After the first qualifying segment at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez had been suspended following Lance Stroll’s heavy crash at the Peraltada midway through Q1, the remaining cars began to queue at the end of the pitlane when the near half-hour stoppage was about to end.
The queue featured the two Haas cars stopped in the fast lane in front of the Williams garage, with Russell and Latifi then pulling out to sit beside and pointing towards their rivals before the pitlane exit light went green and Q1 resumed.
When it did, Latifi moved in front of Nikita Mazepin and Russell was partway alongside the Russian driver too as they accelerated out of the pitlane, before the soon-to-be Mercedes driver slotted in behind him.
It was announced after Q1 had finished that the stewards would investigate the Williams pair over a possible breach of Article 28.7 of F1’s sporting rules, which states: “Any car(s) driven to the end of the pitlane prior to the start or re-start of a practice session must form up in a line in the fast lane and leave in the order they got there unless another car is unduly delayed.”
But the stewards decided that they “accept the team’s explanation that, unless they are first to move to the fast lane, the positioning of their garages which are located at the end of the pitlane makes it impossible for their cars to join the end of the line of cars already there”, per the FIA documents announcing neither driver would be sanctioned.
The document also stated that stewards “also accept that it is difficult for the driver, having moved out of his garage, to determine exactly where he should filter into the line of cars once they start to leave the pitlane”.
Nicholas Latifi, Williams FW43B
Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images
Several F1 qualifying sessions have been disrupted this season alone and Williams’ garage is always placed near the pitlane exit light as result of its last place finish in the 2020 constructors’ championship.
Dave Robson, Williams’ head of vehicle performance, said this issue had been discussed amongst F1 team sporting managers after the Turkish GP.
“It was subsequently discussed by the team managers and there isn’t really anything else you could do,” Robson said when asked by Autosport what else Williams is supposed to do in such a scenario given its regular garage position.
“Hence why we’re a little bit baffled that we have to go and see the stewards.”
Robson added that Williams was “not entirely sure why it’s such an issue”.
“The rules are that you have to leave the pitlane in the order that you got there,” he said.
“Obviously when there’s a queue in the fast lane, they’re blocking our way and it’s a bit awkward to get out.
“But I think what we did was the best we could do and the safe and correct thing to do.”
Separately, Alfa Romeo driver Kimi Raikkonen has been reprimanded for crossing and recrossing the pitlane entry line after coming across the aftermath of Stroll’s crash and then going on to do an extra lap with the red flags flying at the end of his own first flying lap in Q1.
Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo Racing C41
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
Raikkonen said the incident was “pretty much the same as in Austria [last] year”, where he was approaching the pit entry at the Red Bull Ring when Q1 was suspended after his team-mate Antonio Giovinazzi crashed and dropped debris on the pit straight.
“[Again] I was kind of on the pit entry on my fast lap when the light came on,” Raikkonen continued.
“Sometimes they get upset if you don’t try to go there. And then I thought I’d go over the line just to make it more clear, but I decided to go back.”
Raikkonen was also reprimanded on Friday – his first of the season – for not going to the left of the bollard behind Turn 2 after going off at Turn 1 during FP1, as was Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton.