Delete qualifying times of drivers who cause red flags, say Ocon and Russell

Formula 1

Posted on

| Written by

Esteban Ocon and George Russell say that Formula 1 drivers should lose their qualifying times if they cause a red flag stoppage in qualifying sessions.

Other series already have regulations which give stewards the power to do this. Such a rule was introduced in Formula 2 and Formula 3 this season to punish drivers who trigger red flags during qualifying.

The rule states the stewards can delete the quickest time set by a driver who causes a red flag and bar them from continuing in the session. Other series such as IndyCar have long had similar rules to prevent drivers from gaining an advantage by causing a red flag in qualifying and disrupting rivals’ runs.

The updated F2 and F3 rules state “any driver who in the opinion of the stewards is the sole cause of the issuance of a red flag during the qualifying practice session will not be permitted to take any further part in the session and their fastest lap time during the session may be deleted” for 2024.

It has not yet been used in either series. At Imola last week F3 stewards chose not to delete Callum Voisin’s lap times despite causing a red flag after spinning into the gravel trap.

The introduction of the rule follows many incidents of drivers appearing to benefit from triggering red flags in qualifying, preventing their rivals from completing push laps. Monaco has been the scene of several such incidents, including Charles Leclerc taking pole position in 2021 despite crashing in the final moments of Q3.

Asked whether the rule should be introduced into Formula 1, Alpine driver Ocon said he would welcome a similar regulation in the world championship and said there are already discussions between drivers and race control.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

“I think, if I’m correct, that’s being looked at by the FIA,” he said.

“I think recently we’ve discussed that in some drivers’ meetings, that a situation where a driver would cause a red flag would be monitored. I think that should be something sensible to be doing because we’ve seen in the past drivers causing issues and the others not being able to do a lap. That should be something that the FIA monitors, I think.”

Mercedes’ Russell agreed with Ocon. “We obviously have laps deleted all the time in qualifying for track limits,” he noted.

“I think if you were to cause a yellow flag or red flag, you should probably have your best lap deleted. Nothing more to say about that.”

2024 Monaco Grand Prix

Browse all 2024 Monaco Grand Prix articles

Author information

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...

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

26 comments on “Delete qualifying times of drivers who cause red flags, say Ocon and Russell”

  1. This would be another rule of unintended consequences.

    What does a driver do with a good time but another run? Do they push for a better lap or settle for what they have?

    If you’re P3 do you go again when it’s raining or at Monaco?

    I just don’t see a need to punish drivers for having an accident over and above the potential damage to their car or being out of the session.

    1. I very much doubt you’ll need to wait long to see yet another case demonstrating a need for this Kris.

      This positive change might indicate that someone in the FIA has seen an Indycar race, which have had a similar rule for years. With theirs, it’s 2 best laps deleted for a red, and 1 best lap deleted for a yellow which impeded at least 1 driver. It’s worked very well.

    2. Kris – Finally someone who, like me, thinks through this boring old matter thoroughly & logically.
      If anyone actually hampered other drivers’ attempts on purpose, FIA would most certainly do what they did with Schumi 18 years ago, but genuine errors should never lead to a sporting sanction, not to mention if anyone wanted to play tactics, they wouldn’t crash into armco & cause car damage but merely stop on track or in a dangerous place like Schumi.

      1. In general race control have become much more careful about labelling actions as intentional over the last few years. I think if the Schumacher Rascasse incident happened today, the stewards would be much more likely to accept the explanation that it was a mistake (even though it obviously wasn’t).

      2. notagrumpyfan
        24th May 2024, 13:45

        The problem with the current (implementation of the) rules is that it includes intention (or ‘on purpose’ as you stated).
        Any rule (sporting or legal) with intent included in the definition will be hard to proof. That’s why many murderers can get away with manslaughter or even less.

        In sports it’s better to have black and white rules, even if it can penalise unintentionally, rather than those including ‘on purpose’, ‘gained an advantage’ or other (mostly) subjective clauses.

    3. We almost saw the rule cause a fatal accident in F2.

      1. In the tunnel today to clarify*

  2. What a silly suggestion. The number of cases where a driver is thought, not even proven, to have caused a neutralisation on purpose can be counted on a once per decade timeframe. The sportsmanship-rules can handle this just fine.

    1. Doesn’t stop the editors of this site throwing shade on Leclerc, in particular, whenever this topic comes up.

  3. Back to this matter once again?
    Monaco doesn’t deserve special treatment in this regard & claiming ”we’ve spotted people on purpose generating red flags” was silly by Sainz (I read his view on motorsport-dot-com for reference) as he has zero way of actually proving any previous instances were deliberate.
    I reiterate my point from numerous occasions before that only actual deliberate actions (& only Schumi’s infamous La Rascasse stoppage was actually deliberate) should ever lead to any sporting sanction, never genuine errors, as drivers don’t actually cause reds (or yellow, for that matter) on purpose but simply by making errors when pushing flat-out, which is perfectly normal on any given circuit as no one’s perfect in the end, so if merely making errors effectively became prohibited, qualifying wouldn’t have any purpose anymore or alternatively, street circuits could have the 2003-05 single lap format.
    Another option would be to simply decide grid order by picking up names written on a piece of paper from a bucket.
    As the general saying goes, be careful what you wish for, which equally applies to drivers & everyone else who’s been hell-bent on penalizing for red flag-inducing errors.

  4. Agree with the drivers, just do it. Too much opportunity to game the system and too difficult to prove if an accident is deliberate.

    1. No one attempts to game the system & if merely making an error that causes neutralization is so bad, they should either go for the single-lap format for street circuits or decide starting order by picking up names from a bucket to totally eliminate the risk of reds or yellows affecting anyone’s flying lap.

      1. >No one attempts to game the system

        Good one.

    2. Too much opportunity? This basically never happens, and the only case where it’s pretty much known to have been deliberate was almost 20 years ago. This is a total non-issue, and entirely preventable by the drivers themselves by getting three laps in rather than staking everything on a single attempt.

      Yellow flags are for safety. It does nobody any good to connect that to sporting penalties. Marshals need to be able to signal as soon as they can, not first weigh up whether they want to be Random Louis at Marshal Post 6 that gets Verstappen or Hamilton sent to 10th on the grid. That’s not their job, and it’d put an undue pressure and responsiblity on them. Hesitation on their part can also create unsafe situations, if drivers aren’t warned in time.

      1. Basically never? Try just last year but okay.

        1. 2 years ago sorry, time flies.

  5. Sometimes red flags have been thrown to quickly, with the causing driver able to returning to the pits. Apart from such cases a penalty like DSQ from qualy would be fine imho.

    Stranded on track in qualy, not returning to pits after red flag means you start from the back of the grid. Doesnt work without an official adaption of the rules ofc.

  6. Also delete times (from all sessions) of drivers who drive 20 km/h in their warm-up lap and give them 50 slot grid penalties. Actually, if someone wants to drive like that, he doesn’t need to race; he’s obviously afraid of speed. But seriously, how hard is to eradicate this issue? It’s so, so irritating, and if someone is doing it everyone is forced to do it too.
    And someone will die eventually, or at least get seriously injured, hitting a parked car in the middle of the road.

  7. Someone remind me what the penalty is for a driver who drives too slow on a warm up lap and gets in the way of someone on a flyer? It seems to me that the penalty for causing a flag should be at least as harsh as the penalty for baulking.

    Against that, some flags come out too quickly? If someone stutters to a halt on a straight, the yellow flag comes out, even though they are to one side and the other drivers would quite happily steam past them, but once the flag comes out, those drivers on fast laps have to slow down to avoid a penalty. How often in the past did we see drivers hit a car which was beached, stalled, etc, even when they didn’t have radios to get info on where the static cars were? I cannot recall any such accidents, apart from times when visibility was really bad or heavy rain, but in good conditions, did it ever happen? Perhaps if flags didn’t come out so quickly, I’d be more inclined to say bringing out a flag should cause a penalty.

  8. notagrumpyfan
    24th May 2024, 13:54

    I wouldn’t mind if in Monaco they use single driver qualifying.
    Or maybe single driver banker laps and then allowing all drivers 10min together to see if they can improve (and just 2 Q sessions)

    Deteriorating weather conditions can make this seem unfair, but any solution can be unfair during some circumstances.

    1. Yeah, wouldn’t mind. Monaco is a special circuit so if this would really be the only track I’d be fine with this special rule. And even if they would go with the DSQ way, just DSQ them for that part of the session so causing a red flag in Q3 -> Starting 10th, as I don’t see why the 20th should benefit from an error when they aren’t participating anymore.

    2. I used to enjoy single lap qually as you got to see all the drivers under similar conditions, but there was one race with a real back to front grid after it started raining five minutes in. Your idea could certainly work if they sent out drivers at, say, 20 second intervals. These days they have the electronics to know whether they are still within +/- five seconds of where they need to be round the warm up lap and back to pits lap, so they could do six drivers on track for two laps, then when the last of those drivers is half way round the track on his cool down lap, start sending out the next batch of six. If they did that, it would take approx the same amount of time as the current Q1, give everyone a banker lap, then have a Q2 to narrow them down to the top 10 based on best time from Q2 or banker.

    3. No, That was an awful system that was super boring to watch as well as been horribly unfair given track evolution or changeable weather.

      Given the difficulty in overtaking at Monaco do we really want a situation with a boring one lap session where the front row and likely race winners are decided because it rains half way through a half the field can’t get a representative laptime?

      Just leave qualifying as it is as navigating the traffic to find a clear lap is just part of the challenge & ultimately it’s fair as it’s the same conditions for everyone.

  9. In F2 qualifying we maybe just saw a reason not to do this as there was a driver going slowly with an issue who didn’t want to stop the car on the track and cause a red flag as doing so would have resulted in the loss of his fastest lap and been unable to take part in the remainder of the session.

    I think things are fine as they are. Yellow & red flags are just a part of the sport and be it in a practice, qualifying or race they have the potential to help or hurt people depending on circumstance and that is just a part of the sport.

    If somebody does something to cause a yellow or red flag intentionally (As Schumacher did in 2006) they already have the ability to penalise or even disqualify that driver from the session (As they did in 2006). I think that’s fine as it is, Don’t need yet more rules in the already overly bloated rulebook.

  10. No need for deleting times, just stop the clock & add time (e.g. 3 mins to allow for an extra outlap) in case of a red flag in Q3.

    1. notagrumpyfan
      24th May 2024, 23:08

      Thus if you are not fast enough at the end, then just stop on track and get an extra 3mins ;)

      There are no perfect solution.

Comments are closed.