George Russell, Mercedes, Interlagos, 2023

Russell, Gasly and Ocon handed two-place grid penalties for impeding in pit exit

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George Russell, Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon have all received two-place grid penalties for Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix for impeding rivals in qualifying.

The trio were summoned to the stewards for failing to follow the race director’s instructions and impeding rivals between the pit exit line and the second Safety Car line when the pit road rejoins the circuit.

Ahead of the race weekend at Interlagos, all drivers were advised by race director Niels Wittich in the pre-event notes not to delay their rivals in the circuit’s long pit lane exit. The updated guidance is the latest in a series of changes made by the FIA to prevent drivers impeding each other in qualifying sessions.

Drivers were advised that if they wanted to create a gap to a car ahead in any timed session by slowing after the pit exit prior to joining the race track, they must “drive as far to the left as possible to allow other drivers to pass them on the right side of the pit exit road.” All three fell foul of the revised rule.

At the start of Q1, Russell was following team mate Lewis Hamilton out of the pit exit, making a gap ahead to him as Gasly slowed behind him to do the same. After building a buffer, Gasly accelerated around the left-hander, receiving waved white flags from marshals, before coming across the Mercedes going slowly in the middle of the lane. Gasly moved right and onto the grass in an attempt to get around the Mercedes, but had to pull in behind him.

However, the stewards reviewed Russell’s actions and deemed that he had failed to follow the instructions to stay completely to the left of the road at pit exit.

“As a result,” the stewards explained, “following cars were not able to overtake, as intended by the race director’s instructions. This clearly violates the wording and the spirit of item 14 of the race director’s event notes.”

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As a result of his infringement, Russell was handed a two-place grid penalty for Sunday’s grand prix, demoting him from sixth on the grid to eighth.

Later in Q1, pole winner Max Verstappen was seen overtaking both Perez and Ocon at pit exit by running his right-side wheels onto the grass to pass the pair who were both driving slowly on their way onto the race track. Moments earlier, Yuki Tsunoda had to run close to the inside wall in order to overtake Gasly on his way through the pit exit.

Ocon and Gasly both received two-place grid drops for their respective incidents, the same as Russell. As a result, the two Alpine drivers will now start in 14th and 15th places, respectively.

Despite the penalties, no superlicence penalty points were given to any of the drivers. The decisions will have no impact on Saturday’s sprint race, the grid for which will be determined during a separate qualifying session held on Saturday morning.

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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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11 comments on “Russell, Gasly and Ocon handed two-place grid penalties for impeding in pit exit”

  1. Chances of having a safety car have dramatically increased now that Russell and Checo are starting next to each other.

    On the bright side, we may have a fun duel between Lewis and Lando.

  2. Billy Rae Flop
    4th November 2023, 1:02

    Only seen the Russel one but how was that impeding? Gasly drove up to him at a high speed knowing Russel was there.

    Seemed more like the theatrics Alonso pulled during the Canadian GP in the pit lane.

    1. That was just good fun. He had to major opposite lock on from the aero wake! He passed him on track regardless.

      Anyway, I think it was less about whether Gasly was actually impeded and more about the drivers failing to follow clear and very simple to adhere to race director directions.

    2. I take back what I said. Just saw a replay. Many of them seemed to be the left. BS penalties. Without tires blankets, we wouldn’t have these issues.

      1. Russell was basically in the middle of the pit road exit until he sees Gasly, then he apparently moves to the left. The same happened with Ocon (he moves left when Verstappen is overtaking him and then moves back to the middle) and with Gasly (he even goes for the apex of the right hander while driving slowly). With Ocon and Russell, it looks like there’s almost a meter to their left.

        The rule is clear, if you’re leaving a gap you must drive as far as possible to the left. Not when another driver is behind, always. Moving to the left when the other driver is already going off-track because there isn’t enough room isn’t complying with the rules.

        I’m sure it’s just growing pains, the drivers just need to get used to it. But from what I can see, all 3 drivers deserved the penalty (and, in the same incident as Ocon, Pérez seems to be also driving in the middle of the road forcing Verstappen off-track, but nobody seems to have protested it).

  3. Silly error by them.

  4. Not frivolous enough for a one-place penalty?

  5. I’m really glad they’ve been penalised. The instructions were very clear: you can go slowly to build a gap, but you must stay as far over to the left as possible. None of them did so. They didn’t even try, they were in the middle of the lane.

    Hopefully, knowing that there’s will be a significant penalty for ignoring this will stop anyone doing it again.

    1. …you must stay as far over to the left as possible. None of them did so. They didn’t even try, they were in the middle of the lane.

      Totally agree with a penalty – not sure that it’s the right penalty, however.
      Anyway, they really shouldn’t be encouraging competitors to overtake each other in the pit lane exit. The track is built to be wide enough for that activity for a very considered and deliberate reason, while the pit lane exit is not…
      I’d suggest they are probably starting to wish they’d just enforced the actual rules properly from the beginning – but I’ve been watching these sorts of hilarious/tragic decisions made over and over in F1 for far too long to actually believe that.
      It’s as though they’ll do almost anything to avoid applying rules as they are actually written.

      Hopefully, knowing that there’s will be a significant penalty for ignoring this will stop anyone doing it again.

      I don’t think it’s anywhere near enough of a penalty to get that message across. Repeated track limits debacles in F1 are testament to it, in fact.
      All they do is modify their interpretation/application once there are enough breaches.

    2. For sure, hopefully this will be a one-off after which everyone gets the point (as most already did).

      Clear rules and consistent penalties are the best way to go. The drivers will adapt soon enough.

  6. Not sure they’re they brightest bulbs on the tree. With this “new” rule, you’re going slowly, staying left, to build a gap between the car that’s in front of you, but another car can just drive by you on you’re right, and now you need to build a gap to that car, and then another car can come by you as you dawdle, and then you need to build a gap to that car. Seems quite dim to not just get out on the track and figure it out.

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