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F1 drivers give back penalties for activating flags in qualifying

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The subject became a talking point in Azerbaijan last weekend after Fernando Alonso took a run for the tail end of Q1, drawing a yellow flag and spoiling the laps of anyone who might have had a chance to beat him.

Alex Albon, who was immediately behind the Alpine driver, made it clear that he thought Alonso had gone off track in a deliberate effort to frustrate his rivals.

The issue of drivers playing these kinds of games, especially on street tracks, made headlines at the 2006 Monaco GP.

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On that occasion, Michael Schumacher was excluded from qualifying after the stewards determined that he had deliberately stopped on the Rascasse track, ending the session early and securing pole position.

A similar incident occurred at the same venue in 2014, when Nico Rosberg went down the Mirabeau escape route, foiling team-mate Lewis Hamilton’s final effort. The German survived an investigation without sanction.

After qualifying for this year’s race, Max Verstappen suggested that penalties should be imposed on those who caused red flags after missing their final lap of Q3 to someone else’s accident for the second year in a row.

Although there was no official documentation associated with his investigation, it is understood that an informal investigation into the Alonso incident was carried out by FIA stewards last weekend, with Spanish and Alpine sporting director Alan Permane relinquishing race control. from Baku on Sunday morning. Team boss Otmar Szafnauer was also visiting.

Although the stewards took no action, their suspicions were raised enough to trigger a discussion about a possible solution to the problem.

The F1 Sporting Regulations already contain an article that can be applied to anyone taking an escape route or going into a run-out zone, which reads: “Drivers must make every reasonable effort to use the track at all times and They can’t get off the track.” track without justifiable reason.

Appendix L of the FIA ​​International Sporting Code, which applies to driving conduct, contains a similar clause: “Drivers must use the track at all times and may not leave the track without justifiable reason.”

The stewards have the discretion to remove any or all lap times if a driver is deemed to have committed an offense falling within that description.

If it is agreed between the FIA ​​stewards and F1 race directors that such a course would be stopped, the kind of maneuver Alonso was suspected of could be warned of possible sanctions as early as the Canadian GP, ​​either in the notes. of the race director event. or at the regular Friday briefing.

Granting penalties for a real crash that ends a session early, like the ones involving Charles Leclerc at Monaco in 2021 and Sergio Perez this year, would likely require further discussion.

Asked by Motorsport.com about the possibility of the FIA ​​clamping down on controversial flag situations in qualifying, Alonso said he would support the idea.

Fernando Alonso, Alpine

Photo by: Alpine

“Yes, I think so,” he said. “There will always be difficulties, like now in the [Baku] race, if you hit a corner or if you park – there was a Haas [Kevin Magnussen] parked at turn 15.

“If he parks there or parks 10 meters after that, maybe he has a safety car deployment, depending on whether he gets a good position or not. And then we penalize the Haas driver because he chose the wrong thing?

“So we have to be careful how we enter and how we do those things. But yeah, I agree. Especially in qualifying, it should be different.”

“We are dealing with issues of slow laps, minimum time to respect, last corner traffic, trailers, no trailers. So I think we have to be smart and think about another format in qualifying.”

Lando Norris, who was involved in a flag incident in Baku, also supported the idea.

“Yes, of course,” he said when asked by Motorsport.com if he was okay with a possible crackdown. “I think I was one of the guys who caused the yellow yesterday, but only to get Seb out of the way [Vettel].

“I think there’s a difference between people who do it by accident and people who do it to get out of people’s way by not causing blue flags and whatever when you’re in qualifying versus people who obviously do it. They do it on purpose, especially when you’re a second and a half down on a fast lap!

“You always say that until you’re the one doing something wrong. And then you say, Oh, I wish that rule wasn’t introduced, because you just made a simple mistake, like when I spun at Imola.” .

“I guess I’m saying I wish there wasn’t a rule, but obviously when someone else does it, you say you wish there was a rule. It always bites someone at some point. Of course, the people who talk about it the most are the ones who just I haven’t made a mistake yet.”

Norris’ teammate Daniel Ricciardo also agreed that a crackdown would be a positive move.

“It’s tough because every incident is probably going to be a little bit different,” said the Australian.

“But unless you’ve wrecked your car, if it’s just like a little roadblock or escape route or something, then I feel like if you’ve caused something, then maybe we should look at getting penalized or something for that.” Maybe a time out could be a good way to look at it.”

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Asked about Alonso’s claim of innocence after the Q1 incident in Baku, Ricciardo added: “His conviction is impressive! I mean, that’s the experience. That’s why I love him. But I mean, obviously Alex He talked about it yesterday.”

“We all know, we’re all playing tricks, and I know Lewis tried not to give us the DRS, I think, with Lando. I mean, that’s a bit of tactics and strategy. But then there’s the other guy obviously, which Fernando did. Maybe deleted laps could be the way to go, we’ll see.”

Alonso’s teammate Esteban Ocon also supported the idea of ​​penalties.

“I think so, because in Monaco and Baku I have been suffering from that in qualifying,” he said. “And, yes, people would probably be more careful if they get penalized, and it would be less easy to take chances and just take the escape route. I would definitely be in favor of changing that for street circuits.”

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