George Russell, Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly have all been handed two-place grid penalties for impeding other cars at the pit exit in qualifying for the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.
The FIA had changed the regulations to mandate a maximum delta time between Safety Car Line 2 — at the pit exit — and Safety Car Line 1 — at the pit entry — from the Singapore Grand Prix onwards to reduce the risks of drivers backing up in the final sector to create gaps in qualifying. This served to move the issue of cars slowing to the pit exit — as seen in Mexico last week — so the race director’s notes in Brazil made clear that any car going slowly in the pit lane had to move fully to the left to allow others to overtake if they wish.
However, with a long and narrow pit exit at Interlagos, there were multiple incidents of potential impeding and Russell, Ocon and Gasly all received the same grid penalty for preventing others from passing.
“[When] exiting the pits, preparing for an out lap, [the drivers in question] went slow to create a gap for a clear lap, but did not manage to stay completely to the left,” the stewards’ decision read. “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.”
The penalties apply to the grand prix on Sunday — rather than the Sprint on Saturday — as the incidents occurred in qualifying for the main race. Russell was the highest-placed of the trio originally, so he drops from sixth to eighth on the grid. Ocon and Gasly had qualified next to each other and are demoted to 14th and 15th respectively.