The 2023 Formula One Mexican Grand Prix will be a day the Williams team will want to forget, marred as it was by penalties and controversy. The team suffered not one, but several setbacks, including a curious fine and driver penalties, which have cast a shadow over its preparations for the race itself.
Williams driver Alexander Albon, who failed to make it into Q3 due to a lap cancellation caused by track restrictions, was the least of the team’s worries. In a bizarre turn of events, the Williams team was fined €20,000, half of which was suspended for one year, for breaching the FIA’s International Sporting Code (ISC), Annex L, Chapter IV, Article 5.f.
This rule states that “No equipment or tyre shall be placed in the pit lane in such a way as to cause unnecessary obstruction to pit lane personnel or any other vehicle”.
This rule was invoked when AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda collided with a parked Williams team jack as he left the pit lane. While the incident had minimal impact on Tsunoda, it had immediate repercussions for Williams. Acknowledging their oversight, Williams must now pay €10,000 immediately, with a further €10,000 hanging over their heads for the next year should a similar incident occur.
Sergeant’s unacknowledged defence and punishment
Adding to the chaos, Logan Sargeant, another Williams driver, was investigated for a possible yellow flag infringement. Sargeant was demoted ten places on the grid and given two penalty points for allegedly failing to reduce his speed sufficiently during a yellow period following Fernando Alonso’s spin.
Sargeant argued that he overtook Tsunoda because he believed he was slowed by a technical problem. His perception of a green light ahead seemed to him to be sufficient reason to make his move. The stewards, however, stood their ground. Their verdict made it clear that the presence of a green light does not negate the existing restrictions of a yellow flag zone, thus rejecting Sargeant’s argument.
Timing issues and frustrations
Sargeant was also frustrated with the timing of his runs during qualifying, complaining about the decision to send him out behind a fleet of cars.
“Why are we going out behind a million cars, man?” Sargeant voiced his frustration over the pit radio. The young driver was irritated by the numerous obstructions and yellow flags he encountered, claiming he was never given a fair chance for a clean lap.
He concluded, “It’s frustrating because we had a quick car this weekend but we didn’t get the time…”
To add insult to injury, all of Sargeant’s fast laps in Q1 were cancelled due to track restrictions, making him ineligible for the final results. He will only take part in the race with special permission from the stewards.
While qualifying was a disaster for Williams, with hefty fines and a confused strategy marring their performance, all eyes are now on the race. “The race pace wasn’t too bad yesterday,” noted Sargeant, trying to find a silver lining in an otherwise cloudy sky.
As they prepare for a challenging day of racing, the Williams team will undoubtedly be reflecting on the lessons learned from this series of unfortunate events.
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