Formula 1 chiefs are reintroducing a maximum time limit for qualifying laps following a series of underhanded and dangerous incidences.
Drivers were seen jostling for position at the final corner trying to give themselves a clear run at a flying lap during qualifying for the Singapore Grand Prix last weekend, creating very precarious situations. There were also allegations of impeding, with championship leader Max Verstappen getting pulled up by the stewards.
To rectify the problem, F1 race director Niels Wittich has imposed a time limit for all cars to travel between the two safety car lines for every lap in qualifying. This, in theory, should stop competitors driving at an unnecessarily slow pace and getting in the way of one another.
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The measure was brought in ahead of the Italian Grand Prix earlier this month, but wasn't enforced in Singapore. The track used for the Japanese Grand Prix is a particularly narrow one, and Wittich told drivers make sure they abide by the rules ahead of qualifying.
In his pre-event race notes, which were sent to every team, he wrote: "For the safe and orderly conduct of the event, other than in exceptional circumstances accepted as such by the stewards, any driver that exceeds the maximum time from the second safety car line to the first safety car line on ANY lap during and after the end of the qualifying session, including in-laps and out-laps, may be deemed to be going unnecessarily slowly."
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Despite the stern message, it's understood penalties will not be automatically handed out in the event of a rule breach. Verstappen was summoned by the stewards for impeding Logan Sargeant and Yuki Tsunoda, but he escaped without punishment.
The Dutchman was taken out in Q3 and started 11th on the grid in Singapore. He made up the ground to finish in fifth place but the result by some distance his worst of the season. Red Bull have had such a stranglehold on proceedings this season that up until last weekend Verstappen had finished first or second in every race, with his team-mate Sergio Perez picking up the wins both times he was runner-up.
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But with Verstappen in fifth and Perez eight in Singapore, it allowed Ferrari to pick up their first win of the season, with Carlos Sainz taking top spot. Lando Norris and Lewis Hamilton completed the podium while Charles Leclerc finished fourth.
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