It was announced yesterday by the FIA race director Charlie Whiting that drivers who are speeding under yellow flags in qualifying will now red flag sessions rather than showing double-waved yellows.
At the Hungarian Grand Prix last weekend, Nico Rosberg was investigated by the stewards for speeding under double-waved yellows during his qualifying lap. Although the stewards decided not to take any action, the incident sparked a debate among drivers over how hard they should be pushing when yellow flags are being shown for incident on track.
To avoid any doubt and remove the decision from the stewards, qualifying sessions will now be red flagged if an incident occurs that was previously worthy of double-waved yellows. Such incidents in races and practice sessions will still result in Virtual Safety Car periods as is currently the case.
In a statement to the media yesterday, Whiting stated the following:-
‘Ever since we had the Virtual Safety Car in 2015 and then this year we use it in free practice — well, we can use it in qualifying really but we tend now to stop if there is going to be a yellow flag for any length of time.
‘The reason we didn’t show a red flag in Hungary was simply that session had ended but some cars were behind Alonso’s car and some in front, so I think the procedure would be to red flag any time there is a double waved yellow flag. Then there will be no discussion.
‘It just removes the discussion about how much you’re slowing down. The stewards accepted Nico’s explanation, and looked at the data and felt that he had slowed down. But then the question is ‘did he slow down enough? What is enough?’. If you can’t set a time, then that’s that. It removes all that subjective discussion.”
When asked if there was a danger a driver might spin on purpose in order to cause a red flag and prevent other drivers going quicker, Whiting added the following:-
‘I think we would be able to see that happening and I don’t think that is any different to now because it could happen at any time, couldn’t it? If you see what I mean: just a yellow is normally enough to prevent a driver improving but what we saw in Hungary it wasn’t quite enough.’
The new procedure will be in place from this weekend’s German Grand Prix onwards.