Pitlane shenanigans price worth paying for qualifying solution, say F1 drivers

Since last season, the FIA has been making efforts to avoid dangerous scenarios of drivers coming across slow-moving cars while on flat-out qualifying laps.

Various ideas have been trialled, with an attempt at the Bahrain Grand Prix to force drivers to keep to a maximum delta time at all marshalling posts abandoned after it proved troublesome in practice.

The solution used in Bahrain – there being a maximum time for a whole lap once cars are out of the pits – triggers drivers to try to find gaps in the pitlane, which can cause complaints.

Sometimes drivers find themselves getting blocked when coming out of their garage, or are forced to overtake on their way down the pitlane.

While such scenarios are not ideal, F1 drivers think it is much better way of doing things than risking extra danger if cars dawdle in the middle of the track at the final corners to find some clear air.

Speaking about the situation, world champion Max Verstappen said: “I think this is the safest way to go about it. I mean, it’s probably not ideal, but I prefer that the cars are stopping in the pitlane than on the straight, or in the last corner.”

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc added: “The FIA came up with a new system which I think wasn’t exactly what we wanted. So we all asked to come back to the system of last year.

“It’s an ongoing process where we try to find the best solution. But as Max said, I think you have to slow down at one point and it’s much better to do it in the pitlane than on track. So I think it’s the best solution we have at the moment.”

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 1st position, in the Press Conference

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, 1st position, in the Press Conference

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

McLaren driver Lando Norris said the key thing that had to be addressed was avoiding cars going slow at the final corner, which the current system does.

“I think it’s actually a pretty decent system and it kind of forces everyone to stay in order a little bit more,” he said.

“There’s some more trick ones, like the one that they tried to introduce [in Bahrain], where if they’re trying to avoid cars going slowly, it doesn’t. And this system avoids cars going slower by the final sector.”

Norris reckoned that it was impossible to come up with a solution that avoids any risk of trouble, so it was really a case of going for the right compromise.

“You can still go slow, because you can still gain loads on your delta and then slow down at the end of the lap,” he said.

“It doesn’t defeat that purpose, but it definitely it makes cars go out a bit more on the road at the beginning.

“What they’re trying to achieve is also good. It just needs refining and adjusting. Whether that is just one adjustment or just for every track, they need to optimise something new.”

Norris’ team-mate Oscar Piastri reckoned it was inevitable that whatever system was introduced, teams and drivers would push things to the limit to try to gain some form of advantage.

Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL38 and Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38 in the pit lane

Oscar Piastri, McLaren MCL38 and Lando Norris, McLaren MCL38 in the pit lane

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

“When we push the limits of any of the systems that they put in place, that’s when it becomes tricky,” he said.

“The biggest thing for me is when things go wrong with these systems. It’s not crystal clear how penalties are going to be given out and stuff like that.

“And I think with every system we have, if you go too slow with this system – we’ve seen in the past that if you are genuinely getting out of the way of someone, it’s fine. But where do you draw the line on whether you are or you’re not? Whether you’ve caused that situation yourself? It’s quite subjective.

“For me, that’s where having no system is a positive because everyone sorts themselves out and either you get screwed or you don’t, and that’s it. But I do, obviously, commend the FIA for trying new things.

“They were very receptive to our feedback [in Bahrain], which was really good. So I think it’s good that they’re trying things. But I don’t think anyone’s got a magic answer on how we solve it in every situation and I’m not sure you can.”

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