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Formula 1 Austrian GP

Verstappen escapes punishment for Austrian GP outlap slow driving

Red Bull driver faced stewards’ investigation for his actions but has been cleared as they did not impact a rival F1 driver

Pole man Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, in Parc Ferme after Qualifying

Pole man Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, in Parc Ferme after Qualifying

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Max Verstappen has escaped punishment for driving unnecessarily slowly ahead of his final lap in the 2024 Austrian Grand Prix Formula 1 qualifying.

The Red Bull driver took a commanding pole position at his team’s home track on Saturday afternoon but was swiftly placed under investigation for going so slowly out of the pitlane ahead of his final flying lap that his engine began to stutter.

This fell under Article 33.4 of F1’s sporting rules, which states “at no time may a car be driven unnecessarily slowly, erratically or in a manner which could be deemed potentially dangerous to other drivers or any other person”.

The matter has been seen on many occasions in the last year, with the FIA and drivers informally agreeing it was better for them to go slowly or even stop in the pitlane as this is deemed better than possibly impeding faster cars when trying to build gaps on out-laps in qualifying.

But as Verstappen seemed to go slow even as he passed the pit exit line, the stewards felt “this type of incident could in different circumstances potentially prevent other drivers from setting a lap time at the end of a session, the stewards recommend that consideration be given to setting a maximum gap time during qualifying”, per the FIA document announcing their decision.

After viewing onboard video and timing data, the stewards opted to take no further action as “despite the fact that Car 1 exited the pits slowly and made up a gap of approx 14 seconds to the car in front of him, the stewards determine that in this case no other car was directly affected by this in their attempts to set a lap time”.

The statement added: “In addition to that, it is noted that other cars were making similar gaps on track at this point in time.”

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB20

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

The investigation into Verstappen’s driving follows Esteban Ocon’s Austria SQ3 out-lap slowing – much further around the lap compared to the world champion – that meant Sergio Perez and Pierre Gasly had their final fliers in that session compromised.

Ocon, who also drove slowly after passing the pitlane exit line, was not investigated over the incident and indeed many other drivers have appeared to do as Verstappen did across the Austria weekend so far.

Elsewhere, Mercedes has been fined €5,000 for Lewis Hamilton dragging a jack and an exhaust extractor into the pitlane when he exited his garage as Q3 commenced.

“The stewards acknowledge that the team immediately informed the driver to stop to prevent any further damage and/or dangerous situation,” per the relevant FIA bulletin.

Haas has also been reprimanded for Nico Hulkenberg’s Q1 incident of cutting into the pitlane fast lane queue, with no further action being taken for the second such incident involving the German driver and – in the second case – Red Bull’s Sergio Perez in Q2.

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