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Formula 1

Why Verstappen, Mercedes duo and Alonso avoided Mexico penalties

by Josh Suttill
4 min read

Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton, George Russell and Fernando Alonso have all escaped punishment for the incidents that earned them summons to the stewards after Mexican Grand Prix qualifying.

Verstappen, Russell and Alonso were investigated for impeding in the pitlane, when all three cars were seen to have slowed to a crawling pace at the pit exit in Q1 with a large gaggle of cars behind them.

But the officials effectively expressed sympathy for the drivers' need to create gaps in the qualifying traffic and agreed that - while discouraged by the wording of the regulations - doing so in the pit exit was preferable to slowing on circuit.

The stewards noted that the incidents happened as “a direct result of the implementation of the minimum lap time between SC2 and SC1 which is designed (correctly so, in our view) to avoid dangerous backing-up of cars on the circuit during qualification”.

It was understood that the drivers were trying to create a gap before making it to the SC2 line where the clock on that minimum laptime would start, which the stewards' verdict described as a “contrary requirement” to the minimum time rule.

“Yet they are also required to avoid unnecessarily stopping at the pit exit or driving unnecessarily slowly,” it added.

The stewards also said the race director “accepted that these contrary requirements exist” and that “all parties including the stewards are firmly of the view that it is better to have the potential of cars backing-up in the pitlane or at the pit exit, instead of the potentially dangerous situation of large speed differences on track”.

That mirrored the argument Russell made to the media before he headed to his stewards' hearing.

"When everybody comes out of the pits at the same point, it’s difficult to take a gap," said Russell.

"They ask us not to stop in the pitlane. But if you don’t make a gap in the pitlane, you have to make it on track and it’s quite dangerous if you’re doing 10km/h [6mph] down the straight when cars are doing 330km/h [205mph] on their push laps."

The stewards believe all drivers involved were “acting in good faith and with safety as a priority” while accepting race direction has taken the “correct approach” in applying the minimum laptime.

It concluded by saying it would be “desirable” for a better solution to be found for the pitlane exit, although admitted that at this stage what that solution would be is “unknown”.

It meant no further action was taken against Verstappen, Russell or Alonso.

Verstappen will therefore still line up in third place behind the Ferraris, with Russell currently starting eighth and Alonso set to race from 13th.


Hamilton also wasn’t punished for allegedly not slowing enough for the yellow flags caused by Alonso’s spin in Q1, meaning he'll start sixth.

“The onboard video clearly shows there is no light or flag displayed to Car 44 on the straight into Turn 1, then a green light shows as he enters Turn 2, which is followed by two pulses of a yellow light then moments later, the light panel is blank,” the ruling read.

“The driver was slightly slower in the mini sector than on his previous push lap. Our determination is that there was no breach of the regulations.”

Logan Sargeant was, however, punished for overtaking Yuki Tsunoda under the yellow flags in Q1.

The Williams driver lost his final laptime initially but was then slapped with a 10-place grid penalty and two penalty points after the stewards’ ruling – taking his total to six for the year.

“The driver of Car 2 [Sargeant] stated that he overtook Car 22 [Tsunoda] because he appeared to be going slowly and also because he saw the green panel ahead,” the stewards wrote.

“The stewards determined however that this was a breach of the regulations. The fact that a driver can see a green panel or flag ahead, does not mean that overtaking can occur in what is still a yellow flag zone. Overtaking can only occur after passing the green panel or flag.

“It was also noted that he did not make a sufficient reduction in speed.”

Sargeant was already due to start last, having not set a representative time in a nightmare qualifying session. He was required to seek permission from the stewards to start, something they granted him.

Williams also picked up a $20,000 fine ($10,000 of which will be suspended) for leaving a jack unattended in the pitlane, one that was struck by Tsunoda.

Elsewhere Zhou Guanyu earned Alfa Romeo a €500 fine for exceeding the pitlane speed limit by 2.5mph.

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