The simple solution to F1’s grid delay ‘vacuum’




But while arguments over the pros and cons of the penalty system seem to rage forever, one thing the paddock seems united on is that a long wait for a confirmed grid order is not a good look for a modern sport like F1.

The nearly four-hour wait on the provisional grid at Monza led to anger on social media and criticism of some of the antiquated ways things are run.

While it may be a matter of opinion, what the events at Monza have done is reopen a debate about what can be improved in the future and added new impetus to what understands will be an analysis within the FIA ​​this winter about how things can improve as the sport moves into 2023.

Instead of delayed grid confirmations being a major problem hanging over the sport, the solutions are actually quite easy.

Italy confusion

At Monza, when qualifying ended just after

Max Verstappen’s five-place grid drop from 2nd on the grid meant the Dutchman was pretty confident about where to start.

“I think it’s P7. Unless I’m stupid,” he said. “But I think it’s P7. No, seventh. You must read the rules.”

But rival teams weren’t so sure, with some teams throwing around their predicted order for Verstappen to shuffle back to fourth thanks to Carlos Sainz, Sergio Perez and Lewis Hamilton also moving back.

Down in the TV pen, Fernando Alonso reckoned he would start from 7th, which Verstappen reckoned he would have.

Some journalists and broadcasters boldly made their predictions for how the web would shake up, only to be quickly forced to correct it when the official confirmation came.

AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly also took to Twitter to ask if anyone knew where he would start

“Can someone tell me in what position I will start tomorrow’s race?” he asked.

In the end it took until 8.45pm for the FIA ​​to issue a grid. (Although 10 minutes later the governing body issued a corrected version, removing the word ‘final’ from its document and changing it to ‘provisional’)

For a sport as groundbreaking as F1, enjoying a massive boom in popularity, it falls far short that fans, drivers and teams are forced to wait almost four hours to be absolutely sure of the grid order. norm.

Photo by: Zak Mauger / Motorsport Images

How the system works

The long wait for a provisional grid to be issued is partly triggered by the strict processes and rules the sport operates under each weekend.

Official timing data (which is carried out by the FOM) is passed to the FIA, after which the governing body goes through a designated system to produce the grid.

There were some murmurs at Monza on Saturday night that the FOM had arrived too late to supply this data to the FIA, but senior sources are adamant that was not the case and everything was being dealt with as normal.

The FIA’s on-site staff duly work through the processing of the penalties to create the grid order, while scrutineering is carried out to ensure the cars are compliant.

Only when everything is in order does the provisional grid then go to the stewards for a check and approval before issuing its first formal document – a provisional grid on Saturday evening.

However, sources have suggested that matters were not helped in the hours after qualifying by several teams – one after the other – lobbying the stewards over how the penalties should be applied in an attempt to move their drivers up the order.

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The vacuum problem

Interestingly, there is no requirement for the FIA ​​to announce anything regarding the grid until a few hours before the race. The Saturday evening provisional net is an informal arrangement.

Article 41.5 of the FIA ​​Sporting Regulations states: “The starting grid for both the sprint session and the race will be published at least four (4) hours before the scheduled start of the formation lap.”

Usually, with many races having only one or two penalties, it is quite simple for the grid drops to be worked out, so the dependence on the FIA’s document is not so great.

But when things get as complicated as they were at Monza – with nine drivers facing penalties for multiple reasons – then there is a greater onus on the FIA ​​to provide a more definitive answer.

With that answer not coming for many hours, and there being widespread confusion in the pitlane and among fans about exactly how the grid would be interpreted, it leaves what McLaren boss Andreas Seidl has referred to as a ‘vacuum’.

Seidl suggested that the Monza delay in the production of the grid should be something that is taken on board and discussed between the competitors and the sport’s bosses in the future.

“I agree, it’s probably a good idea that we should discuss, just to avoid this vacuum of having firm confirmation of what the provisional network is like,” he said.

“It’s a good idea, I think it’s something we’ll take up to discuss, because in the end it’s not a big problem to lay out a temporary net. So wait for the parc ferme to be over, reconfirm the grid and then everyone else early on what we look like.”

With FIA president Mohammed Bin Sulayem holding a meeting with F1 sports leaders and officials on Monday, there is a chance the matter could be taken up fairly quickly.

Andrew Seidl:

Andreas Seidl: “I think this is something we will take up to discuss, because in the end it is not a big problem to lay out a provisional grid … just to avoid this vacuum.”

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

An answer to the problem

The solution to the problem of a delayed grid response is not that complicated, and a simple algorithm could be created to help produce what the grid should look like the second the qualifying checkered flag came out.

The FIA ​​knows exactly how the penalty system works – with drivers now being locked in for their grid-drop rather than subsequently shuffling back up as each penalty is applied in turn – so in theory it should be fairly straightforward for it to produce a preliminary document moments after Q3 ends.

Such a document would not be required to have any legal value and would always be subject to cars passing inspection, just as the provisional race result does.

But sketching an indication of what the grid should look like at that moment would certainly serve to avoid the confusion that marred Saturday night at Monza.

A simple tweak to the rules – allowing the stewards to issue this document as an attempt to help inform the wider world – would, in theory, be a formality for all the benefits it would bring.

Because when F1 and the FIA ​​have done so much right with the on-track spectacle in the midst of the new rules era, it is important that the sport also does a good job with its off-circuit processes.



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