George Russell, Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly have been hit with
two-place grid penalties for Sunday’s São Paulo Grand Prix after
being found guilty of pit-lane impeding. Following Max Verstappen’s
reprimand at the Singapore Grand Prix – which the stewards conceded
was lenient – and then multiple drivers, including Russell, being
let off without penalty in Mexico for stopping in the pit lane last
weekend, FIA Race Director Niels Wittich imposed a directive
stating no driver could stop in the fast lane to create a gap. The
situation has been created by the maximum lap times introduced to
stave off safety concerns from drivers backing up in the final
sector as they attempt to obtain free air for qualifying efforts.
But with Interlagos’ unique pit lane, drivers were instructed a gap
could be created in the pit exit, before the second Safety Car
line, as long as they kept well to the left of the track to allow
other drivers to pass. Russell, however, fell foul of the new
directive in Q1 and following his penalty, the Mercedes driver will
now start Sunday’s race from eighth on the grid. Russell ‘violated
spirit’ of rules The stewards’ report read: “In order to avoid
situations like the ones that occurred in Mexico, the Race
Director’s Event Notes for this event contained a specific clause
(item 14) stipulating that it was permitted to go slow in the pit
exit to create a gap before crossing the SC2 line, however, by
doing so, a driver must stay as far to the left as possible to
allow other drivers to pass on the right side. ” RUS was exiting
the pits, preparing for an out lap. RUS went slow to create a gap
for a clear lap, but 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.” Ocon and Gasly fell foul of the same
breach and having qualified alongside each other, will now drop
behind Kevin Magnussen to start 14th and 15th.

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