until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Formula 1

Why F1 trio dodged grid drops despite ‘impacting’ rivals

by Valentin Khorounzhiy
3 min read

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix stewards have reprimanded Esteban Ocon and cleared Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel for allegedly impeding fellow F1 drivers in Saturday’s qualifying.

While Aston Martin driver Vettel’s potential impending case was relating to Turn 1, Alpine driver Ocon and McLaren driver Ricciardo were under investigation for separate incidents in the final sector of the track.

Ocon appeared to have baulked Vettel at the final corner midway through Q1, while Fernando Alonso (Alpine) was convinced that he was blocked by Ricciardo at the very same corner in the final moments of Q2 – with Ricciardo then going on to start a lap that would knock none other than Alonso out of Q3.

Alonso’s post-race critique of the way F1 is policed right now made it clear he anticipated a penalty for the McLaren man, but nothing of the sort was forthcoming.

Both the Ricciardo and Ocon verdicts shared the following section as part of the stewards’ reasoning: “The incident shared many common elements with other incidents of alleged impending from qualification.

“Most cars did very slow warm-up laps resulting in significantly large differences in speed to cars on fast laps.

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Qualifying Day Abu Dhabi, Uae

“This, combined with the desire of all drivers to establish a gap to the car in front when starting a fast lap, results in situations where a car may have an ‘impact’ on another car doing a fast lap. However, the stewards consider this is different to ‘impeding’ and, in particular, ‘unnecessary impeding’.”

In Ricciardo’s case, the stewards stressed that he “was part of a chain of backed-up cars as a result of double yellow flags at Turn 14” and “could have done little, if anything, to avoid impacting [Alonso’s] lap”.

For Ocon’s part, it was likewise deemed that he “could have done little if anything” to avoid the situation, as he “had no visibility” of Vettel due to the track layout until it was too late for him to react.

But the stewards did “note that the team could have done more to have given him earlier warning of [Vettel’s] approach”, with Alpine having apparently told Ocon that Vettel was coming up when there was a gap equivalent to 2.5 seconds at racing speed between them.

Despite this, no grid penalty was assessed, with Ocon receiving a reprimand – his second of the season – and the team a fine of €10,000.

“Although normally the lack of radio communication does not absolve a driver from the responsibility to avoid unnecessarily impeding, in this case we consider this a justification for mitigation”.

Finally, Vettel’s own alleged impeding of AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly in Q2 was deemed to have only created dirty air disturbance, with the stewards ruling that this likewise was “an impact” but not “unnecessarily impeding”.

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