Kevin Magnussen, Haas, Bahrain International Circuit, 2024

Race director Wittich reverses changes to maximum lap time rule in qualifying

Formula 1

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A new rule for qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend forbidding drivers from going too slow at all points on the track has been scrapped.

FIA race director Niels Wittich has issued an updated version of the Bahrain Grand Prix event notes, deleting a new requirement that was intended to be enforced for today’s first qualifying session of the season.

Ahead of last year’s Italian Grand Prix qualifying, Wittich informed teams that an existing rule limiting how long drivers’ in-laps could take would be extended to apply to every lap a driver completes during qualifying sessions. The move was intended to avoid dangerous build-ups of traffic seen during some sessions, particularly in the final sectors of circuits.

The rule was in effect for eight of the last nine grands prix in 2023, with drivers who exceeded the maximum lap time set each weekend summoned to the stewards. While the vast majority of investigations for exceeding the maximum lap time resulted in no further action taken, both Lando Norris and Yuki Tsunoda received reprimands for doing so in Interlagos.

For this year, Wittich originally advised drivers that not only must they stay under the maximum lap time between the two Safety Car lines between pit exit and pit entrance, but that they should do so “at least once in each marshalling sector” around the circuit.

However Wittich dropped that additional requirement in the latest version of his event notes issued on Friday morning. Drivers will now only be assessed for their speed across the full lap, as they were at the end of last season.

A note that the restrictions also apply to the pit lane has been kept in the newest version of the wording. Several instances of drivers delaying each other in the pits occured last year.

Following Thursday’s opening day of practice, Wittich has set the maximum lap time to 1’54.000 between the two Safety Car lines on the circuit. This is one second less than the maximum lap time for the 2023 Bahrain Grand Prix, which was only enforced on in-laps, laps after the chequered flag and reconnaissance laps before the start of the race.

Revised qualifying restrictions

In order to ensure that cars are not driven unnecessarily slowly on in laps during and after the end of qualifying or during reconnaissance laps when the pit exit is opened for the race, drivers must stay below the maximum time set by the FIA between the Safety Car lines shown on the pit lane map.

Teams and drivers will be informed of the maximum time after the second practice session.

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. For the avoidance of doubt, this does not supersede Article 33.4 and Article 37.5 of the FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations, which apply to the entire circuit, furthermore this includes the pit lane as well. Incidents will normally be investigated after the qualifying session.

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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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17 comments on “Race director Wittich reverses changes to maximum lap time rule in qualifying”

  1. In one sense this is welcome, since the new requirements were very silly. But in another, wider sense, it underlines what an unmanageable mess the closing stages of qualifying has become.

    I think there is merit in the suggestion made by a COTD the other day that F1 should examine the root causes of why this happens and act to address them. But ultimately I think we just need to recognise that finding enough space for a clear lap is part of the challenge of qualifying, especially in the congested Q1 session. If you get held up by someone, then that’s just tough. Do a better job of finding a gap next time.

  2. Didn’t they have about three months for simulations and trials? Was there the need for setting the rule a couple of days before the Grand Prix, and just before qualifying they decide to scrap it?

    I remember Ross Brawn’s words after being appointed Sporting Director (or whatever) of Liberty Media: 2no more knee-jerk reactions”. Yep, he was speaking about the dreadful knockout qualifying ssytem from the beginning of 2016, announced just a few days before. Even I, a random guy, knew it would lead to anticlmactic qualifying endings.

    And then we have the improvised sprint system for 2023, announced just a couple of days before the start (people with tickets for the spectacle didn’t know the time of the sessions just 48 hours before them!), and with a big loophole with the SQ3-tyre rule.

    And then we have this nonsense again.


    1. This is so embarrassingly amateurish of FIA. They had all winter to figure things out. Just like they had years of drain hole problems to figure out tracks need to be verified prior to on-track activities.

      These days, you have such wonderful electronic means to simulate everything and anything accurately in all possible variations, but these guys seem to just figure out stuff in hypothetical conversations and then see if it works or not.

  3. Unbelievable.
    And yet, all too believable.

  4. Just make up your mind & stick with whatever you choose.

    1. Yellow Baron
      1st March 2024, 10:20

      So the cars shouldn’t have suddenly been allowed to unlap, only the ones in between max and Lewis. Yes indeed stick to it and to the rules, chopping and changing back and forth but not really moving anywhere is a trait of fia/fom. This is a symptom of a lack on competition, causes amateurish decisions and processes. If F1 had a direct competitor they would be forced to do better to be stronger more efficient more on point, gey would be forced to have good consistent competition on track. They would be forced to have good tyres. Not having a competitor is how you end up introducing a half baked idea (drs) to improve *overtaking* then stay lazy and do nothing with it for 15 years no changes to revisions no other ideas just stagnation.

      The drivers require competition to improve in fact we all do in some form and it’s no different to F1. Even last year it’s clear that the early competition from Perez (especially in baku) is what pushed max to excel to the extent that he did the rest of the season bar singapore. This has already been mentioned and I think my max himself but Karin also told of how’s Jos me ruined that after Baku max said to him he won’t ever lose to Perez again he was adamant and furious to lose.

      Tldr the FIA/fom can afford to be lazy and amateurish due to their position, the lack of competition.

      Sorry for the rant but it’s just something that’s been on my mind a while that I’ve noticed.

      It really becomes a question of what do they actually want they never seem to address the root issues. For them add more races and receive more revenue seems to be enough. Some socials media and marketing focus to tie it together and the jobs done.

      I do think it’s very true though that a lack of need due to having no competitor is a substantial reason for these types of things, you can sorta do what you want. Eg the way Bernie ran f1

      1. So the cars shouldn’t have suddenly been allowed to unlap, only the ones in between max and Lewis.

        As a Lewis fan, with a lasting memory of the robbery that day, I have to say:

        What’s the relevance of this to the comment from Jerejj ??
        This current situation is a knee-jerk reaction to an ill-thought out supposed solution to qualifying lap blocking, AD21 was an abuse of position and breach of established rules.

        1. You can remember something from two years ago?

          1. Family birthdays I’m weak on, but I do manage to recall other stuff, like where I was when the winning goal was scored in 1966 (outside playing cricket, since it was summer)
            But, yeah, you’re right foxy, family birthdays might be more useful.

  5. Just go with the MotoGP system which makes free practice actually matter and stops clogging up the track with 20 cars in Q1.

    Ten slowest cars in free practice are in Q1 with two able to qaulify for Q2. P13 to P20 determined in Q1, Q2 10 fastest in practice with the 2 quickest Q1 drivers who gets an extra set of softs to offset the earlier running. Those from Q1 get 2 extra fresh sets of softs to offset earlier running. 12 car max on track.

    Problem solved.

    1. I prefer the IndyCar system where they simply divide the field into 2 groups that have separate Q1 and Q2, and then the best get into Q3, where there’s only 6 of them left.

    2. No. The current format is fine.

      Just leave it as it is and fix the tires which are the root cause of the driving so slowly.

  6. I still don’t understand the ‘at least once’ phrasing, so if nothing else this old/new/old/whatever idea is more clear. But it won’t matter if they don’t enforce it properly, which you can pretty much guarantee they won’t.

    This is another bad look for Wittich. It’s been months since the last GP and they couldn’t figure this out any time sooner? Doesn’t inspire much confidence in the operation he’s running.

  7. I’m baffled that the “return to the pit after the checkered flag” lap needs to be included in this

  8. Good was no need for more silly, unpoliceable over regulation.

    Let them figure it out on there own, thats part of the fun of the sport….. At least it used to be before all os the silly show over sport over-regulation came in over the past decade.

  9. Sergey Martyn
    1st March 2024, 13:51

    Knee-jerk management. Expect more compulsive decisions soon.

  10. Wittich obviously learnt from Vicky Pollard

    Or maybe he should meet with Sir Keir Starmer, the king of the flip-flop?

Comments are closed.