Charles Leclerc, Valtteri Bottas and Zhou Guanyu have been cleared by the stewards for exceeding the maximum lap time limit in qualifying.
The maximum time limit was brought in by race director Niels Wittich for the second time in three rounds in a bid to ensure drivers keep their speed up between laps and not create hazardous situations for rivals.
The trio exceeded the maximum time of one minute and 54 seconds in the opening phase of qualifying. Each was on their first out-laps in the session. They were among the final four drivers to leave the pit lane and start their first runs in qualifying, and all three immediately had to yield to rivals behind on flying laps, meaning they were forced to slow through various stages of the lap.
After investigating, the stewards determined that this was the reason why the trio had breached the maximum lap time and excused them as a result.
“All drivers stayed at or above speeds necessary to stay below 1’54 around the vast majority of the circuit,” the stewards noted. “However, in all 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 all cases, they did this significantly to allow four or more 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 all slightly above the maximum time was due to their appropriate actions and take no further action.”
It is the second time Leclerc has breached the limit but been cleared of wrongdoing by the stewards. As at Monza, Leclerc said prior to the stewards’ decision he exceeded the maximum time because he was released onto the circuit out of phase with the majority of his rivals.
“I think as soon as they look into it they will understand pretty easily I’ve been sent in the worst position possible in Q1 and I had to let cars past wherever I could,” Leclerc said before the decision was announced.
“I think I had 10 seconds to recover in sector two and three, but that wasn’t enough. I recovered five seconds, I was faster than the delta as soon as I let the traffic past but there was too much traffic.”
As when the maximum time rule was enforced at Monza, there were no noted incidents of impeding during qualifying. Both Alfa Romeo drivers were eliminated from Q1 with Bottas knocked out in 16th and team mate Zhou 19th, while Leclerc reached Q3 to secure fifth on the grid for Sunday’s race.
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