FIA dismisses Aston Martin's protest against qualifying result

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Formula One's governing body, the FIA have confirmed that Aston Martin's protest against the qualifying results for tomorrow's Chinese Grand Prix has been dismissed, meaning the original qualifying result stands.

Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz lost control of his car at the exit of the final turn in the second qualifying session after slightly touching the gravel trap. The Spaniard spun around, but managed to slow his SF-24 down, meaning that he could avoid a potential heavy crash. The Madrid-born driver touched the wall with the front end of his car, and lost his front wing, but he was able to restart his car and limp back to the pits.

However, he needed one minute and seventeen seconds to get his Ferrari going again after the session was red-flagged. The Spaniard then delivered a sensational lap to earn promotion into the last qualifying segment, securing the sixth starting position on the grid for tomorrow's Chinese Grand Prix.

Following the qualifying session, Aston Martin lodged a protest against the qualifying result, claiming that Article 39.6 of the 2024 F1 sporting regulations was breached. The rule states that cars that stop on track are not permitted to take part in the remainder of the session.

The Silverstone-based outfit might have intended to gain a competitive advantage with the potential disqualification of Sainz as Ferrari are expected to pose a danger to Fernando Alonso, who secured third place on the grid.

Following the investigation, the FIA has dismissed Aston Martin's protest, meaning that the qualifying results stand for tomorrow's Chinese Grand Prix.


"We heard Aston, the other team managers who were present at the hearing and the FIA delegates and reached the following decision on the Protest:

a) It is clear that the plain language of Art. 39.6 suggests that so long as a car “stops” on the track during a qualifying session, that car should not be permitted to take further part in the session.

b) However, it was clear from the examples cited by a number of the team managers present and the FIA, that this was not how this rule was applied by the teams and the FIA in the past.

c) The FIA team explained that so long as the car was able to restart and continue from a stopped position within a reasonable time, that would ordinarily be permitted. The typical time would be around 30 seconds, though that varied depending on the circumstances. The teams themselves said that they had previously attempted to agree what they considered to be a reasonable length of time before a car would be considered “stopped”. Unfortunately, they were not able to come to a final agreement on the maximum time allowed.

d) In the FIA’s view, what was crucial was that the car would not receive any outside assistance in order to restart (e.g. from marshals).

e) Aston also accepted that there were prior examples of cars stopping on track and being allowed to continue, despite the plain wording of Article.39.6. However, they felt that stopping, in this case, for 1minute and 17 seconds was too long and therefore should not have been permitted.

f) The issue then became one of duration: Was 1 minute 17 seconds too long?

g) Absent clear guidance in the regulations or an agreed, established practice of when too long was too long, we considered that this was a discretion best left to Race Control.

h) We considered examples in Canada, in Monaco and in Baku where cars had “stopped” (and therefore would have been in breach of Article 39.6) but were permitted to continue and take further part in the session, without complaint from the teams.

i) Aston also argued that the fact that the messaging system suggested that the car had “stopped” conclusive of that fact for Article 39.6. Race Control clarified that the language was standard language used in the system and therefore did not convey what Aston was suggesting. Indeed, we saw an example of Alexander Albon in Montreal in 2022 where he stopped for 40-odd seconds and restarted without complaint from any teams and the messaging system similarly showed that the car had “stopped”. So, we did not think that the messaging system was indicative of a decision on the part of Race Control for the purposes of Article 39.6.

j) There was therefore a clear pattern of past practice in the sport whereby this rule was read to allow a car to restart and continue, so long as it did not receive outside assistance to do so.

k) We were also shown minutes of the Formula One Commission Meeting held in Spa-Belgium on 28th July 2023, where Article 39.6 was specifically discussed. The conclusion reached at that meeting appeared to be, among other things, that:

“It was agreed to add ‘outside assistance’ to Article 39.6”

l) We were informed that the above change to Article 39.6 was not in fact made, so we did not rely on these minutes, beyond noting that there appeared to be an agreement at least among those attending that meeting on that day, that was consistent with the approach that Race Control was adopting.

m) In the above circumstances, taking into account the numerous examples where cars had stopped for different lengths of time and were permitted to restart and continue to participate in the session concerned, we considered that the decision taken by Race Control was not inconsistent with past practice nor in breach of Article 39.6.

n) We considered that even if the plain wording of Article 39.6 warranted a more stark conclusion, the consistent practice in the sport to date did not warrant a setting aside of the discretion exercised by Race Control by us as Stewards.

10. We accordingly dismissed the Protest.
11. The Protest fees will be therefore not be returned."