until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula 1

Why McLaren's protesting lap deletion Piastri found 'embarrassing'

by Scott Mitchell-Malm, Valentin Khorounzhiy
4 min read

McLaren has protested the Austrian Grand Prix qualifying result as it does not believe the evidence proves “beyond reasonable doubt” that Oscar Piastri’s laptime should have been deleted.

Piastri lost a third-place start at the Red Bull Ring after his fastest time in Q3 was deleted for exceeding track limits at Turn 6, the first left-hander towards the end of the middle sector.

He is due to start seventh instead, although that could change as McLaren has taken issue with the deletion based on the available evidence.

McLaren was summoned - and any other “concerned parties” invited to attend - to a hearing that was scheduled to start at 7.35pm local time on Saturday.

Team principal Andrea Stella explained that McLaren wants clarity on whether the car exceeded track limits “beyond any reasonable doubt” as he said this is one of two principles the FIA must prove when applying a penalty.

“One is that the system used needs to have adequate resolution,” he said.

“And the second one is that the methodology used for one car needs to be applicable to all cars.”

McLaren’s argument is that the helicopter view and the fixed camera that were used to judge Piastri’s very close track limits offence at Turn 6 do not offer a clear enough view to be sure he was outside the white line.

“In both cases I don’t think we can say that the resolution is adequate,” Stella said.

“We had the case last year in Qatar, when Lando was spotted beyond the track limits by the helicopter view. And there’s clear resolution and accuracy. The car is outside. No point [to contest], thank you very much, and we move forward.

“But in this case it’s just everything blurred and affected by the shadow.

“It’s quite a lot to come here, compete, put together qualifying laps. And when the penalty is so severe, like having the lap deleted, then we need to make sure that the penalty is enforced beyond any reasonable doubt.

“We want to have the possibility to continue the conversation.

“Our approach to racing is we don’t want what we don’t deserve.

“But when the penalty is so harsh, then in the interest of the sport - it is not in the interest of McLaren - that needs to be clear evidence.

“We have done the next formal step. If this has not been somehow actioned in terms of follow up and the hearing for the protest, maybe there’s some discussion ongoing.

“The ball is not in our territory right now.”

A wider disagreement

Regardless of whether Piastri actually went beyond the white line, the fact is a track limits penalty irritated the normally sanguine Australian - and drew sympathetic frustration from his compatriot Daniel Ricciardo.

Piastri told Sky Sports F1 that the issuing of the penalty was "embarrassing" in light of F1's work to minimise laptime deletions this weekend, by introducing natural gravel deterrents (like the one Turn 6 already has) at Turns 9 and 10.

He seemingly cooled off slightly by the time he faced the print media including The Race.

"From where I was sitting, I thought I was in," he said, albeit at that point he was casting no doubt as to the judgement - but rather lamenting the fact that it was impossible to gauge from inside the car.

"Obviously, quite frustrating. I think we've done a lot of good work as a sport, getting rid of these track limits issues. Amazingly I've managed to find that there is still one somewhere.

"For me, it felt like the best Turn 6 I did all weekend. And, yeah, quite painful that it gets your lap deleted.

"Another centimetre to the right and I would've been in the gravel, my lap would've been over [anyway]. And for me that's what racing and F1 should be all about, pushing the limits and taking the risks."

Ricciardo, who Piastri replaced at McLaren, brought up his chagrin at the penalty more or less unprompted when talking about this weekend's Turns 9/10 changes.

"I just saw Oscar got his lap time deleted it, that's disappointing to see because the gravel's there now - I don't think we need to apply that [the white line rule] when there's a hard limit.

"If they're doing the gravel, which I think is good, you probably then ignore the track limits because it's not really a gain anymore."

Piastri concurred with Ricciardo's suggestion, but the obvious hurdle is that it would contravene what had been a concerted effort from the sport and its governing body, the FIA, to do away with track-specific and corner-specific applications of track limits rules - which was anyway the whole impetus behind making the white lines a "hard limit" anyway.

In the meantime, there have been suggestions that this is something to sort out at Turn 6 specifically.

Valtteri Bottas had fallen foul of the limits in Friday practice at the same corner and felt that the solution to doing away with laps that were unimpeded by gravel but still illegal was making "the concrete a bit shorter" in that section.

And Stella suggested the same, saying he wanted to see the Piastri case help "further tune" F1's track limits efforts at the track.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Email
  • More Networks