Carlos Sainz Jnr kept his pole position for the Italian Grand Prix after the stewards ruled he had not driven “unnecessarily slowly” early in the session.Charles Leclerc was also cleared over the same infringement and will start tomorrow’s race from third place.
The stewards announced after Q1 both Ferrari drivers were under investigation for exceeding the maximum lap time set by race director Niels Wittich. A decision was handed down within minutes of the qualifying session’s conclusion.
Drivers are always set a maximum lap time between the Safety Car line at pit exit and the second Safety Car line at pit entry, which applies to all in-laps during qualifying and after the chequered flag. However, in a bid to prevent cars bunching up to try and slipstream rivals on their push laps, Wittich announced before qualifying that the maximum time of 1’41 would apply to all laps in qualifying, including out laps and cool-down laps.
Sainz was just under a second over the maximum time of 1’41 between the two Safety Car lines during one of his cooldown laps in Q1, while Leclerc was more than a second over the limit in the second Ferrari. However, after the end of Q3, the stewards announced that no further action would be taken against the Ferraris despite breaching the rule.
Updated instructions issued to drivers on Saturday morning stated those who breached the time limit “may be deemed to be going unnecessarily slowly” except in “exceptional circumstances”.
However the stewards confirmed they were satisfied that both Ferrari drivers had taken “appropriate action” despite exceeding the maximum lap time.
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“Both drivers stayed at or above speeds necessary to stay below 1’41.0 around the vast majority of the circuit and especially on the straights,” they explained.
“However, in both cases the stewards determined that the drivers took appropriate actions to slow and stay to the side to the track so as to not impede other drivers, and in both cases they did this significantly to allow four drivers to pass while giving those drivers a clear track.
“The stewards therefore determine that they did not drive ‘unnecessarily slowly’, and that evidently the reason they were both slightly above the maximum time was due to their appropriate actions and take no further action.”
No other drivers were investigated for exceeding the maximum lap time during qualifying, or for impeding rivals during the session.
Sainz said he was not concerned by the investigation as he had spent the majority of the lap in question allowing cars on push laps to overtake him, rather than seeking a competitive advantage for himself.
“I [was] not very worried about that,” Sainz said after qualifying. “I had to slow down so much to not impede other cars that were on fast laps.
“It was almost impossible to respect the delta that the race director gave us because, if I would have respected it, I would have impeded my competitors. So I just played it safe, preferred to not impede anyone. Even if I was one or two seconds off the delta, I think that’s safer than actually impeding someone.”
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