Following a post-qualifying meeting with race stewards, George Russell has been hit with a two-place grid penalty for “impeding” during qualifying at the Formula 1 São Paulo Grand Prix.
The penalty comes in the wake of race officials issuing new guidance for drivers prior to qualifying in an effort to combat potential “impeding” penalties. The reason? During qualifying for the Mexico City Grand Prix three drivers — including Russell — were asked to meet with race officials after they were found holding up traffic on pit lane, in an attempt to find the right spot on the track for their qualifying runs.
The three drivers were each cleared of their conduct and no action was taken, as race stewards noted the “contrary requirements” of respecting minimum times, creating a safe gap to cars in front, and not holding up traffic behind them.
The Race Notes issued on Thursday contained this language:
As per article 33.4 of the Formula 1 Sporting Regulations, drivers are not allowed to go unnecessarily slow, that includes stopping a car in the fast lane of the pit lane. During Shootout and Qualifying, drivers may create a gap between the pit exit lights and the SC2 line. Any driver who wishes to do so must drive as far to the left as possible to allow other drivers to pass them on the right side of the pit exit road.
However, during qualifying Russell exited the pits and slowed down to create a gap for himself on the track. According to the decision from race officials, Russell “did not manage to stay completely to the left. As a result, following car(s) were not able to overtake, as intended by the Race Director’s instructions. This clearly violates the wording and the spirit of Item 14 of the Race Director’s Event Notes.”
As a result, Russell will start the São Paulo Grand Prix in eighth position, and not sixth where he qualified.
Russell is not the only driver facing such a penalty. Race officials also summoned Pierre Gasly and Sergio Pérez for similar violations, although no decisions have been reached in their cases.