Drivers penalised for impeding in qualifying

George Russell has been handed a grid penalty for impeding in qualifying. Image: Batchelor / XPB Images

George Russell has been handed a grid penalty for impeding in qualifying. Image: Batchelor / XPB Images

George Russell, Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly have been hit with a grid penalty after he was deemed to have impeded other drivers during qualifying for the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.

A change to the Race Director Notes for this weekend’s event made special mention of the practice of drivers stopping in the pit lane.

It became a key talking point in Mexico City a week ago when a traffic jam formed at pit exit.

There, nobody was penalised as officials noted it an undesirable result of conflicting requirements placed on drivers.

Once on track, drivers have a minimum time they must adhere to between the two Safety Car lines.

With the need to build a gap to avoid turbulent air from the car ahead, it leaves the pit lane as the only place drivers can back up from the car ahead – hence some stopped in pit exit.

While not stamped out entirely, drivers were told that, in Interlagos this weekend, they must keep to the extreme left of pit exit if they do intent to build a cap and allow cars to pass to their right.

“RUS was exiting the pits, preparing for an out lap,” the Stewards’ summary noted.

“RUS went slow to create a gap for a clear lap, but did not manage to stay completely to the left.

“As a result, following car(s) were not able to overtake, as intended by the Race Director’s instructions.

“This clearly violates the wording and the spirit of item 14 of the Race Director’s Event Notes.”

Russell, who was one of four drivers investigated following qualifying, picked up a two-place penalty for the next race (not Sprint) in which he participates.

Both Alpine drivers were found to have made the same transgression and were handed the same penalty, a drop two places on the grid for Sunday’s Sao Paulo Grand Prix.

Russell had been set to line up sixth alongside team-mate Lewis Hamilton on an all-Mercedes third row but will instead start the race eighth. Ocon was due to start 12th but will drop to 14th while Gasly will now start one place back in 15th.

Sergio Perez was also summoned to front officials though was not penalised and will remain ninth for Sunday’s race.

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