until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula 1

F1 pitlane crowd near-miss ‘like a scene from Group B rallying’

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
3 min read

Esteban Ocon’s Alpine team said his arrival to a crowded Formula 1 pitlane during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix was reminiscent of a scene from Group B rallying.

Ocon entered the pitlane to serve his mandatory pitstop before his final lap of the grand prix and encountered a large group of media, other personnel and a temporary barrier in the fast lane as part of the parc ferme and podium ceremony preparations.

The problem was quickly avoided by Ocon slowing down and the crowd rapidly dispersing but it was investigated by the stewards who criticised the FIA team involved and said it was lucky nothing serious happened as a result.

It has been partly justified as a common occurrence because of how rare it is that a car enters the pitlane on the final lap.

But it happened at the last race in Australia, and Alpine sporting director Alan Permane shared Ocon’s criticism of the fact that access is granted to a live pitlane.

Ocon had questioned “why we are starting to prep the podium and prep the ceremony while we are still racing” and called it a “crazy” incident.

“It’s something we’ve seen before,” Permane said. “There’s a keenness, I don’t know why the photographers are allowed there, but of course I understand people want to get the shots of the cars coming into parc ferme and things like that.

“But the pitlane is still open and the racetrack is still live. I don’t think it’s rocket science to think that, I think it’d be quite a simple one.”

The FIA will take swift action to update its procedures after being chastised by the stewards in Baku.

This will mean tighter control over who can enter the pitlane and at what time, and where they can go.

Ocon had to lift off to avoid the crowd and said it “could have been a big, big one today” had he misjudged his braking in the first place.

Permane said his driver was in full control but admitted it was a needless risk.

“Esteban’s doing 80kph so he can stop the car pretty quickly if he needs to,” Permane said.

“So, whilst it was quite scary to look at, I’m sure he was in full control, and no one was in serious danger.

“But it was a bit like a scene from Group B rallying days, wasn’t it? With the crowds on the track and parting as he got there?

“The biggest problem is if weren’t watching. But he’s not moving very quickly at that point.”

Rallying’s Group B era, which took place from 1982-1886, was partly banned at the end of 1986 because of the proximity of fans trying to get close to cars on live stages.

Famous images from the era frequently show fans standing in the road, dispersing seconds before the arrival of one of the massively powerful cars.

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