Several drivers have proposed a rethink of the rules regarding grid box placement at the start of Formula 1 grands prix that have had a dubious impact on races in 2023.
After Esteban Ocon was penalised in Bahrain for being too wide of his grid slot, Fernando Alonso was hit with a five-second time penalty in Saudi Arabia for a similar infraction.
The more stringent policing of drivers’ positioning at the start of every race has derived from the FIA Sporting Regulations implementing wording from the International Sporting Code last year that states a car “must be stationary at its allocated grid box with no part of the contact patch of its front tyres outside of the lines (front and sides) at the time of the start signal”.
However, the three drivers speaking at the FIA post-race press conference in Saudi Arabia argued that the limited visibility inside the cockpit of the current cars has made it increasingly hard to ensure that their cars remain within the allotted markings.
George Russell, appearing in the top three at the expense of Alonso before the Aston Martin representative’s second penalty was eventually reversed, called for a bit more common sense to be applied to the latest regulations.
“It’s incredibly difficult,” Russell began saying. “We’re sat so low and to put some perspective, we only see probably the top four or five inches of the tyre so you can’t actually see the ground itself.”
“We’ve got these big long yellow lines pointing out… I can’t even see the yellow line, let alone the white lines determining your lateral position. It’s really, really tough so that’s why I think in this regard we need to show a little bit more common sense.”
The Red Bull pairing supported Russell’s complaints, with Max Verstappen agreeing that the visibility the drivers are afforded when forming up on the grid is “really poor”.
“I haven’t seen how much he was out of his box,” the reigning champion said. “It is painful when it happens but it’s a bit the same with the white line with track limits. Sometimes you argue: did you gain anything going wide or not, going outside of it?”
“I think at one point we do need a rule. It looks really silly if people start to take advantage of going really left and right but yeah, I didn’t know what we can do better.”
While Sergio Perez believes its introduction has been a positive move for the sport, the Mexican has suggested that a better idea needs to be put in place moving forward.
“The visibility is just really poor in the car, that is I think, probably the main issue where you end up sometimes not fully, correctly in your box,” Perez added.
“Yeah, it’s really difficult just to see where you’ve stopped. I think, in my opinion I just overdid it and I stopped too early, but you have no idea when you are in the car.
“You don’t know if you went too far or from behind or too far forward. So I think it’s something… we need better visibility to be able to come up with a better idea than we currently have it.
“It’s good that there is a rule in place, but at the same time, sometimes it’s like luck, to be honest, where you position yourself.
Alpine Sporting Director Alan Permane has also hit out at the harsh nature of the penalties awarded to Ocon in Bahrain and Alonso in Jeddah, stating that there was no advantage gained in either case.
“I think what seems a little bit draconian is this new regulation of where the car has got to stop on the grid box,” Permane said via Autosport.
“No one is getting an advantage from being 10 centimetres over on one side or the other side. I don’t quite really see why.
“And they’re free to paint the grid boxes as wide as they want, there doesn’t seem to be regulation for that.
“I don’t know if that’ll be reviewed, but giving people penalties for having their wheels over in a car where the drivers can’t see those lines – they can see them as they come up and then as they get close to them, they just disappear – it feels harsh, it feels unnecessary.
“Esteban today, he’s been concentrating on it of course all week. He said he got to the grid today and he had no idea where he was. He said you cannot see, you don’t know at all. It’s a strange one.”