F1 drivers insist new rules to prevent impeding in qualifying don’t work

Formula 1

Posted on

| Written by

New rules Formula 1 introduced to prevent drivers impeding each other haven’t worked, according to some, who described the regulations as “terrible.”

Since the middle of the season, F1 has been trying to stamp out drivers dawdling in front of each other during qualifying sessions. They do this in order to ensure they can start a lap without being affected by the disturbed air of a car ahead.

At first F1 required drivers to remain above a maximum lap time between the pit exit and pit entrance at all times. This prevented them slowly to an excessive degree at the end of the lap, creating a hazardous situation when drivers on flying laps approached them.

However the maximum lap time rule resulted in large numbers of drivers being investigated for potential infringement after each qualifying session. These drivers were almost always cleared as the stewards tended to rule they had only driven slowly in order to avoid impeding a rival.

The rules also led some drivers to crawl towards the pit exit and even stop there as they left to begin a lap, in order to build up a gap to a car ahead before reaching the point where they were bound by the maximum time.

The stewards tried to stop this with another new rule in Brazil, which stated drivers must let others pass them in the pit exit if they are not going at full speed. Three drivers were penalised as a result of this rule: George Russell and the Alpine pair.

Some of their rivals are not convinced the rules changes have had the desired effect. Max Verstappen, who passed several cars in the pit exit during both qualifying sessions in Brazil, called them: “Absolutely terrible.”

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

Interlagos has an unusually long pit exit – as does Yas Marina, which F1 will visit later this month. Verstappen foresees more problems at tracks with different pit exit designs.

“On this track you have quite a long pit exit and there are some walls,” he said. “But on some other tracks, if we implement this, you’re driving very slowly onto a straight where people are passing at 300kph-plus, and you are maybe driving 15, 20 to make a gap, which is I think extremely dangerous. So for me, this doesn’t work at all, it just creates even more trouble.”

He pointed out some drivers were “going on the grass, including myself, to try and pass cars” during qualifying in Brazil. “It’s just a mess.

“Every single qualifying you have six to eight cars getting noted for driving too slow with the [maximum] time. I don’t know what we’re trying to achieve.”

Lando Norris was reprimanded by the stewards for exceeding the time when he slowed down behind Yuki Tsunoda during the sprint race qualifying session. He pointed out the driver ahead of him backed off because another car appeared in front of him, and did not believe he should have been reprimanded as a result.

“I got a reprimand for two cars ahead of me coming out of the pit lane, or one crossing over the Safety Car line, one coming out of pit lane at the same time,” he said. “I can’t overtake, otherwise I’m going to be racing [another car] on a qualifying lap, which is stupid.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

“So I have to back off, and therefore I’m below the minimum time and I get a reprimand for that. It’s just a silly thing.

“Not that the stewards made the wrong decision, it’s just a rule that shouldn’t be in my opinion, because I did absolutely nothing wrong. I didn’t block anyone. I didn’t get in anyone’s way. I’ve just not overtaken and caused a race in qualifying and I get a reprimand for that. So just silly things.”

He said the growing number of rules governing what drivers can do in qualifying sessions is creating more problems.

“It’s a tough one,” Norris admitted. “Of course people do go slowly and things like that. But if you’re scared of it, just go out of the pit lane earlier and avoid all the queueing. It’s quite a simple one.

“The only point is when you have like four minutes left on the clock, or two minutes left on the clock, and you’ve got a guy at the front of the queue who just waits 30 seconds, 20 seconds – does a Fernando [Alonso] and Lewis [Hamilton], back in McLaren [in 2007] – and you kind of screw everyone over, so that’s the only probably unfair thing.

“But I think there’s just more and more rules for everything and it just causes more and more havoc for everyone.”

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2023 Brazilian Grand Prix

Browse all 2023 Brazilian Grand Prix articles

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

48 comments on “F1 drivers insist new rules to prevent impeding in qualifying don’t work”

  1. It was indeed all a bit farcical in Brazil. The high (low?) point being when Max had to take to the grass to pass all of the dawdlers in the pit lane exit. I completely understand why he did it, and it paid off as he was able to set a good time before the weather came in, which most of the dawdlers didn’t. I do however think that overtaking of any sort in the pit entry/exit should not be allowed. It tends to be one of the tightest parts of the track with lowest margin for error. If you want to be at the front of the pack for a quali session, then you should have to go out of your garage early and sit a the front of the queue and suffer the consequences of cold tyres until the pit exit light goes green. Max was able to leave his garage as late as possible, keeping his tyres warm, then pass all the others. I am absolutely not Max bashing here by the way. He and his team clearly made the right call given the conditions, and did so within the current rules. I just thing the rules are wrong.

  2. I know I’m blaspheming here but other than them going out individually on one lap qualifying – a failed Bernie experiment – it’s hard to see a workable solution that affords each driver parity in qualifying.

    1. I enjoyed one lap qualifying at the time until they did the whole aggregate times thing.

    2. I’m pretty sure it was single-lap qualifying for most of F1 history, or at least each driver going out on their own to set a time. It was only some time in the early 2000s they brought in this format. This format was actually the Bernie experiment, and it’s worked reasonably well for the most part.

      A lack of driver parity and an element of chance was pretty much the raison d’être of this format. It was supposed to give less predictable results, more drivers qualifying out of position, as well as a more exciting to watch qualifying session.

      I do think we need to look at what’s causing the issues, though. It’s worked fairly well up until a couple of years ago when drivers suddenly started driving ultra-slow on their out laps and backing up massively to create a gap. It has become dangerous and ridiculous. I strongly suspect it’s all down to either changes in the way the tyres behave or changes in the teams’ understanding of them. If they can’t fix that problem, though, I’d rather they went back to “one car on the track at once” them keep the farce we’re currently seeing.

      1. Jonathan Parkin
        11th November 2023, 10:16

        To be fair I did like one lap qualifying. And then they had to spoil it with race fuel

      2. Why are they driving slow, the tyres cannot give performance on more than 1 lap is why.
        Give them tyres that can do 3 laps and don’t have to be reused in the race and problem is solved.
        Of course that will lead to a new set of problems…

        1. The tyres do give performance for more than one lap, just look at the races. They just don’t give the ultimate, maximum performance they want for a single lap unless they are treated in a very specific way.

          And the reason for these roles want to stop them driving slowly in their out lap, the speed they would need to drive to meet these times is still incredibly slow by F1 standards. It’s there to stop people queuing up at the end of the lap so they can have a gap to the car in front, which ends up with a really dangerous situation of cars virtually stopped when others are pushing for a fast lap.

  3. Just leave the artificial rules. Let em mess up an ruin each others laps or not be able to start a lap. Part of the drama. You can also leave the pit 4 min earlier, it is a risk they take. Not everything needs rules, F1 already has too many.

    1. You can also leave the pit 4 min earlier, it is a risk they take.

      My suggestion, a little while back, was to close the pit lane exit 5 minutes (or whatever) before the chequered flag.

      What they do out there in the 5 remaining minutes is up to them, but serious impeding should stand out like the proverbial sore thumb.

    2. This.

      It seems that teams and drivers are incapable of making the decision to go early in clean air in the hope that they’ll gain a tenth from track evolution right at the end of a session.

      The reality is pretty much all of them lose way more than they hope to gain because they all get in each others road. We’ve even had drivers not make it to the line in time to start because they got held up. Complete madness.

      Yes let them mess up. Let the inevitable terrible crash happen and then maybe, just maybe, the teams will show more sense than they do now.

      Mind you, they’ll all complain that it was the FIA’s fault, not theirs. It couldn’t possibly be because they can’t see the obvious could it.

      1. They would rather lose out themselves than allow someone else the chance to gain the benefit of track evolution.

  4. What isnt really mentioned in the article is that these rules have been brought in because of some extremely dangerous near misses with drivers dawdling around on thier out laps and the stewards had no power to penalise them for it. We’ve come close to the Ocon/Alonso incident quite a few times over the years, and then theres every year at Monza where people play chicken and cause problems. The drivers can complain all they want, but ultimately theyve shown that they are not willing or capable to conduct themselves safely and so the FIA has to step in with these silly rules.

    1. What I don’t understand is that the stewards have always been able to penalise this behaviour under the article (currently) 33.4 of not driving unnecessarily slowly as to be a danger.

      Masi actually started using this in his last year. But has been forgotten about again since.

      They don’t need a litany of extra silly rules. It should be as simple as: Don’t back off to the point of making a dangerous traffic jam. Put whoever does it to the back of the grid a few times and soon the teams will learn. It’s not that hard…

      1. The problem is the judgement of what constitutes “dangerously slowly”. Every rule where the stewards are left to judge like that ends up being enforced in a very inconsistent way. Some races they’ll judge harshly, some they’ll be lenient. Sometimes two near-identical incidents in the same race will have vastly different outcomes. It ends up looking like one server for away with something another had the book thrown at them for, and leads to accusations of bias/favouritism/etc.

      2. And an additional problem is: When you have, let’s say, three cars going slowly and prepare for a lap and one encountering them at racing speed that has to back off.
        Who do you punish? Only the last one that was encounterd first, only the first one that caused the pile up or all three of them?
        Or none, because it’s just unfortunate?

  5. We do have a maximum speed in the pit lane, surely a minimum speed could be done? On a green light when you’re released from the pit box you maintain that speed or accelerate.

  6. Will they line up in the tunnel in Abu Dhabi – or will team radio not work down there, forcing the drivers to think for themselves for once?

  7. Take the little children by the hand and guide them through the session so they don’t get in each others way.

  8. New qualifying format proposal
    Bottom 10 finishers from previous race go out to qualify in Q1. Top three advanced Q2 the winner of the previous race will automatically be advanced to Q3, leaving 12 cars running in Q2, the top seven join the winner in Q3. This puts less cars on the track at the same time which improves safety and competitiveness between those who are on the track!

  9. Do they actually need to have all 20 cars on the track at one time? Not really. There are ways to exclude cars from Q1, e.g. the cars with the 10 fastest times from the Final Practice sessions could be exempted from attending Q1, while the 5 fastest times are exempted from attending Q2, so you only have a maximum of 10 cars on the track at any one time.

    1. But that negates one of the biggest reasons they brought in this qualifying format: to make it more likely that the grid would be mixed up.

      If they’re going to make it so no more than 10 cars are out at once, I’d say split the field in half, run a session for each and have the fastest 5 from each go into the top 10 shootout. To split them up, either allocate them randomly or alternating WDC order (odd positions in Q1, even in Q2). Allocate positions outside the top 10 by lap times in their sessions.

  10. I believe that the best qualifying format was way back in the 80s, when all drivers has 12 laps allowed (includong out and in laps) in the qualifying hour span.
    You choose when to use those laps and if there is traffic, well, you had your chnace to go out when there is less

    1. The 12 lap limit in qualifying wasn’t introduced until 1993.

      Prior to that they could do as many laps as they wanted.

      1. And the 12 laps allowed format continued all the way till 2002 I believe, replaced in 2003 by the 1-attempt-quali-laps.

        1. Jonathan Parkin
          11th November 2023, 10:18

          The best qualifying format in my opinion

  11. They might scrap qualifying altogether. Let cars line up in the order that they finished the previous “heat” (GP / sprint / test).
    Spend Fri / Sat doing sprints and other gimmicks.

  12. I still don’t get that people manage to mix up maximum with minimum despite the exact opposite effect.

    1. Coventry Climax
      11th November 2023, 2:51

      That’s because people don’t think anymore, even if it is quite simple.

      Let’s do the thinking for them:
      Maximum and minimum are both restrictions, so

      Maximum time = you can’t take more time going from A to B = You’re not allowed to go slower.
      Minimum time = you can’t use less time going from A to B = You’re not allowed to go faster.

      1. Coventry Climax
        11th November 2023, 3:02

        At first F1 required drivers to remain above a maximum lap time between the pit exit and pit entrance at all times.

        Being required to stay above a certain time, means that limit is called a minumum, @KeithCollantine, instead of a maximum. Staying above that time limit (let’s just skip the term max or min, for clarity reasons) means you can’t go faster, which means that you are allowed to go slower, whereas the idea was they actually would not go slower.

    2. I think it’s because people get speed and time mixed up in their heads. Maximum time = minimum (average) speed, and vice versa.

  13. Whatever rules the FIA bring in to combat the issue, these rules will work until Verstappen breaches them. Then, rather than penalise Verstappen, the stewards will make every excuse not to penalise him. This in turn will require further clarifications and new rules to be issued once again. Until someone with a voice has the balls to call out the obvious steward leniency towards Verstappen, the cycle will continue.

  14. I think that the current qualifying format is one of the only few elements of F1 that actually do work, and I usually enjoy this session more than the race itself, so I wouldn’t want to swap it for anything else, but have an idea for finetuning it, as I mentioned it here before:

    Q1a: 10 cars, 15 minutes, five fastest qualifies for Q2 regardless of time
    Q1b: 10 cars, 15 minutes, five fastest qualifies for Q2 regardless of time
    Q2: 10 cars (from Q1a and Q1b), 15 minutes, basically the same as current Q3

    This way no more than 10 cars on track at any moment of the qualfication, and advancing based on positions rather than time eliminates the effect of track evolution or rain, so equal chances for any driver regardless of which group they are drawn to, it could be completely random as well. The only problem I see here that drivers advancing from Q1a have to sit out 15 minutes until they can drive again, meanwhile drivers advancing from Q1b might benefit from their uninterrupted rythm.

    From my point of view this is still a cleaner solution than minimum lap time or 1-lap qualy or any other rushed half-measure the decisionmakers are considering.

    1. And if rain is imminent or expected, or track is drying quickly (or slowly)?

      1. @davedai It shouldn’t matter if we take the laptimes out of the equation and concentrating only on positions.

        1. Sorry my brain is gone. Does this mean that there are now 10 cars left to compete in some form of repercharge for pos 11-20 again based on position not time? So even if all of those set times faster than those already qualied in pos pole -10 (evolution, stopped raining etc.), that doesn’t matter as they already had their chance against them in Q1s? and didn’t get the job done.
          Not arguing just trying to get it through my thick skull.
          (If it should be obvious from your initial post just reply “sigh” and I’ll keep re-reading til I get it)

          1. @davedai Your question is absolutely valid, I didn’t explain it clearly. Those that are out in Q1a and Q1b are out for good, they are going to be 11th, 13th, 15th, 17th, 19th and 12th, 14th, 16th, 18th, 20th respectively, based on something, like the faster overall group will take 11th and beyond, and the slower 12th and beyond. Those that are knocked out are not competing during the qualification again, similarily to the current system. Can you set a better time in Q1 than everyone in Q2 and still finish P20? Certainly, as you had your chance against other 9 guys and failed to beat them. But this could happen nowadays as well if Q1 is dry, and the rest is rainwashed.

            Does this make sense? : )

  15. I’d get rid of the minimum lap time & stuff thats been introduced this year & just make it simple.

    If you are on a slow lap then you have to stay well off the racing line & it will be mandatory for somebody on the pit wall to tell there drivers when cars are coming up behind them & ensure they are out of the way when they get to them.

    And if you fail to stay out of the way & impede a driver you get a grid penalty. If the way you impeded the car is deemed to have been dangerous then you start from the back of the grid.

    1. How do you give a meaningful penalty to a potential impeding driver who’s gonna qualify in last place? Or can he impede all he likes in that case?

      1. How do you give a meaningful penalty to a potential impeding driver who’s gonna qualify in last place?

        Carry the grid penalty over to the next race and add points to a tally, exceed the tally limit triggers a penalty where the driver has a fine and the team loses a specified amount from their budget – none of that paid for by your sponsor/sugar daddy nonsense.
        (How much did Horner bleat about the RBR fine for exceeding the budget cap? All the while knowing that it didn’t even remove pocket lint from what the team could spend. Substitute Ferrari or whoever for your preferred example)

    2. I’m not sure it’s possible to “stay well off the racing line” for the whole lap. It switches from one side to the other, so you’re going to be on it at several points in the lap unless you leave the circuit.

  16. Coventry Climax
    11th November 2023, 2:41

    More rules more restrictions more transgressions more work for the stewards.

    The only way to really solve this, is to take away the reason drivers are doing this.

    I’m sure there’s more causes, but having tyres that can peak for one lap only is one of them, because if that one lap is messed with, you’ve thrown away a set of tyres.
    Going to tracks that aren’t normally raced on (Vegas and other street circuits) and/or don’t have at least a couple of support (stupid name) races, so that the track gets grippier with every singe lap that’s done even into qualifying is another one, as that makes them wait for the very last moment. Weather is a factor as well; the threat of rain makes them come out all at once too. A more flexible time table might help there, instead of having to do it all in those 15 minutes of an entire weekend. Etc. etc.

    1. Didn’t see this so my post higher up echoes this completely about the tyres.

  17. No rule in F1 can ever work when the competitors constantly ignore it and are repeatedly given so much leeway by stewards…
    The drivers caused this, just like they’ve caused the track limits saga. The FIA are just making it worse.

    1. Agreed.

      In fact, a general penalty escalator would be a good idea in my book: every penalty you get in a weekend moves you up the escalator, giving harsher penalties. If you get to the top of the escalator, you’re disqualified.

  18. I’d like to see an article titled

    F1 teams and drivers proposed solution to prevent impeding in qualifying

    A Racefans Exclusive

    Surely those at the “coalface” have some idea of what would work. But then, all the drivers and teams would not only have to sign on, but actually implement it themselves. Take accountability.

    1. Surely those at the “coalface” have some idea of what would work.

      They don’t, though. Whatever is implemented – not matter who came up with it – will just be exploited to the point of ridicule, as always. As such, it then needs a rule change, or a completely new rule. It’s a never-ending cycle.

      Their attitude is the problem – not the rules. Sportsmanship (including respecting the rules and fellow competitors) does not exist in F1.

  19. Yes (@come-on-kubica)
    11th November 2023, 10:06

    ModernF1 is so bad. How did they manage to do it fine in tge past 25 years and this season it’s the hardest thing in the world.

    Let it be a free for all and disqualify cars from the race if there are big issues.

  20. Some rules are better off left alone for the sake of simplicity. Let the drivers block each other and simply punish them at will. That’s easier for the fans to understand.

Comments are closed.