Formula One returned for round four of the 2023 season after almost a month’s break since the Australian GP. The Azerbaijan weekend trialed a new format that delivered a frenetic qualifying session for the Sprint race, however the main event on Sunday was a rather processional affair.
Pirelli brought tyres to Baku capable of running for the entire 51 laps of the Grand Prix as Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Ocon demonstrated.
Last lap chaos
Both the Haas and Alpine drivers began the Grand Prix on the hard compound tyre and ran until the last lap before making their mandatory pit stop for alternate tyres.
Questions will be asked of those controlling the paddock security, because with the leaders approaching the last sector on the last lap, photographers flooded the pit lane as the flying Alpine of Esteban Ocon was approaching for his tyre change.
Fortunately there was no one inured though the photographers scattered rapidly as the Alpine approach the pit lane entry at over 100 miles an hour.
Simultaneously, the Red Bull team were apparently defying the recent reminder from race director Neils Wittich that allowing personnel to climb the pit wall fence is prohibited under the International Sporting Code.
Red Bull crew climbing on pit wall
The practice was in fact banned back in 2006 with Article 2.3.2 stating it is “forbidden for personnel to climb on pit wall debris fences at any time. Any action by a team breaching this ban will be reported to the stewards.”
Wittich acted following the second round this season in Jeddah where celebrations of a Sergio Perez win saw Red Bull mechanics climbing the fence and on top of the crash structures too.
The F1 race director’s notes next time out in Australia reminded the teams about article 2.3.2 however, the pit lane in Melbourne is bounded by huge plate glass panels instead of fencing and so climbing has never been an issue.
As the race today in Azerbaijan entered the closing lap, the Red Bull pit crew were seen climbing the fences to celebrate the Mexican’s impending win though whether this was an act of defiance form the Red Bull team or merely the fact nobody had reminded the mechanics of the recent warnings from race control.
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Article 2.3.2 states:
“Organisers of races are reminded that the pit lane represents a potentially dangerous area during the running of a competition, not only because of the racing cars using it but also in view of accidents which may occur owing to cars being on the race track adjacent to it.
“Therefore, access to the pit lane should be exclusively reserved during practice and races for those persons specially authorised and having a specific job to do.
“The pit wall signalling platform should be forbidden to all except authorised officials or race team personnel, having a special pass; the presence of any person in this zone should be strictly prohibited during the start of a race, unless there is adequate protection in place, at the discretion of the race director, if appointed, or the clerk of the course.
“Team personnel are only allowed in the pit lane immediately before they are required to work on a car and must withdraw as soon as the work is complete.
“It is forbidden for personnel to climb on pit wall debris fences at any time. Any action by a team breaching this ban will be reported to the stewards.
Horner admits team defying FIA
Christian Horner faced the media following the podium ceremony and explained the team manager had ensured his personnel had followed the FIA regulations to the letter of the law.
“The regulations are quite clear and the team manager discussed it with the mechanics before the race. I think f you look they’ve all got their feet in contact with the concrete of the pit wall.
“Its crazy when we’re regulating where the feet of the mechanics are but I think you’ll find they were all standing where they should be.”
Clearly this response from Red Bull to the F1 race director’s recent edicts is an attempt to defy the spirit of the ruling and may yet suffer punishment.
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Stewards to consider response
The stewards may attempt to enforce the clause which demands the pit crew only enter the pit lane to service the car “and withdraw as soon as the work is complete.”
As Esteban Ocon clearly demonstrated the pit lane is live even after the winning car has taken the chequered flag and to this end the FIA will again crack down on the matter of personnel entering a live race track.
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"This is a SHAMBLES, absolute shambles!!" 😮 pic.twitter.com/cKk0NuPJUv
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) April 30, 2023