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