Lando Norris, McLaren, Imola, 2022

Should Formula 1 adopt IndyCar’s deleted lap times rule for causing red flags in qualifying?

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Last weekend’s Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix was the first sprint weekend of the 2022 Formula 1 season, seeing qualifying take place on Friday evening rather than the traditional Saturday.

In a qualifying session affected by rain across all three stages, the red flags were shown on a record five separate occasions – the most ever in a single three stage qualifying session since the format was introduced back in 2006.

However, rather than those responsible for triggering the red flag stoppages having their qualifying ruined by being the cause of a red flag, multiple drivers appeared to benefit from halting the session due to their own mistakes.

Carlos Sainz Jnr’s crash at the second Rivazza in Q2 may have put a stop to his qualifying, but it also effectively ended the entire second segment of the session as the rain began to fall during the subsequent red flag period that followed. With Sainz sitting second in the times when he spun, he effectively guaranteed his progression into Q3 and a starting position for the sprint race of at least tenth, while dooming those outside the top ten at the time to be eliminated.

In Q3, Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc were in the middle of what should have been their first timed laps of the final session when Kevin Magnussen slid off the track at Acque Minerali, causing the session to be stopped. However, Magnussen managed to avoid being beached in the gravel and pulled his car onto an access road at the end of the gravel trap, turning his car around before returning safely to the pits under the red flag. He would eventually rejoin the session and qualify fourth.

Kevin Magnussen, Haas, Imola, 2022
Magnussen took fourth in Imola qualifying despite causing a red flag
In the closing minutes of Q3 after another red flag for Valtteri Bottas stopping on circuit with an exhaust problem, Lando Norris spun on his out lap at the same part of Acque Minerali that Magnussen had spun earlier, prompting the fifth and final red flag that effectively ended qualifying. But with Norris in a provisional third place before the session had been restarted, his error meant he had effectively secured himself third on the grid for the sprint race.

The results of the heavily disrupted session led to heavy discussion among fans on social media, with many arguing that there should be penalties to prevent drivers from causing red flags in qualifying without any disadvantage, when the laps of all other drivers on the circuit are affected by them.

The example of Charles Leclerc taking pole position for his home grand prix in Monaco in 2021 after crashing at the exit of the Swimming Pool also stands out as a case of a driver’s mistake actually benefiting them by denying their rivals a chance to beat their previous times.

In IndyCar, however, a very different approach is taken to red flags that occur during qualifying compared to that used in Formula 1.

In the 2022 IndyCar Series rulebook, rule 8.3.4 states that “if a car causes a Red Condition [red flag] in any segment, the car’s best two timed laps of the segment shall be disallowed.” The rule also states that a driver who causes a red flag in a qualifying session cannot continue in the session and also may not be allowed to advance to the next stage of qualifying should their times be fast enough after their best two times are deleted.

So should Formula 1 consider emulating IndyCar in its approach to red flags in qualifying by deleting the two best lap times of drivers responsible for sessions being suspended?

For

The Norris incident at the end of Q3 in Imola is possibly the greatest example that could be used to argue for the introduction. By bringing out a red flag by spinning on his out lap, Norris prevented any of his rivals from being able to improve their times at the end of Q3 – not only denying Charles Leclerc an opportunity to challenge for pole position, but preventing anyone from taking his third position away.

Drivers in Formula 1 should not be rewarded for mistakes – especially not during the ultimate test of speed that is qualifying. By deleting the two best lap times for any driver deemed responsible for causing a red flag in a qualifying session, F1 would help to ensure that there are no ways to benefit from making a major mistake, or, even worse, exploiting the rules by deliberately trying to create a stoppage.

Against

The most important thing about red flags in any session is safety. A red flag should be called to ensure that any hazard on the race track can be dealt with promptly and safely without asking marshals to go out onto a live race track during the point where drivers will be at their fastest all weekend. If a driver is able to get going again after a spin or crash and rejoin a session, they should not be prevented from doing so as that in itself is an achievement.

There’s also the fact that in qualifying, drivers get 18, 15 and then 12 minutes in which to secure their place in the next session and their grid position. If a driver causes a red flag in the final moments of a session and prevents rivals from beating them, they likely had plenty of time prior to the stoppage to have set the quickest lap time they could instead of at the very end of a session.

I say

What seems to be a very easy and simple solution to a problem perhaps needs a bit more thought before it’s applied to Formula 1.

While cancelling lap times of drivers who cause red flags with ensure no one who crashes in qualifying will benefit from it, it also does not provide drivers who have had to abandon laps due to red flags with their laps back or with the session time lost as a result.

There’s also the question of whether the risk of losing two best lap times in a session will be too much of a deterrent in qualifying – especially with all the barrier-lined street circuits on the current calendar. Will drivers truly give 100% in those last-gasp Q3 laps in places like Monaco or Baku, where just a slight misjudgement can see them into the barriers and losing not just a chance at pole position, but their two best times too?

There’s certainly an argument to make that by taking away drivers’ best laps when they cause red flags, any risk of drivers trying to manipulate results in their favour by causing any deliberate hazards on the track.

Finally, there’s also the possibility that a driver will lose a well-earned position in qualifying due to a mechanical problem with their car causing a red flag through not fault of the driver – such as Alex Albon’s exploding brakes in Imola.

There is definitely a discussion to be had about preventing drivers from crashing their way to success in qualifying, but maybe a compromise solution would be better than adopting the current IndyCar rule like-for-like.



You say

Do you agree that Formula 1 should introduce IndyCar's 'two lap times deleted' red flag qualifying rule?

  • Strongly agree (22%)
  • Slightly agree (25%)
  • Neither agree nor disagree (3%)
  • Slightly disagree (12%)
  • Strongly disagree (37%)
  • No opinion (1%)

Total Voters: 125

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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  • 46 comments on “Should Formula 1 adopt IndyCar’s deleted lap times rule for causing red flags in qualifying?”

      1. Of course it immediately removes the doubt that for instances Norris binned it on purpose.

    1. Definitely not, it would mean drivers don’t push if they feel the chances of going faster are outweighed by crashing.

      A better option is to not penalise drivers who are on track during a red flag – I don’t think you can give them extra tyres but a red flag in the final 5 min of a qualifying session could easily see the clock reset to 5 minutes to allow everyone a further attempt to improve.

      1. I like this idea.
        Maybe add to it that the driver who caused the red flag must also sit out the rest of the session (in case the car can get going again).

        This way you are always encouraged to push, as previous good times won’t get deleted, but you also won’t benefit from others not being able to do a lap due to a mistake you make (i.e. Charles at Monaco).

        1. Yes, I like the sound of this.

      2. No, they’re still going to push all out. No one is going to worry about causing a red flag, because no one expects to. Possibly another IndyCar idea / rule copied by F1.

      3. Empirical evidence (IndyCar) would indicate that drivers do not resist “pushing”. It kind of makes little sense to “predict” different driver behavior than has always been shown to be the case in reality (again, evidence being IndyCar).

        1. There has actually been times in the past where drivers in Indycar have said they held a bit back because of the risk of losing a laptime if they made a mistake on tracks where causing red flags is more likely.

      4. @Kris Lord One can’t just increase a session length as pleases, as otherwise, the session might seem everlasting, especially when already being lengthy through weather conditions, not to mention they have to end sooner or later anyway.

      5. Ofcourse they are going for it even beter for us they are going to do 1-2 more laps to prevent this rule win win for us.

        Great idea it should be done before Monaco!

    2. Sometimes it seems that the session is Red Flagged unnecessarily and that is a problem. If an incident can be handled with a double yellow flag, do so. That effectively halts all fast laps and doesn’t cause a total stoppage. If it can’t be cleared in 30 seconds, call for a Red.
      Take Magnussen’s recent case, he spun, managed to keep it going and cleared the area himself. no real call for a Red Flag stoppage.
      In one of the more famous cases, Monaco with a Ferrari a number of years ago, that definitely deserved a more draconian approach.

      1. @rekibsn I agree. The red for Magnussen’s off definitely was unnecessary & hasty.
        He should’ve got given time to try & get re-going, which he eventually managed & without really any delay.

    3. I just don’t see a reason to implement this or change the way things are now.

      If somebody does something on purpose & you can prove it then penalise them, But if somebody makes an honest mistake while pushing flat out on the limit in qualifying (Which is surely what we all enjoy seeing them doing in qualifying) then the penalty is making the mistake, not been able to finish the lap & potentially improve there lap time as well as maybe damaging the car.

      Also what if you cause a red flag due to suffering from a mechanical issue or what if your spin/accident was caused by an outside factor such as damage caused by debris, Hitting a kerb or something like fluid laid on the track by another car or maybe trying to set a time on slicks on a drying track & just catching a wet patch or by been caught out by rain shower while out on slicks.

      1. Indeed @stefmeister, for me it seems an additional complication that solves little.

        If I think of, for example, Verstappens near pole in Mexico, which was great to see as an effort, but ultimately failed, without really hurting anyone else (I think), and had him still start 2nd. Should he lose that position too? Would that heal the damage anyone he was fighting for the position got from the flag, no.

        Not to mention that for time and tyre reasons, often a driver might only get a single, and usually only two laps in q3 at all,so losing one to a flag, and any other then too seems too much.

        If a driver strategically were to use a red (or yellow, right 2014 Rosberg) flag, stewards could, and have already punished that, famously with Schumachers Monaco corner block.

    4. Definitely not.

      Will just end up been an additional & completely unfair penalty for doing what you are supposed to do in qualifying which is push to the absolute limit. sometimes when you are pushing on the limit you will make a mistake, that is just a part of the sport & something i don’t think should suffer extra penalty.

      the sport is already over regulated enough as it is.

    5. No need.
      Any driver/team incapable of ending the session is naturally punished by not completing their own lap, and further punished by the budget cap if they sustain damage.
      If foul play can be proven, there are already rules and stewards decisions to take care of that.

      I think we need to move away from the idea of compensating everyone else when something happens.
      If anyone misses out on a second flying lap, then learn from it and go out earlier next time.
      That’s racing, as the saying goes.

    6. This is actually something F1 has looked at adopting in the past but which they ultimately feel there is no real need for as the belief is they have enough data & analysis tools available to them now (As well as what teams are able to do to compile & present additional data) that it’s easy to see when something is done intentionally and when it was a simple mistake.

      Indycar feel the need to have the lap time deletion as they don’t have access to the same amount of data or have the same sort of analysis tools available to them (Or the teams) so it’s much more difficult to judge if certain things were intentional or not.

      It’s something they have had since the 90’s in different forms & something that was introduced at a time when they didn’t always have TV coverage of qualifying, Didn’t have much data from the cars and where only a few cars carried onboard cameras. Back then judging incidents in qualifying was next to impossible so this came about as a deterrent. As coverage of qualifying & data available has got to where it is now, It’s probably something they wouldn’t introduce if it wasn’t already a thing as it’s less needed than it once was.

      1. @gt-racer No matter how much data they have, they won’t always be able to prove intent. Say you have provisional pole at Monaco, then you just go hell for leather on your second run. You drive at 120% knowing that you’re very likely going to crash, but otherwise do try to keep the car on track. If you crash, is that an obvious ‘professional foul’? The drivers would know how to push just that little bit over the limit and make a mistake that looks genuine.

    7. Back in my day, they had cranes strategically positioned around the track so dead and damaged cars could be removed quickly without the need for red flagging the session. Now get off my lawn!

      But really, it seems like Liberty have eliminated the trackside cranes to increase the chances of safety cars and an artificial closing of gaps. The byproduct of that is it leads to more read flags an as such I don’t think the drivers should be penalized for Liberty’s desire to manipulate the on-track drama.

      1. @velocityboy How many years has it been sincd trackside cranes were used in a race that wasn’t Monaco? Certainly well before Liberty took over – and that’d be the FIA’s jurisdiction anyway surely.

      2. @velocityboy if you are talking about fixed cranes then, as @ciaran notes, there aren’t actually many circuits where fixed cranes have been used to lift cars off the circuits.

        Monaco has used them, but that’s because the circuit has limited access for telehandlers and mobile cranes that force the use of fixed cranes at strategic points around the circuit. Furthermore, the abnormally short circuit length and narrow width means that a single fixed crane, which will have a limited arc over which it can traverse, can effectively cover a reasonable amount of the circuit from a single position. Other street circuits have sometimes made use of similar types of crane for similar reasons, but most permanent circuits make limited use of that type of crane.

        There is also the complication that most cranes – especially the fixed tower cranes type used in Monaco – cannot safely operate in high winds, and even relatively modest wind speeds create significant operating risks. If the circuit is being hit by stormy weather, then there is a good chance that the weather conditions would be severe enough that the cranes would not be allowed to operate due to the risk of damage or potentially even collapse. It means you are not able to rely on that crane being operational in all conditions, and there is a particularly high risk that you would be forced to suspend operations in the sort of weather conditions where a driver is most likely to have an accident (i.e. during a storm).

        If you are talking about the use of telehandlers instead, those are still used, but I suspect that there are different reasons for the more cautious use of those these days. In 2013, we had a marshal run over and killed by a telehandler whilst trying to recover Gutierrez’s car after the Canadian GP, and then in 2014 we had Bianchi’s fatal accident at the Japanese GP after he spun off and crashed into a stationary telehandler.

        With two fatal accidents involving the use of mobile cranes or telehandlers within a short period of time, it is plausible that there could be greater reluctance to use those types of equipment, particularly when the track was still live, given that it would create greater risks for the marshals and could potentially cause more serious legal action if there was another serious accident.

    8. I disagree with deleting legitimate lap times, which is a bit like rewriting history – since it’s all about the fastest lap set – but agree with drivers causing a red flag being prevented from competing any further in qualifying (if they can). I don’t see how that’s any more of a discouragement. If drivers are risking enough to cause a red flag, then they’re already willing to risk serious damage to the car, if not themselves.
      Whether drivers are deliberately causing red (or yellow) flags is another issue and near impossible to arbitrate as it’s always ultimately about ‘intention’ over minor inputs that could feasibly be accidental, i.e. there’s never enough proof.

      1. @david-br Any driver unable to get back to the pits under their own power is barred from competing in qualifying again anyway. It is very unlikely that a driver causing a red flag-worthy incident would be able to participate in the session again.

        1. @red-andy True! I guess that makes me basically in favour of doing nothing :oP

    9. How about this for a rule:
      During Q3, any red flag stoppage caused by a car slipping/sliding off the circuit and is not able return to the track under its own power, may be handled by that corners’ marshalls and return to the pits, on the track, under its own power safely, will be allowed to keep its posted lap times. Any car unable to return to the track will have its fastest lap time deleted and not be able to return to Qualifying. If less than 3 timed laps of the fastest lap posted so far that session is not remaining at the time of the red flag, that time of 3 laps will be added to the session after the red flag ends.

      It might not be popular with the powers that be on TV because it could run over its time slot and it wouldn’t help if the weather gods are throwing down rain but it would sure make for more exciting racing.

      1. Easier said than done. Sessions have to end eventually anyway, so one can’t just extend as pleases.
        @tinakori-road

        1. That’s easy to fix by stating no more that once or twice for Q3. Besides, when does Latifi ever make it to Q3.

      2. Due to lack of time and tyres, rarely do teams do three, let alone more, timed laps in any qualifying session, let alone q3 @tinakori-road

        1. Also easy to fix, add time and tires per a rule. It would make for more exciting racing, this sport could definitely use it. I used 3 extra laps because that’s what this years’ new aerodynamics rules seem to dictate for tires to get up to temp.

    10. Definitely in favor of this or something similar.

      It is infuriating how many times someone stops out on track during Q1 or Q2 and brings out a red flag, only to then progress through to the next stage of Qualifying at the expense of another driver. Thereby robbing us of a car on track during the next segment.

    11. Or just prolong the session for a couple of minutes when possible, so others can have another go. In every scenario things are not ideal and someone can affect the final results. Now the guy in first place can cause the red flag, with this rule someone could call red flag unnecessarily and punish the fastest driver for whatever reason (it’s often subjective if it should be yellow, double yellow or red flag). Even with this idea of mine those extra few minutes may change nothing (maybe it starts raining for example). Ultimately there’s no way to make it entirely fair.

      1. @Dex Undoable.

    12. There are very few simple solutions to problems, and this is another case. We don’t want drivers to refrain from a 100% qualifying push, especially in Q3, which IndyCar’s rule would dissuade. There could be consideration given to adding 2-3 minutes to a qualifying session if there’s a red flags in later stages, with the caveat of the red flag-causer to be ruled out of that extended period?

      1. @ciaran a potential thing i dislike about extending the session is the potential for it to give drivers a second shot.

        Think of this scenario for instance. Max is on provisional pole going into the last run & Leclerc makes a small error trying to beat Max’s time & is well off beating it as a result. Lando spins to cause the red flag when Charles is exiting the final turn, The session is extended & during the overtime Charles beats Max to get pole.

        In that scenario is it really right that Charles blows his initial final run & wasn’t hindered by the red flag but is then given a 2nd shot at pole because somebody else caused a red flag?

        Plus you have to consider things like tyres. Do you give them all a free set (at a time when pirelli wants to ship less to race weekend) or force them to use one from there existing selection which then has a knock-on effect in terms of race strategy.

      2. @ciaran Sessions have to end eventually anyway, so one can’t just increase the overall time as pleases.
        @stefmeister Spot-on.

    13. All valid points. With so much to gain and lose, neither the current approach or any proposed solution could possibly keep all parties happy. And having seen how split the poll is on this issue, it doesn’t look like any changes to the system would go down smoothly either!

      1. Sorry meant to be a reply to @stefmeister above

    14. I voted slightly agree. I think a rule to prevent drivers benefitting from a red flag they caused would be good, but maybe deleting two lap times is too harsh. Deleting one lap time so that they can keep a banker lap they set earlier seems a fair compromise. Also wouldn’t be against a red flag adding 2 minutes to the session to make sure drivers have time to set their laps and not have an anticlimactic end to qualifying. They won’t always have tyres for another run but you can’t account for everything.

      Also, though it would come up very rarely, in a situation like Magnussen’s where he initially caused a red but then was able to get going they could have an exception to this rule.

      1. @keithedin Extending session length is undoable as sessions have to end eventually anyway, so extending just because one pleases would risk seemingly everlasting sessions in some cases.

    15. +3 positions on the grid would be fine for me.
      Deleting 2 lap times is too much because the drivers often have only 2 attempts, sometimes even just one.

      Adding a couple of minutes for others would be great as well.

      1. @TT I disagree with extending a session for extending’s sake.

    16. Deleting 2 lap times is too much, 1 is sensible.
      Also seeing a lap time deletion AND the inability to continue to the next session is too much. The deletion of the last timed lapped should already prevent that from happening in most cases, and if the driver’s first of two previous timed laps is fast enough, then that’s a deserved qualifying progression.

    17. Why do I feel like this is merely a copy-paste from an article last season, either post-Monaco or Azerbaijan GP qualifying?
      People should stop pondering about this nonsense & should’ve by now already.
      Nothing needed, not even a discussion, as this is just another ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ matter.
      Drivers never (except in that one infamous case) crash deliberately nor try to manipulate (a la 2006 Monaco) in any way, so entirely pointless.
      Errors & accidents are possible when pushing on the limit as is the intention in qualifying, so penalizing for merely making an error would be unfair as I already pointed out less than a year ago.

    18. I said strongly agree. It’s nothing to do with people crashing on purpose or drivers being disadvantaged – it’s to do with increasing the difficulty and separating the great drivers from the good.

      For me, it ties in with the track limits argument. Where you have walls or grass, drivers go at 95% and then try to push towards 100% without stepping over the line. You can get a bit more out of the car but it’s a risk. The best can go at 100% consistently but the rest can’t.

      When you have massive tarmac runoffs, you can go at 105% and then dial it back until you stay on the track. It makes the process so much easier because there’s no risk – if you stray over the limit on one lap, you just go a bit wide and lose no time. It’s like tightrope walking at 100m vs tightrope walking 30cm off the ground with a crash mat underneath. You’ll go much quicker when there is less risk because if you fall off, you’ll just try again.

      If you can step over the limit in quali and the result is there’s a red flag and potentially, you qualify higher than you would have, there’s no risk…. Put a McLaren or an Alpine on provisional pole and there’s an incentive to do an all or nothing lap where you either go quicker or you spin off. It’s win/win.

      Some have said above that this rule would make people go slower in quali. The best certainly wouldn’t! If it creates a bigger gap between the best drivers and the worst, that’s a huge positive!

    19. This yes! Also quali sessions with red flag should get extended a tiny bit, say 4 minutes.

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