The FIA will again enforce a maximum time limit on all laps run during qualifying for this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.
Drivers must already abide by a maximum lap time for all in-laps during qualifying and the reconnaissance laps prior to the grand prix.
But as with the Italian Grand Prix earlier this month, race director Niels Wittich has expanded the use of this rule to include all laps in qualifying in an attempt to avoid dangerous driving, impeding and the pack bunching up.
The trial in Monza appeared to work with no incidents of impeding noted during the qualifying hour.
However, last weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix saw a pause on the enforcement of “all” qualifying laps, which resulted in chaos when half of the field jostled for track position in the final sector during Q1. Max Verstappen was summoned by the stewards for impeding Logan Sargeant and Yuki Tsunoda but escaped without penalty.
In his notes for the Japanese Grand Prix, race director Niels Wittich said: “In order to ensure that cars are not driven unnecessarily slowly on in laps during and after the end of qualifying or during reconnaissance laps when the pit exit is opened for the race, drivers must stay below the maximum time set by the FIA between the Safety Car lines shown on the pit lane map.
“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,”
Teams and drivers will be informed of the maximum lap time following the second practice session.
While any driver found to exceed the maximum time limit could potentially face a penalty, it must be noted that there is no guarantee after a precedent set in Monza.
Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz were both found to have circulated slower than the time limit during qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix. But after investigation, it was agreed that neither Ferrari driver would be penalised, having deviated from the racing line to allow faster cars to pass safely.