A visibly frustrated Pierre Gasly confessed to being “extremely confused” by the FIA stewards’ decision not to punish Lance Stroll for an overtake in the British Grand Prix.
Towards the end of the first lap after the safety car restart in the second half of the race, Stroll launched an attack on Gasly on the outside of the fast Stowe right-hander.
Gasly left Stroll very little room and Stroll completed the pass for 11th place on the exit of the corner with all four wheels clearly beyond the white line.
The Aston Martin driver had his laptime deleted and received a black-and-white warning flag, indicating his track limits offence had been noted, but he was allowed to keep the position – to Gasly’s immediate anger.
After the race, Alpine driver Gasly did not even attempt to hide his frustration, pointing out the contradiction he believes exists between this decision and last weekend’s farcical number of penalties in the Austrian Grand Prix.
“I got done 15 seconds last weekend for track limits, now I lose a position today for someone getting off the track, and nothing happens,” said Gasly.
“in Formula 2, Victor Martins was in the lead and got a five-second penalty for the exact same thing (below at 0:13).
Oh-so-close to the race lead
— Formula 2 (@Formula2) July 9, 2023
“I’m just extremely confused with what’s going on at the moment.”
Gasly admitted he might have been able to leave Stroll more space, but insisted there was enough room for Stroll to “leave one of the wheels” on the track and “he didn’t do it”.
And he said that the FIA had previously made it clear that drivers who go off-track to complete a pass are obliged to return the position.
“That’s how I’ve been taught racing by the FIA,” said Gasly.
“I’ve paid the price in different situations. It’s just not fair, not having that consistency.
“Now next race I’m supposing that going off the race track overtaking someone is allowed. And then all of a sudden you’re going to end up with a five-second penalty.
“I just can’t understand, and it just doesn’t seem fair.
“It’s black and white, track limits. Black and white. You’re either on the track or off the track.
“If you’re off the race track gaining an advantage that’s a five-second penalty or give the position back.”
In the absence of a clear explanation, Gasly’s frustration seems well-founded.
The fact Stroll had a laptime deleted and received a black-and-white warning flag after this overtake does indicated that race control deemed he had breached track limits.
Unless there is a reason why, it seems odd that this action would be taken while allowing him to keep the place. It suggests that the officials determined ‘yes you broke the rules but you can keep the advantage you gained’.
Perhaps Gasly’s positioning was a factor. But if he was deemed to have forced Stroll off then why would Stroll get a warning for that?
Gasly said he would seek talks with the FIA to try to find some answers.
“It’s got to be crystal clear,” he said. “We’re racing at 350km/h. Last week we got penalised for stuff where we feel like we’re not getting the warning properly, and this situation for me, as soon as I saw him going off the race track, I was like, ‘He’ll give the position back’.
“I spent three laps behind him losing time on his gearbox when I should not be there.
“I’m just asking for consistency. If that’s allowed, fine – but it’s got to be allowed for everyone.”
Part of Gasly’s frustration is he feels that Stroll gaining that place led to a much more costly incident between them a few laps later.
Gasly said the overtake “changes what follows after that”, when Stroll had driven off the circuit through the final complex as they fought wheel-to-wheel, rejoined awkwardly and bounced into Gasly’s car – breaking its right rear suspension.
Though this is little comfort to Gasly, it was at least something the stewards agreed was a clear-cut offence, giving Stroll a five second time penalty.
Aston Martin team principal Mike Krack defended Stroll for the first incident but indicated he felt the punishment for the second was fair.
“It went on for a couple of laps,” Krack said.
“So, the first incident I think it was hard racing. The first incident was Lance’s corner, he was pushed wide a bit and rightly so there was no further action.
“On the second one, a penalty for Lance followed. I think it was OK, at the end of the day to go away like that. We can live with how it was handled.
“The FIA has to make a call, the race director has to make a call, and we reviewed it a couple of times. I think it’s OK.”
Stroll was sold convinced, claiming he was “forced off the track both times I passed him” and as a result was “not really sure why I got a penalty as I was given no room”.
“He gave me no room and just pushed me off the track [both times],” Stroll said. “I got a track limits for one, when I was forced wide. And then the next time I passed him again I was given no room.”
Asked who was at fault for the collision, he added: “Well, if I was given more room I wouldn’t have had to come back on the track and we wouldn’t have touched. So you can decide.”