The all new FIA led by Mohammed Ben Sulayem has not hit the ground running. Two F1 race directors have led to criticism by the drivers of a lack of consistency in decisions and penalties issued. Recently the teams were angered as the FIA unilaterally confirmed the F1 race calendar for 2023 other than by the normal protocols.
This weekend the teams will be racing in Singapore where they face one of the tightest pitmans on the calendar.
Famously it was a pit lane incident here where Felipe Massa left his pit box with the refuelling hose still attached to the car in 2008, ending his race. This mistake was proven to hand Lewis Hamilton his first championship a few races later.
In Zandvoort this year, Carlos Sainz was penalised for an unsafe release in another tight pit lane and during the same race Sergio Pérez ran over the air gun of the Ferrari team.
Drivers are now calling on the FIA to look at these tight pit lanes as Sainz reveals.
“Absolutely, I think it’s something that is not talked about enough, that we go to pit lanes during the year that are definitely too tight,”
“And we need to improve safety for the mechanics, because we forget that those people wearing suits and helmets during the pitstops are in the middle of cars going at 80kph, and they are centimetres apart from incidents and from very dangerous situations.
“And I feel Zandvoort’s a great track, I want to go back there every year. And I want to keep racing at Zandvoort, Singapore, Budapest, but I’m talking about narrow pitlanes.
“We need to think about the mechanics and how tight everything is in there, because it’s just too tight. And I think we need to improve the safety.”
The problem is particularly acute during periods where there is a safety car and many of the drivers dash for a pit stop because under the SC they lose less time changing tyres.
“We talk a lot about car safety, circuit safety. But in the pitlane I’m concerned that one day something would happen if we keep having these narrow pit lanes and so much going on, especially when there’s multiple pitstops going on at the same time.”
GPDA lends its weight
George Russell who is the Drivers’ Association chairman was vocal over the cars porpoising this season, which led to a new Technical Directive from the FIA. Russell has added his voice to Sainz’s concerns.
“Certainly in Zandvoort it was too tight, and something needs to be done about it,”
“There’s no doubt about it. It must be pretty daunting for the guys doing the pit stop.
“When you’ve got a car coming in at 60 or 80km/h, and you’re coming out, the tyres are cold, the car is kicking out. So in a circuit like that I’m not too sure what the solution is. But we need to find a better compromise, for sure.”
But the drivers need to be careful in what they wish for.
It’s a very costly solution to change the architecture and layout of pithiness, so the quick and easy fix will be for the FIA to reduce the speed allowed in the pitlane further.
This would compound the problems a driver faces when encountering an unsafe release. A slower car coming down the pit lane means a driver may be held for longer as another car trundles on by.
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) September 27, 2022