George Russell, Pierre Gasly, and Esteban Ocon have all been handed two-place grid penalties for the Brazilian Grand Prix for impeding other drivers during qualifying.
Mercedes driver George Russell as well as Alpine drivers Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon were all handed a two-place grid penalty for Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix after impeding other drivers during qualifying.
The three were summoned by the Formula 1 stewards after ignoring the race director’s orders and impeding rival drivers between the pit exit line and the second Safety Car line when the pit road reenters the circuit.
Race director Niels Wittich sent out pre-event notes to all drivers ahead of the Brazilian Grand Prix cautioning them against holding up other drivers in the Interlagos circuit’s lengthy pit lane exit. The revised guidelines are the most recent in the FIA’s set of measures designed to prevent drivers from impeding one another during qualifying.
Drivers were instructed to “drive as far to the left as possible to allow other drivers to pass them on the right side of the pit exit road” if they intended to open up a gap to a car ahead in any timed session by slowing after the pit exit before entering the racetrack. However, all three violated the updated rule.
Russell made room ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton as they exited the pits at the beginning of the first qualifying round, while Gasly slowed down behind Russell and did the same.
Once the Alpine driver had established a safe distance, he sped past the left-hander, dodging white flags that were being waved by marshals and eventually got by the Mercedes, which was moving slowly in their lane. After trying to drive around the Mercedes, Gasly had to draw in behind it as he moved to the right onto the grass.
Russell was supposed to remain entirely to the left of the road at pit exit, but the stewards evaluated his actions and concluded that he had not done so.
The stewards thereupon clarified that the following cars were unable to make it through according to the race director’s directives.
“In order to avoid situations like the ones that occurred in Mexico, the Race Director’s Event Notes for this event contained a specific clause (item 14) stipulating that it was permitted to go slow in the pit exit to create a gap before crossing the SC2 line,” read the verdict.
“However, by doing so, a driver must stay as far to the left as possible to allow other drivers to pass on the right side.
“RUS was exiting the pits, preparing for an out-lap. RUS went slow to create a gap for a clear lap, but did not manage to stay completely to the left.
“As a result, following car(s) 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.”
Russell’s infraction resulted in a two-place grid penalty for the grand prix on Sunday, moving him from sixth to eighth on the grid.
The stewards also discovered that Gasly and Ocon, who were following Russell, had actually committed the exact same breach, with Red Bull’s Sergio Perez being the one who was impeded. As a result of this, both Alpine drivers received a two-place grid penalty for the same violation, dropping Ocon and Gasly to 14th and 15th, respectively.
None of the drivers received superlicence penalty points in conjunction with the fines.
The outcomes won’t affect the grid for the sprint race on Saturday which will be decided at a different qualifying session on Saturday morning.