Written by Hugh Waring, Edited by Elisabeth Brown
Race director Niels Wittich confirmed on Thursday ahead of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix that drivers must not ‘cross’ pit lane lines following Ferrari’s Monaco protest against the Red Bull drivers.
Following the conclusion of the Monaco Grand Prix, Ferrari failed its protest against both Sergio Pérez and Max Verstappen for supposedly crossing the pit exit line on the tricky, damp race track on the Monaco streets.
Following adaptations to the FIA’s revised rules, the drivers were previously not allowed to touch pitlane lines - as proven by Yuki Tsunoda’s double penalty in Austria last season. Wittich has attempted to clarify these rules ahead of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix by specifically mentioning in his official event notes that: “In accordance with Chapter 4, Article 4 and 5 of Appendix L to the ISC drivers must follow the procedures at pit entry and pit exit.”
This clarification infers that drivers on the grid may now be able to go over the pit lane lines as long as a single tyre does not fully go beyond the line. Wittich goes on to say that up until the conclusion of the Monaco Grand Prix, the pre-event notes had stated that drivers must strictly only keep to one side of the pit lane lines. However, this was changed following the winter break’s rule updates.
The result of the confusion about this rule led Ferrari to suggest that both Red Bull pilots had not followed Monaco Grand Prix race director, Eduardo Freitas’s event notes, which stated that drivers should “keep to the right of the solid yellow line.”
Yet, both Pérez and Verstappen managed to keep their finishing positions as neither had fully crossed the line to risk a time penalty.
On Thursday, Tsunoda said that he has “no trust” in the consistency of potential future FIA decisions in response to Wittich’s latest update rules on how to enter and exit the pitlane. The Japanese driver said:
“I’m not trusting the FIA. Every time it’s super inconsistent. [I’ve got] four reprimands and the last time in Monaco, I still don’t know why.”
“I mean, it’s not good to say what other drivers were doing, but other drivers were doing even worse things and they don’t have any investigation, whereas other races (the FIA) were suddenly getting strict.”
“So probably if someone crosses the white line, there would be a penalty for some races.”
“For me, I’ll just stick to what the regulations say or just do the safest option, so I do not get into any trouble. So I don’t think that, ‘okay, Max and Checo were crossing the line last time in Monaco, so we can do it.’ I think every time is different”.
This is what the International Sporting Code states in Chapter 4 of Appendix L:
“4. Entrance to the pitlane
a) The section of track from the first safety car line (SC1) to the pitlane is designated the "pit entry".
b) During competition, access to the pitlane is allowed only through the pit entry.
c) Any driver intending to leave the track or to enter the pitlane should make sure that it is safe to do so.
d) Except in cases of force majeure (accepted as such by the Stewards), any tyre of a car entering the pitlane must not cross, in any direction, any line painted on the track at the pit entry for the purpose of separating cars entering the pitlane from those on the track.
5. Exit from the pitlane
a) The section of track from the end of pitlane to the second safety car line (SC2) is designated the "pit exit".
b) There will be a green light and a red light (or similar signs) at the pitlane exit. Cars may only leave the pitlane when the green light is on (or sign is displayed).
c) Except in cases of force majeure (accepted as such by the Stewards), any tyre of a car exiting the pitlane must not cross any line painted on the track at the pit exit for the purpose of separating cars leaving the pitlane from those on the track.”