Guenther Steiner, Team Principal of Haas F1 Team, has made clear that he would prefer to find an alternative way to finish qualifying after a car crashes, instead of adopting a similar rule to that seen in IndyCar. Steiner’s comments in the latest Press Release from Haas F1 Team state that he ‘wouldn’t be a big fan of that one if it was to be implemented’.
As a result of Charles Leclerc’s crash in the final stages of qualifying last time out in Monaco, the Monegasque held onto his pole position. This was due to his rivals on track being unable to complete their flying laps due to the incident red-flagging the session and a lack of time for a restart.
Formula One can at times be viewed as a knee jerk reaction type sport and sure enough this latest hot topic brought in talk of adopting IndyCar’s rule to such an incident.
In IndyCar qualifying, if a session was to be red-flagged by an on track incident and is unable to be restarted due to the remaining time available, the sanction for the driver responsible is that they have their fastest time deleted.
This proposal is back in the headlines as FIA race director Michael Masi has confirmed that they will assess the suitability of an IndyCar type rule making its way into Formula One.
As seems to be the case, when any idea is mooted in the sport everyone is keen to have their say and the latest person to do so is Haas’ Team Principal Guenther Steiner:
“I wouldn’t be a big fan of that one if it was to be implemented. It obviously came up because Charles Leclerc hit the wall pretty hard on his last run in qualifying, but obviously it was not intentional. If it had been, the FIA would have seen that, it’s very easy to see that on the data if somebody’s done something intentionally. I don’t think there’s a need to start this discussion.”
This point is key because no one believes that Charles Leclerc intentionally crashed in Monaco to retain pole and as such state he should not be punished. His on track rivals at the time made clear to the media that they did not want to see any sanction applied to the Monegasque racer’s actions.
“Well, I think there’s a difference when a guy makes a mistake and hits the wall, or does it intentionally,” said Max Verstappen to the media post-qualifying. “I think if Charles would have just parked with a broken front wing it’s a different story. But, of course, he just clipped the wall initially and then ended up where I’ve ended up twice! So, it’s just unfortunate…I don’t think his lap should be deleted in the future if they want to make a rule change.” Verstappen added.
Meanwhile, Valtteri Bottas was clear in his opinion on the matter when asked of it in Monaco: “The regulation is fine. It’s what it is. Sometimes in sport things don’t play into your hands and sometimes you get lucky and not unlucky. That’s what happens.”
On top of this, Charles Leclerc’s post-qualifying comments also showed no malice on his part: “Surely, if I was doing it on purpose, I would have made sure to hit the wall a bit less hard,” he said. “But that wasn’t on purpose, obviously. I was pushing the limit.”
When reflecting on this topic of discussion ahead of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, the open-speaking figurehead of Haas F1 Team, Guenther Steiner, highlighted the grey area and uncertainty that could come from such a regulation in future:
“What if instead of a red flag there was only a yellow flag and some people slow down and not some others – do we still cancel the lap of the guy who brought the yellow out? It’s worked for a long time as is, and it’s happened once, especially in Monaco where it’s very easy to crash by the way, I don’t think it’s a problem we need to fix at the moment. It’s part of the risk you take though if you go out late in qualifying. If people had gone out earlier maybe it wouldn’t have happened. I think if somebody does something on purpose there should be consequences, but this wasn’t the case in Monaco.”
Nevertheless, where there is one school of thought you do not have to look hard to find another.
Speaking after the incident in Monaco, Toto Wolff, Team Principal of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula 1 Team, also had a clear opinion on the matter although he did not know of IndyCar’s rule until it was brought to his attention:
“I didn’t know that was the rule in the US but I think it’s an intelligent rule that would avoid confusion,” Wolff said. “By any means, I don’t think that Charles put it in the wall [deliberately] today because there’s just too much at stake. But it would be a nice little incentive to make sure that the polemic that such a situation provokes is out of the question, is not happening because nobody would doubt it.”
Formula One now heads to Baku this weekend. This is the fastest street circuit on the F1 calendar, with the longest straight in Formula One (2.2km) and the narrowest section on the F1 calendar at just 7.6m. Therefore, the possibility of such an incident seen in Monaco being repeated is a strong possibility. Should this be the case, I fully expect the discussion over new qualifying crash rule regulations to be in the headlines for some time to come.
So, let’s hope for an incident free Baku qualifying session seeing how as Guenther Steiner said: ‘It’s worked for a long time as is, and it’s happened once.’