FIA reintroduces maximum time limit for all laps in qualifying

Formula 1

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FIA Formula 1 race director Niels Wittich has reimplemented the maximum time limit for all laps in qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix.

Every grand prix weekend, the FIA enforces a maximum time drivers must obey between the two Safety Car lines at the end of the pit exit and before pit entry for all in-laps during qualifying, as well as reconnaissance laps before the grand prix.

For the Italian Grand Prix in Monza, Wittich extended that maximum lap time restriction to all laps completed in qualifying, in order to avoid dangerous incidents of drivers bunching at the end of the lap and impeding rivals.

The move appeared to have the desired effect with no incidents of impeding through the session in Monza. However the same practice was not adopted for last weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix.

Last weekend’s qualifying session saw a near-miss at the end of Q1 where at least eight drivers were bunched together waiting between turn 17 and the penultimate corner, including Max Verstappen who was investigated by the stewards but cleared of wrongdoing.

Ahead of this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, Wittich has confirmed that the maximum lap time will be extended again to all laps in qualifying

“For the safe and orderly conduct of the event, other than in exceptional circumstances accepted as such by the stewards, any driver that exceeds the maximum time from the second Safety Car line to the first Safety Car line on ANY lap during and after the end of the qualifying session, including in-laps and out-laps, may be deemed to be going unnecessarily slowly,” Wittich confirmed in his event notes for drivers.

As a result of this restriction, any driver who exceeds the maximum time between the two Safety Car lines will be at risk of a penalty. However, drivers may be shown leniency if they can demonstrate they exceed the time for taking reasonable steps to avoid impeding rivals on fast laps, as was the case for Ferrari drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz Jnr in Monza.

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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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27 comments on “FIA reintroduces maximum time limit for all laps in qualifying”

  1. It’s a fairly long track, they can easily go a bit faster on the straight bits and gain enough time to still cause a car park at the chicane and still be within the lap time limit? If you want to eradicate that they’d need to introduce a minimum (last) sector time

    1. I mean, ‘lap’ is not restrictive enough I’m afraid

      1. If you want to eradicate that they’d need to introduce a [maximum] (last) sector time

        I don’t think it is needed.
        Drivers still know that if they leave the pit with at least the maximum lap time left, that they can start the lap without being impeded*.
        If the driver ahead decides to go faster on the straights and have time to have a coffee before the last turn, then that is fine as long as it is still within the maximum (I got it) lap time. The driver ahead will still be gone when the next one arrives (of going at the maximum lap time speed).

        * Of course if you leave with just about the max lap time left on the clock, and already in a queue** of cars at the pit exit, then chances are that you will still be in a queue of cars when starting the lap.
        ** ‘queue’ could be a devilish word in Wordle.

    2. Minimum would require going slower rather than faster, causing the undesired opposite effect.

      1. Coventry Climax
        21st September 2023, 10:13

        Yes, yes, you’re right. Minimum speed, maximum time. I guess we all realised that’s what he meant.
        Now back to the contents: What’s your opinion on that?
        I think what he says makes sense.

        In the seven talking points for Japan article, this was already one of them. I replied that only allowing them to bunch up on the straight before 130R would be an alternative option. That effectively results in a minimum sector speed for before 130R to after the chicane. But we’re talking pinnacle of motorsports here, and FiA. You can’t expect them to make sophisticated, consistent, adequate, correctly worded, enforcable, logical, fair for all and non sports destructive professional decisions now, can you?

        1. Not really about FIA being everything you mentioned, but I’ve generally been okay with how they’ve handled their regular maximum time requirements.

          1. Even for Ferrari at Monza?

          2. Coventry Climax
            21st September 2023, 10:51

            That’s still not a response to the contents of what Baasbas said.

      2. @Jere
        I’m sorry I pooped the min-max speed-time thing. I started rambling on the keyboard and changed part of it before hitting Post. If I had an edit button I would have corrected it

        1. Or, just maybe, if you’d checked what you’d written before posting… 🙄

          1. @Simon
            I just noticed two more people made the exact same mistake. Please have mercy on their souls

  2. Why and how on Earth can they create a rule and then switch that rule on and off as they feel? This makes no sense. Make the rule, enforce it, and review it periodically. No wonder there are issues, it leads to confusion as to what is being applied when.
    FIA are really not helping themselves here.

    1. Agreed, @davethedrummer. Set this rule in stone for every practice and qualifying session at every track before something awful happens.

  3. i wish they would do what indycar does for qualifying. They relocate the start/finish line to before the pit lane. So drivers complete a lap and immediately go into the pit lane. completely removes IN laps. 50% reduction of useless laps that ruin other drivers qualifying.

    1. More sustainable too. Less fuel consumption.

    2. Coventry Climax
      21st September 2023, 10:25

      Sounds like a decent idea that they should look into. The outlap is still there though. Tyre preparation maneuvres will still be there and some sort of rule is likely still necessary to prevent timed laps from being ruined. So, combination of these, as far as I’m concerned.
      That said, I don’t remember we had these issues very much in the past. It’s the very narrow operating window regarding both temperature and lifetime of the Pirelli’s that creates these ‘silly’ outlaps, despite there being tyre blankets.
      So changing the tyres to something decent is another option, as well as having blankets that make tyres efficient as of lap 1.

    3. @ppzzus Easier said than done because timing loop positions are fixed, although SC2 line could be the reference.

      1. Coventry Climax
        21st September 2023, 10:56

        If it’s a good idea to start with, then change the fixed points. How hard can it be?
        This just requires a bit of ‘out of the box’ thinking and willingness to genuinely improve.

        Fixed, over the entire history of mankind, has proven to be a very relative concept as well as the most frequently used excuse to not have to change anything.

    4. I mean, it’s a thing they could do, but I don’t think in-laps are the problem. Nobody cares if their brakes or tires get a bit too hot or cold during an in-lap.

    5. @ppzzus It wouldn’t do anything because in laps aren’t what causes the problems with traffic.

      The problem is out laps partly because they are trying to fing a gap, Partly because they are building hybrid charge but mostly because of how temperature sensitive the tires are and how small the operating window is.

      The reason this sort of thing wasn’t as big of an issue in the past is because they had tires that didn’t need as much preparation or management.

      One of the biggest complaints drivers have had with the Pirelli’s for years now is how temperature sensitive they are and how small there operating window is. If you don’t have your tires in the temperature window going into your qualifying lap you end up with them overheating well before the end of it and with these tires once they go outside the window it’s a snowball effect as you lose grip which makes you slide around more which then makes it harder to bring temperatures back down.

      1. Additionally one of the reasons the timing line is where it is in F1 is because they have backup systems as well as the ability to take manual timing with cameras and if necessary personnel in the race control building that the timing line is usually positioned across from.

    6. Thats great in theory, but doesn’t work at all on F1 circuits due to layout. Eg in Suzuka, you’d have the start finish sitting after 130R, before the chicane – thats crazy!

  4. I think that no having a solution for this after so many decades of racing F1, it’s beyond incompetent.

    Maybe take a 3 lap approach:

    1) First lap (warm up)
    2) Fast lap (quali time)
    3) back in lap ( just after they finish their fast lap)

    “Fast lap” and “back in lap” needs to within 10% of the fast lap. If not, then nothing counts.

    That needs to be applied to ALL races, not circuit by circuit.

    1. You just reworded the new rules and were able to make it more complex.

  5. I don’t agree with Ferrari not being penalized when they failed to make the minimum time in qualification because they had to avoid impeding cars on a fast lap. What? They just need to stay off the racing line during their warm up lap. I don’t see that as an excuse for going too slowly around the track. They can’t make corners off the racing line at warm up lap speed. No exceptions to these rules.

  6. You read the headline and it’s hard not to laugh in sarcasm and disappointment. The FIA could impose minimum lap time and track limits but we know they’ll allow caveats which piss on the spectacle.

    A simple solution; the FIA set the rules in stone. Don’t let the teams dictate caveats around those rules.

  7. maximum time from the second Safety Car line to the first Safety Car line on ANY lap during

    Are we still going with ANY?

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