rather than pro-actively getting out to ensure they are safe in case anything in it is on fire etc.. Not sure this is a great rule.

    1. Your example falls flat simply because the medical car is right there and completing a lap behind the field on the opening lap.

      Yes, Russell’s panic could have been understandable, but no, he couldn’t actually have contributed anything here. The marshalls at the scene, along with the FIA medical team have vastly more knowledge and training than Russell could ever hope to have here.

      Commendable to the lad that he wanted to help, but rationally speaking he only complicated matters by getting involved, then getting back into his car, etc.

      1. @sjaakfoo Russell could have been the first person on the scene wearing a fire suit. Marshals’ orange overalls are merely flameproof, i.e. won’t catch fire. They offer no resistance to the heat of a fire.

        1. That’s not an argument for Russell getting out his car to help, its an argument for whether at least some track-side marshalls should have fire suits.

          @sjaakfoo‘s analysis is entirely correct IMO.

        2. Sorry there is always a firemarshall at each post with a fireproof suit beter then what Russel is wearing.. He made a silly mistake in his panic. If this happened far from any marshall post he would have a point.
          But if you exit your car you unsealed your safety belts so your out anyway.
          Then his car was picked up and delivers back so it was out of the race as it didn’t enter the pit under his own power. (His excuse he had to run back to his team to start is nonsense as there is a radio to help him but most know to restart the car from memory.

      2. On the other hand @sjaakfoo, Ayrton Senna saved Éric Comas’ life by cutting the engine, courtesy of him being the first on the site of the crash.

      3. Fair enough @sjaakfoo… but what if it was lap 2, and the medical car wasn’t right there

        This new rule is a travesty … they should have changed the rules to allow him to restart… not the other way round

        There’s no good reason not to, & one day it may just save someone’s life

    2. Cyril Pearson
      21st October 2022, 4:20

      Should a section of a car became detached and got caught in, say the suspension or steering of the following one, the driver should be allowed to find a safe place to stop and remove the offending part/s, without penalty. Or an airborne
      fabric or paper lodging in and blocking the cooling ducts, making it unsafe to return to the pits.

  2. A paddock announcement I did at a trackday recently:

    “Please make sure you’ve fitted towing eyes to your vehicles. We have an incredibly efficient recovery team here – just ask George Russell – but it helps to speed things up if you’ve got towing eyes fitted.”

    I think this is fair. George’s circumstances were fairly exceptional, and he was asking if he could drive the entire length of the circuit on three wheels to return to the pits. Credit to him for trying, but with the protesters and so on, I think race control made the right decision.

  3. Oh great, another arbitrary rule that potentially needlessly removes a racer from contention. Russell did the decent thing in Silverstone and got punished for it!

    1. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
      20th October 2022, 11:29

      Seatbelts.

    2. I’m a bit confused—would it have removed Russell? This article, at the moment, says that the revised rule clarifies the existing interpretation, which is that leaving the car constitutes retirement, but adds an exception for drivers who leave a car under a red flag, provided the car was not abandoned because of a mechanical issue or damage.

      It seems to me that Russell could argue—truthfully—that he did not abandon the car because of damage, and he would be allowed back into the race.

      1. Why did he left the car? He thought he was out already with a broken suspension and went to help but he couldn’t do anything there anyway. Then he nortice he had only a flat tyre and runs back to ask how to restart his car. On that moment was his car lifted and moved from the track which is a auto out of the race.

        His arguement is note as his car was lifted and moved from the track to the pits. The rule is the car must enter the pits onder his own power which this not the case.
        George made a mistake to leave his car running to the pit while he could enter the car and radio how to start the car.

        1. @macleod Well yes, once it’s on the flatbed it’s all moot. But the regulation in question is about whether the car is considered withdrawn when he leaves the car. And if he argues he did not leave the car “because of” the damage but instead “because of” his concern for his fellow competitor, he then has a case to trigger the new special circumstance clause regardless of how much damage there is. My point being, the new regulation appears to be more lenient towards Russell, not less.

  4. FIA? Foolish Inanities Always.
    Right. Here’s what to do if the car conks out on circuit.
    Remain strapped in. Do not get out during recovery.
    You will be allowed to undo seatbelts & get out of the car once it’s been recovered to the teams garage area.

    1. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
      20th October 2022, 11:29

      And then what? When a driver knows his car is not going anywhere they get out. What are you trying to convey?

  5. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
    20th October 2022, 11:26

    On the basis a driver is unable to do up their own seatbelts that would be another penalty incurred if they drive off after getting back in the car.

  6. Such a rule change/update/clarification would’ve been more understandable post-British GP rather than three & over half months + eight races belatedly.

    1. Technically it’s still “post-British GP” and I’m glad some time has passed and hopefully analysis has been done on whether any rule change is required and if so to what degree. Just making a rule change or deciding nothing needs to change right after the race would come off as a knee-jerk reaction, that’s not what you want from a governing body.

      1. @The Dolphins Technically, yes, so I guess I should’ve been more precise & typed ‘shortly or immediately post-British GP weekend.’
        I ultimately agree that reacting shortly afterwards would’ve been a knee-jerk reaction.

  7. I always thought this was already the rule.
    F1 drivers can’t do up their own seatbelts, so on safety grounds alone I wouldn’t expect a driver to be allowed to continue if they’ve exited their car and then got back in.

  8. That was his story. What was he going to do with already a lot of marshalls around and the medical car who follows the grid in the first lap? It sounded like an excuse to me to be let back into the race.

  9. Hang on, so if a driver sees another driver in a life-threatening situation, they cannot now leave their vehicle to check on their wellbeing or initiate a rescue without withdrawing from a session themselves by doing so? Which means that, in a Grosjean (Bahrain)/Norris (Spa)/Comas (Imola?)/Williamson (Netherlands)/Regazzoni(SA)-type scenario, drivers will be encouraged to drive on by rather than rescue their compatriots given the risk of DQ. Brilliant stuff, FIA. Keep forgetting the past – you’ve evidently done a brilliant job of it lately.

    1. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
      20th October 2022, 12:34

      That was one of my thoughts.

      A slight tweak would be if there is a red flag, the car is recovered to the pits then the driver would be able to rejoin the session as his pit crew can ensure it is safe to do so.

    2. @newfangled Under the wording of the regulation, the ‘exceptional circumstances’ clause could be interpreted a certain way. If a driver who stops on track under a red flag in a car considered undamaged, climbs out of the car to attend to an accident and then returns to drive their car back to the pit lane, they will not be considered to have withdrawn.

      With the Russell scenario, it’s more tricky. Because while the driver insisted he could return to the pits, he was missing his entire left-rear tyre. Therefore it would have been difficult for Mercedes to argue his car would have been ‘undamaged’ and it seems likely he would have been deemed to have withdrawn in that instance.

      1. +1 a car must enter the pit under his own power which wasn’t done and if question doesn’t matter.

        1. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
          20th October 2022, 16:08

          Didn’t Perez have an off somewhere and would of had to retire had a red flag not allowed the team to make repairs?

          1. That was Perez in the laps to the grid for Spa 2021. He spun off and crashed. But with the lengthy delays, they had ample time to fix the car.

    3. Safety and safety crews have vastly improved since your old examples. Grosjean was helped by the crew of the medical car

  10. Under the revised sporting regulations, Russell would only have been allowed to continue if his car had been undamaged. The new regulation includes a provision for drivers who abandon cars on-track during red flag suspensions in a grand prix or sprint race “in exceptional circumstances… provided they were not abandoned because of a mechanical issue, car damage or in order to gain an advantage.”

    @willwood Does the new regulation explicitly say the car must be undamaged, or merely, as the quote reads, that the car must not have been abandoned because of damage?

    If the latter, then it becomes trivial for a driver to abandon a damaged car and then argue against exclusion on the basis that they didn’t abandon it because of the damage—they abandoned it to check on a driver, they abandoned it because they needed a comfort break, they abandoned it because they were bored, etc.

    The root of a lot the FIA’s recent failings is its inability to draft regulations with clear, unambiguous language, and it would seem this is yet another example. It feels like the FIA needs to take ownership of the regulations and hire someone(s) who is capable of ensuring their clarity and coherence, not just run them by the teams for their OK.

    There’s a reason lawyers are employed to write contracts—the ability to write bulletproof language with an eye for closing off unintended consequences is a skill, and it does not necessarily overlap with the skill set of a race director, even an excellent one. For a international international sporting body, the failure to ensure even a basic level of clarity is really inexcusable.

    1. @markzastrow

      Does the new regulation explicitly say the car must be undamaged, or merely, as the quote reads, that the car must not have been abandoned because of damage?

      The regulations state: In exceptional circumstances, cars abandoned on the circuit during a sprint
      session suspension or race suspension may be allowed to participate when that
      session resumes, provided they were not abandoned because of a mechanical issue,
      car damage or in order to gain an advantage
      .

      Under that, it’s hard to see how Mercedes could argue that Russell’s car could be considered not to have been ‘damaged’ with its left-rear tyre missing. However, Mercedes could very much argue that Russell was capable of recovering back to the pits even with his car in that state and was simply leaving his car to attend to Zhou.

      So, yes, there’s a degree of interpretation that could be applied.

      1. provided they were not abandoned because of a mechanical issue, car damage or in order to gain an advantage.

        FIA’s lawyers were asleep again I guess. By including the words ‘because of’ in that sentence they leave it open to more interpretation than necessary.
        Judge: Mr Russell, why did you abandon your car?
        GR: Your honour, I abandoned my car ‘because of’ the urge to help my colleague.

        1. @willwood Thanks for the reply and the full wording. jff makes my point exactly—under the wording of the regulation, it doesn’t matter how damaged the car is, only whether the driver abandoned it “because of” the damage, which requires a bit of mind-reading.

  11. IMO if a driver had undone his seatbelts then he should be considered to have retired unless this is done in the pits.
    This would also cover what Tsunoda did.

  12. Russel should have parked close enough to Zhou to possibly pull him out while keeping one leg in his car.

  13. I was pondering this with Sainz in Japan. If he had stayed in his car, then the red flag thrown, then got the car back to the pits…Current F1 rules allow the car to be worked on during a red flag…he could have continued. Just pondering this. I guess we may see now drivers staunchly remaining in their cars until the safety team hauls them out….

  14. Another short sighted decision from the FIA, maybe there is a clause allowing it to happen if Marshals / Medics are more then 5% further away…

  15. I know the soft world we live in today wants rules for everything, but some things just can’t have set rules, they simply have to be managed based on circumstance and no one can predict all the possible circumstances.

  16. So what if the session is red flagged as this rule strictly prohibits drivers from getting out of there car?

    So lets say for example they red flag is 90 minutes long are the drivers expected to just sit there otherwise the will be classed as abandoning the session

    1. So Checo crashed behind the safety car in Spa last year before it got red flagged. Because the team was able to repair the car he was allowed to rejoin the race at the back of the grid.

      Seems like that wouldn’t be possible under the new rules.

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