The FIA is looking to test a new system of deleting laptimes achieved when drivers go through a double yellow flag zone in practice and most importantly during the qualifying sessions.
The first test could take place in the next round of the 2021 Formula One season, the United States Grand Prix, which is scheduled to be held at Circuit of the Americas on October 24. At this times drivers have to slow and not record a meaningful laptime when they pass double yellows.
This situation can at times lead to controversy, as happened with Alipne’s Fernando Alonso in the qualifying session at Istanbul Park. The former Ferrari driver entered a double yellow zone at the start of his first flying lap and, having completed the lap at a competitive pace that was comparable with others running at the time, he was reported to the stewards. Alonso did not receive any penalty after the stewards noted that his next flying lap was over three seconds faster.
However, some rivals who abandoned laps due to yellows insisted that Alonso had set a meaningful laptime, especially in the context of the threat of rain meaning that the first lap could have been important.
The stewards did consider that, but discounted it because the session remained dry and lap times improved.
After discussions with teams on Sunday in Istanbul, Michael Masi intends to remove any doubts which could tempt drivers to complete a fast lap by automatically deleting their times, following a similar principle to that already used in relation to track limits offences.
“Let’s see what we do in Austin,” said Masi when asked by Motorsport.com if such a system could be introduced – “We’ve done it when it happens for track limits. We can investigate what areas will work best, and just make sure that there’s no unintended consequences. It sounds on the face of it that it could be a good resolution. But you just need to talk through it all. We’ve got a sporting advisory committee [meeting] scheduled anyway this week, and that’s one of the ones on the agenda. There’s probably a little bit of tweaking of wording that we can do. It’s been as it has been for quite a while, and [after] some discussions today there’s some refining that we can probably do to make it clearer for everyone.” – he explained.
Asked if a deleted times system could be trialled as early in practice in Austin, Masi said “quite possibly,” stressing that a test would not be difficult to sanction.
“It’s in my event notes. It’s not even a regulation change. It’s effectively, the legal terminology would be, it’s a test. So you need to comply with the requirements within the ISC [International Sporting Code], complying with double yellow flags. But effectively to prove that you’ve done that, the test is being meaningful lap times scenario. So we’ll have a look, probably trial something else in Austin, and see where we go.” – Michael Masi concluded.