Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff Urges FIA and Drivers to Address Ongoing Qualifying Impeding Issue
Formula 1 has been grappling with an ongoing challenge this season, one that has left both the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) and the drivers scratching their heads: impeding during qualifying sessions. Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff believes it’s time for a serious sit-down discussion to tackle this “awkward” problem that has yet to find a permanent solution.
The issue came to a head during the Italian Grand Prix, where Race Director Niels Wittich introduced a maximum lap time rule to address the growing traffic problem on entry to Alberto, the pit lane. The intention behind this rule was to prevent dangerous blocking incidents as drivers jostled for the best track positions.
However, the introduction of the maximum lap time, measured between Safety Car Line 2 and Safety Car Line 1, led to an unintended consequence. Some drivers started exploiting this situation by coming to a complete stop at the pit exit, strategically positioning themselves between the two Safety Car lines to gain an advantage over their competitors.
A notable incident occurred during the Singapore Grand Prix qualifying session when Max Verstappen was handed a reprimand for blocking cars in the pitlane. Many in the Formula 1 community felt that a mere reprimand was insufficient, and he should have faced more severe penalties. Despite the uproar, several drivers continued to engage in impeding tactics during the Mexican Grand Prix qualifying session, seemingly unfazed by the consequences. The stewards’ leniency in these cases was a clear acknowledgment of the challenges posed by the maximum lap time rule.
When questioned about how Formula 1 could effectively address the impeding problem during qualifying, Toto Wolff expressed his views to RacingNews365.com:
“I think the FIA needs to sit down with the drivers and Sporting Directors and ask what is it exactly we want to achieve?
“In the end, fundamentally we don’t want any impeding at all, we don’t want anybody stuck in the pit lane.
“So how can we achieve that?
“I understand it is better to be stationary in the pit lane than to block someone out there [on track] but it still looks awkward.
“It is not right because some people may not make the lap.”