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Formula 1

Piastri loses front row start for Imola F1 race

by Josh Suttill
3 min read

A three-place grid penalty has cost Oscar Piastri his front row start for Formula 1's Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.

The McLaren driver was found to have impeded Kevin Magnussen's Haas during the first stage of qualifying.

During the critical final runs of Q1 Magnussen was fighting to get out of the bottom five but found Piastri's McLaren in his path at the Variante Tamburello chicane.

Piastri was at the apex of the right-hander on the exit of the chicane as Magnussen approached behind, and that caused Magnussen to catch a snap of oversteer and drift wide.

The stewards "accepted the explanation of Piastri that because of the layout of the circuit at that location, he could not see Magnussen until it was too late, at which time he tried to accelerate away in order to get clear of Magnussen as quickly as possible. Magnussen acknowledged that it was difficult for drivers to see cars behind in many portions of the track, including here".

However, the stewards noted that McLaren didn't warn Piastri of Magnussen's fast-approaching car until he was too close for Piastri to "safely avoid impeding".

Oscar Piastri, McLaren, F1

Their verdict continued: "In fact there was an approximately 140km/h speed differential and Magnussen was only approximately 40-50m behind at the time and this meant that Piastri was in the middle of the chicane when Magnussen caught up directly behind Piastri.

"Further, it was clear that Magnussen was on a fast lap since his exit of Turn 19."

The stewards also compared the incident with other cases of a driver fast approaching a slower-moving car, and found that those slower-moving cars were warned far sooner than Piastri was.

The verdict concluded: "Traffic management for slower cars is an extremely important part of the team/driver combination, particularly in Q1. In this instance the stewards determine that the lack of sufficient warning caused an “unnecessary impeding.”

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, and Oscar Piastri, McLaren, F1

That drop of three grid places means Piastri will now start fifth on the grid and team-mate Lando Norris will start from the front row alongside Max Verstappen instead.

Ferrari drivers Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz are promoted to third and fourth, while George Russell is left further ruing the 0.001s gap to Sainz that means he'll start sixth rather than fourth.

Piastri's explanation to the stewards tallied with what he told Sky Sports F1 after qualifying: "I've not seen it [back], I looked in the mirror and I didn't see anyone coming and here you are coming in with such a big speed difference, I looked for a long time and didn't see anyone, and got told quite late that he [Magnussen] was on a push lap and I tried to go but you're kind of short on options at that point."

McLaren team boss Andrea Stella accepted the penalty and admitted: "We need to improve our operations, we move on, and hopefully tomorrow we will recover the positions that we lost today on the grid."

For his part, Magnussen lamented the fact it was the "fourth or fifth time this year that we have traffic in qualifying on the lap that counts".

He continued: "I don't think we're doing anything different to everyone else in terms of timing. It's just bad luck - but by now it sounds like a bad excuse!

"We've just got to be patient and hope for it to stop soon, because it's really having a big effect on my season."

Magnussen shrugged off suggestions it was challenging not to impede with these cars - "it's pretty difficult - but you have to".

"It just seems like we always run into the guy that is not doing the same as everyone else, then I catch him in a bad spot on track. It's just been too many times this year.

"It's one of those where you can't really change the way you go out of the pits, because you're going out with everyone else - but when you've had this problem, out of the seven qualifyings, four or five times, you start to question whether 'is there something I'm doing?'."

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