FIA Formula 1 race director Michael Masi has announced that he will take tougher action in Baku against drivers who drive extra slowly in qualifying so they can create a gap.
In the update to the regulations, he specified turns 17-20 and also the start-finish straight.
The reasoning is that drivers might slow down before a faster lap to make room, so they do not have a “traffic jam” in front of them. Because the cars are thus slower, the FIA fears that the other drivers would not see them and would drive “blindly” through the curves of the track.
In Baku, such problems have not yet occurred, but he wanted to pre-empt any potential problems.
Slow driving on qualifying laps was also a problem in Monza, when many drivers slowed down to prevent the others from getting a fast lap.
Masi used Article 27.4 of the FIA Sporting Regulations, which refers to unnecessarily slow driving, as his reasoning. This states: “At no time may a car be driven unnecessarily slowly, erratically or in a manner which could be deemed potentially dangerous to other drivers or any other person.”
Slow lap times are evaluated in comparison to the maximum time between the safety car lines and these say: “For reasons of safety, during each practice session, acts such as weaving across the track to hinder another car may be referred to the stewards.”
“During free practice session 3 and the qualifying practice, the time published in accordance with Item 8 [the safety car line maximum time] of the race directors’ event notes will be used as a guide by the stewards to determine if a driver is considered to be driving unnecessarily slowly on an out lap or any other lap that is not a fast lap or in lap.”
“For the avoidance of doubt, the pit exit, as defined in Article 28.2 of the F1 sporting regulations is considered a part of the track and the provisions of Article 27.4 apply in this area.”
He put special emphasis on turns 17-20: “During any practice session, any driver intending to create a gap in front of him in order to get a clear lap should not attempt to do this between the entry to Turn 17 through to the exit of Turn 20.”
“Any driver seen to have done this will be reported to the stewards as being in breach of Article 27.4 of the sporting regulations.”