Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen and George Russell have all escaped penalties after the FIA stewards decided that no action needed to be taken following their various incidents during qualifying at the Mexican Grand Prix. However, Williams and Logan Sargeant were handed out penalties on Saturday night.
Max Verstappen, George Russell and Fernando Alonso were all under investigation for blocking the exit of the pit lane as they slowed to a stop in order to create a gap to the car in front as they left the pits. Drivers have to adhere to a minimum lap time during their in- and out-laps which means that they have to create the gap they deem necessary in the pit lane.
Although it has rarely been a problem this year, yesterday saw several drivers - Verstappen, Russell and Alonso - park down their cars at the end of the pit lane and wait for a relatively long period of time before going for their warm-up lap. The Dutchman has already been under the spotlight for a similar incident in Singapore where he held up Russell, who criticised the Red Bull driver for compromising his warm-up lap.
Verstappen avoided a penalty in Singapore, and stewards decided to take no action following yesterday's weird incidents, which means that the starting order remains unchanged at the sharp end of the field.
In their verdict, the stewards wrote: "The stewards consider that the entire set of incidents occurred as a direct result of the implementation of the minimum lap time between SC2 and SC1, which is designed (correctly so, in our view) to avoid dangerous backing-up of cars on the circuit during qualification.
"We note that there are contrary requirements on drivers in that they must respect the minimum time, they are attempting to create manageable gaps to cars in front, yet they are also required to avoid unnecessarily stopping at the pit exit or driving unnecessarily slowly."
The stewards noted that the situation needs to be improved in the future, albeit they are not sure how they can manage the situation better.
"All parties including the stewards are firmly of the view that it is better to have the potential of cars backing up in the pit lane or at the pit exit, instead of the potentially dangerous situation of large speed differences on track.
"It is desirable that better solution be found for the pit exit however at this stage, what that solution would be, is unknown."
Chef Gutierrez. 👏 Now we’re hungry for some Torta De Chilaquiles. 🍽️ pic.twitter.com/ii0HmlGrT3— Mercedes-AMG PETRONAS F1 Team (@MercedesAMGF1) October 29, 2023
Lewis Hamilton was involved in another incident. The Briton, who qualified sixth, was also cleared of any wrongdoing after he was alleged to have gone too fast under yellow flags at Turn 3 during Q1. The incident happened after Fernando Alonso spun around with his Aston Martin on his last flying lap. However, the light panels have changed from yellow to green on multiple times.
Going through the same yellow-flag section, Logan Sargeant did not avoid a penalty. The American has been handed a 10-place grid drop with the stewards claiming that "the driver of Car 2 [Sargeant] stated that he overtook Car 22 [Tsunoda] because he appeared to be going slowly and also because he saw the green panel ahead."
“The fact that a driver can see a green panel or flag ahead, does not mean that overtaking can occur in what is still a yellow flag zone. Overtaking can only occur after passing the green panel or flag. It was also noted that he did not make a sufficient reduction in speed.”
The infringement means that Sargeant has accrued six penalty points in the last 12 months.
Williams was also involved in an incident as the Grove-based outfit left a jack in the pit-lane that Tsunoda hit while leaving the AlphaTauri garage. As a result of it, the British team have been handed a €20,000 fine, 10,000 of which is suspended for 12 months subject to no further similar incidents.