George Russell, Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon have all been hit with two-place grid penalties following infringements during qualifying for the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.

All three were found guilty of impeding competitors in the pitlane by driving unnecessarily slowly and not keeping as far to the left of the pit exit as possible when doing so.

The news comes in the wake of a new FIA directive issued for this weekend that sought to prevent drivers from tripping over each other in the pitlane.

In Singapore, Max Verstappen escaped with a reprimand for stopping in the fast lane of the pits.

Meanwhile, at last weekend’s Mexico City Grand Prix, Russell, Verstappen and Fernando Alonso all escaped with a warning for blocking the pitlane when trying to circumvent the FIA’s imposed maximum lap time limit and build a gap to the car ahead.

Yesterday, race director Neil Wittich issued a directive banning drivers from going unnecessarily slow in the fast lane of the pitlane, extending to stopping.

“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,” yesterday’s directive added.

Esteban Ocon (FRA), Alpine F1 Team
03.11.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 21, Brazilian Grand Prix, Sao Paulo, Brazil, Qualifying Day.
–, EMail: © Copyright: Charniaux / XPB Images

Interlagos’ tight and winding pit exit proved tricky for some as Russell, Ocon and Gasly all fell foul of the new directive and have each been handed two-place grid penalties.

“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,” read each of the trio’s documents concerning their respective incidents.

All drivers were found to have slowed to create a gap to the car ahead in the pitlane, but their positioning was deemed to prevent cars behind from being able to overtake as intended.

“[RUS/OCO/GAS] was exiting the pits, preparing for an out-lap. [All three] 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.”

A two-place drop for Russell means the Briton will start Sunday’s race from eighth position, promoting Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz.

Further back, Ocon will head the Alpine pairing, who now start 14th and 15th after losing out to Kevin Magnussen and Alexander Albon as a result of their penalties.

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