Formula 1 is no stranger to controversies and rule changes, and the recent modifications to pit lane behavior have not escaped the scrutiny of top drivers like Max Verstappen and Lando Norris. The adjustments made by the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) in response to pit lane issues have drawn sharp criticism from these Formula 1 stars.
Max Verstappen, who has been vocal about the need for stricter regulations in Formula 1, minced no words when he described the FIA’s response to pit lane problems as “absolutely terrible.” The pit lane issue that sparked this controversy occurred during qualifying at the Mexican Grand Prix when several drivers, including Verstappen himself, were accused of obstructing the end of the pit lane. While no immediate penalties were imposed, the FIA decided to amend the rules to prevent such incidents from recurring in Brazil.
The FIA’s pre-event notes highlighted the changes, which centered around Article 33.4 of the Formula 1 Sporting Regulations. These updates made it clear that drivers were prohibited from driving unnecessarily slowly or stopping their cars in the fast lane of the pit lane. Instead, drivers were instructed that after exiting the pit lane, they could drive at a reduced speed to create a gap ahead of them, provided they stayed to the left to allow other cars to pass. This solution initially seemed to work by preventing cars from lingering at the pit lane exit during qualifying.
However, the pit exit in Brazil proved to be problematic due to its narrowness, forcing passing cars to place their right wheels on the grass. Additionally, the concept of moving slowly on a part of the track intended for faster speeds raised concerns for Verstappen, who believed that it was not a safe or effective approach. Verstappen expressed his disapproval, stating, “It was absolutely terrible… On this track, you have quite a long pit exit, and there are some walls. But on some other tracks, if we implement this, you’re driving very slowly onto a straight where people are passing with 300+ [km/h]. And you’re maybe driving at 15, 20 to make a gap, which is extremely dangerous. For me, this doesn’t work at all. It just creates even more trouble.”
Verstappen’s concerns were shared by other drivers, including Lando Norris, who found fault with the current guidelines, especially in situations where cars had to drive slowly between the safety car lines. Norris explained his frustrations, saying, “I got a reprimand this morning for two cars ahead of me coming out of the pit lane, or one crossing over the safety car line, and one coming out of the pit lane at the same time. I can’t overtake; otherwise, I’m gonna be racing on a qualifying lap, which is stupid. So I have to back off, and therefore I’m below the minimum time, and I get a reprimand for that. It’s just a silly thing – not that the stewards made the wrong decision, it’s just a rule that shouldn’t be, in my opinion because I did absolutely nothing wrong.”
These critiques of the FIA’s pit lane solutions highlight a broader issue within Formula 1, as drivers grapple with rules and regulations that sometimes seem impractical and counterproductive. The debate surrounding these changes continues, with the hope that a more effective and safer solution can be reached to ensure the integrity and fairness of Formula 1 racing.