The 2023 Formula One Singapore Grand Prix will be remembered as the race where Ferrari once again stopped a historic run of consecutive victories as they did in 1988. Yet behind the scenes were a number of forgettable performances including race control and the stewards decisions.
For each Grand Prix the FIA outlines in the Race Director’s notes a maximum time the drivers must observe between the pit exit safety car line and the one at the pit lane entry.
Maximum lap time
This is enforced for all laps during the qualifying sessions following the driver having attempted a fast time.
In Monza ruling was extended to the out laps in qualifying in an attempt to prevent the historic snake of cars moving slowly as they attempt to create space for themselves before a push lap.
On the whole this worked despite Carlos Sainz who claimed ole having breached the maximum time. The stewards then decided that the Spanish driver had made every effort to avoid blocking other cars and this was the reason he failed to make the time rather than for dawdling about.
Verstappen two reprimands
For some reason only known to Neils Wittich, he decided not to include a maximum lap time at the Singapore Grand Prix which resulted in a large number of cars being backed up around the final turns in Q1 while others flew past at frightening speeds.
Such was the chaos, Max Verstappen was investigated for three separate potential infringements alone although he received just two reprimands and no grid place drop.
Following a certain amount of criticism the FIA Race Director has reinstated the maximum lap time for all laps in qualifying at the Japanese Grand Prix.
Rule re-introduced for Suzuka
“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,” Wittich stated in his event notes issued to the drivers.
Any driver exceeding the time will be issued with a grid drop penalty unless they can demonstrate they were ensuring they did not obstruct another driver as Sainz did in Monza.
The FIA was subject to a significant amount of criticism in 2022 as the new regime under Jean Todt’s replacement Mohhamed Ben Sulayem attempted to move the sport forward from what many thought was a debacle in Abu Dhabi 2021.
FIA improvements in 2023
One area where the FIA have made significant improvements is over the previous grey area of policing track limits. As with all change there has been some criticism but on the whole the drivers and everyone know accepts the hard and fast rule is that crossing over the boundary line will receive a sanction.
This year in Austria it became farcical as around 100 track limits infringements were noted during the race. However, the FIA had suggested the owners of the Red Bull Ring alter the final two corners where the majority of the transgressions occurred but this advice had been ignored.
It is believed Race C control acted as it did for the Austrian Grand Prix to embarrass the Red Bull Group who own the circuit to act before the next event in 2024.
The Ghost of Monza lingers
This year the European season saw an exceptional amount of bad weather with only two events being complete rain free for all the on track sessions. Yet Race Control appears to have mangled this much better unlike in Suzuka last year when during a torrential downpour a recovery vehicle was sent onto the live track.
Even then a report was delivered quickly and a new warning system has been implemented behind the scenes for 2023.
The ghost of Monza 2022 where the race was completed under the safety car still lingers and it appears the FIA have not yet resolved this issue. In other motor racing series to prevent this extra laps are granted should the time required to clear the track become inordinately lengthy.
F1 Race Control has in recent years turned more frequently to the red flag to ensure the race is stopped before the lap counter expires, though late safety cars always threaten to derail this policy.
Alonso dismissive of Hamilton’s comments about Verstappen
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