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Formula One have announced that lap times set by drivers who run through double waved yellow flag sectors will be immediately deleted after Fernando Alonso was investigated over a potential incident during qualifying for the Turkish Grand Prix.
Questions were raised by some drivers after Alonso managed to avoid a penalty, despite passing double waved yellow flags at the start of his first lap in Q1, but went on to complete the lap and progress into the second part of qualifying.
The FIA race director Michael Masi explained the change in his event notes ahead of the United States Grand Prix, with Max Verstappen currently leading the way over Lewis Hamilton in the fight to become the 2021 world champion.
“Any driver passing through a double waved yellow marshalling sector must reduce speed significantly and be prepared to change direction or stop,” wrote Masi.
“In order for the stewards to be satisfied that any such driver has complied with these requirements, it must be clear that he has not attempted to set a meaningful lap time, for practical purposes any driver in a double yellow sector will have that lap time deleted.”
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In the past, it was up to the race stewards to decide if the driver had slowed sufficiently in the sector, or if they had gained an unfair advantage.
Masi also added that following Istanbul, deleting lap times altogether could be a solution to avoid any confusion over how much drivers must slow down.
“There’s probably a little bit of tweaking of wording that we can do,” he said. “It’s been one of those that’s been as it has been for quite a while.
“There’s some refining that we can probably do to make it clearer for everyone.”
Alonso’s situation was quickly followed by Lando Norris escaping with just a reprimand after crossing the pit-entry line in Russia, as the McLaren driver struggled to keep the car on track as the rain began to fall.
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Some drivers were left questioning why the 21-year-old didn’t pick up a time penalty for such an infringement.
“I was really surprised,” said Pierre Gasly. “This last two events I don’t understand the regulations. Because to me it is either black and white, and these two situations were, for me, were very clear.”
Aston Martin were also left unhappy with the decision, with the team boss questioning what was and wasn’t allowed after the race.
“In Bahrain Sebastian went past the accident before the double yellows were waved,” Otmar Szafnauer told Autosport.
“But he was in the sector and then passed the accident when the double yellows happened, and he got a three-place penalty.
“Apparently Alonso didn’t get a penalty because he didn’t set a meaningful lap time. I think the lap time was meaningful, but we’ve got to review that with the FIA, and just understand what the rules are so they’re consistent from race to race to race.
“The last thing we want is to encourage drivers to go flat out in double-waved yellows, we don’t want that. So it’s got to be discussed further.”
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