Carlos Sainz Jr, Ferrari, Monza, 2023

Stewards explain why Ferrari pair were cleared of driving “unnecessarily slowly”

2023 Italian Grand Prix

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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.

His team mate 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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2023 Italian Grand Prix

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Author information

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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18 comments on “Stewards explain why Ferrari pair were cleared of driving “unnecessarily slowly””

  1. Fair enough

    1. Yes – spirit of the law an all that – perfectly fine explanation

      1. Special rules apply to Ferrari.

  2. Because they are in Italy and don’t want to be killed by angry tiffosis

  3. Simple. Because they’re starting on pole in Monza. You don’t want mess with that.

  4. Why set a given time limit if the decision to penalize still is based on whether a driver goes “unnecessary slowly” or not?.

    Seems a waste of time overcomplicating a rule that was already there…

    1. Yeah, I give if Tsunoda had done the same he would have ben penalised.

      1. Absolutely. Yuk I would have as would kmag or sergeant or stroll.

      2. The least they could do is carry over the penalty to Ocon

    2. Two reasons.

      Because that ‘unnecessary slowly’ is the actual written rule, and the race director’s note does not specify a penalty.

      And because the stewards noted that both Ferrari were quick enough, but were slowed down because they had to get out of others ways, which they did: “evidently the reason they were both slightly above the maximum time was due to their appropriate actions and take no further action.”

      1. Absolutely right – correct decision making there.

  5. Poor race management by the Ferrari team will ruin their chances during the race. They just don’t have the people and procedures in place to make good decisions.

  6. Think it’s right and let’s not forget that, based on he 2017 quali, a proper time at a fully wet track is barely 5 sec faster than the “unnecessarily slow driving” limit given here, and since it’s an outlap it seems a bit demanding, considering they had to let other drivers on quick laps past too.

  7. While I think this was probably the right decision in these circumstances, I can’t help but feel that drivers and teams could/should take things like this into account. They could probably have driven faster in areas of the track where they wouldn’t have been impeding anyone to make up for it.

    1. If we were to consider the wording and intention of the rule – then absolutely, the drivers/teams should be going faster and leaving sufficient time to allow for such things happening at the end of the lap.
      Running over time is the direct result of poor management.

      However, in F1, the application of the rules is far more…. fluid.

      I’m not suggesting this was a factor in this particular case – but it’s sad to think that if Ferrari’s qualifying result had been different, perhaps so could the result of their investigation.
      As noted by others, the chances that another team may have been penalised in similar circumstances are quite high, based on the FIA’s form. The big teams often seem to be coated with teflon…
      Particularly so at their home events…

  8. Shouldn’t the rule be minimum time and not maximum time?

    1. Minimum time would mean they must drive slower than that time, to stop them driving too fast. It needs to be maximum, the longest time allowed, because they’re trying to stop drivers from going unnecessarily slowly.

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