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Formula 1

Hulkenberg’s Montreal P2 at risk over potential red flag breach

by Matt Beer, Scott Mitchell-Malm
2 min read

Nico Hulkenberg’s shock Canadian Grand Prix qualifying result for the Haas Formula 1 team could be in doubt over a red flag procedure infringement.

Hulkenberg had made it through to Q3 in a challenging Montreal session of constantly changing weather.

He then put in a lap good enough for second early in the pole shootout just seconds before the red flag came out because Oscar Piastri had crashed his McLaren.

Though that was achieved on merit at a time when most in Q3 had done one flying lap, Hulkenberg was helped by conditions worsening during the stoppage, meaning no one improved when the session resumed for its remaining seven minutes to run down.

But an hour after qualifying finished, the stewards announced that Hulkenberg and a Haas representative would need to attend a hearing at 6.40pm local time over an alleged breach of the minimum sector time every car must adhere to for safety reasons while returning to the pits following a red flag.

The alleged infringement must have come on his in-lap as there was no question over whether his flying lap for second place stood, as this would’ve been noted on the timing system’s mini-sectors immediately.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Canadian Grand Prix Qualifying Day Montreal, Canada

Hulkenberg’s in-car footage shows that he was notified of the red flag as he braked for Turn 1 after completing his lap and he was told “red flag, red flag, need to be plus on delta time, plus on delta time” almost immediately.

But the radio conversation with engineer Gary Gannon later in his in-lap suggested possible confusion over adhering to the minimum time.

Hulkenberg: “The beeping drives me nuts, do I need to be negative or positive?”

Gannon: “You should be positive now, plus, so you need to slow down. Slow down and also it’s a double yellow here.”

Hulkenberg: “No, I think I’m going too slow. I need to go faster. I don’t know, you tell me.”

Then after a period of silence, around the hairpin Hulkenberg says: “Is this too fast or too slow? Tell me” and Gannon replies: “It’s too fast. Too fast. Because it’s a red flag.”

Whereas infringements such as going too fast past yellow flags during an active session or overtaking under red flags are clear-cut, this is an unusual circumstance for which there are no recent penalty precedents – though the stewards may choose to take a zero-tolerance approach if they confirm Hulkenberg was driving faster than the permitted maximum pace under the red flag.

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