SportF1Why did the race end a lap earlier than...

Why did the race end a lap earlier than Alpine thought?

The Suzuka race was red-flagged after just two laps due to poor weather conditions from rain, and did not resume until two hours later. And with just under 40 minutes remaining in the three-hour maximum time that can elapse between the start and finish of a suspended F1 race, it was impossible to run the entire race.

But although the teams had a rough idea of the length of the race, they were surprised by the exact lap it would finish on.

In keeping with the two-hour limit on an F1 race, the rules are clear that once that limit is reached, the lead driver will have to complete one more lap before seeing the checkered flag.

Article 5.4 of the F1 sporting regulations regarding the end of a race states: “In the event that two hours elapse before the scheduled race distance is completed, the end of session signal will be shown to the leader when he crosses the line. control at the end of the lap following the lap in which the two-hour period ended, provided that this does not mean that the programmed number of laps is exceeded”.

So some teams hoped that once the three hours between the first start and the finish were over, there would be one more lap before the checkered flag.

That was something that Alpine expected, as Fernando Alonso was trying to come back after putting on new tires and, after passing Nicholas Latifi and George Russell, he was about to overtake Sebastian Vettel.

Alpine sporting director Alan Permane said his team was surprised that the race ended a lap earlier than expected.

“I think the race was stopped a lap earlier, the checkered flag was a lap earlier than it should have been,” he said. “I think when Max crossed the finish line, there was still about five seconds left on the clock, and then they put the checkered flag on the next lap. So I think if the race had gone the distance that we thought it was going to to get there, I would have managed to overtake Sebastian”.

Sebastian Vettel, Aston Martin AMR22, Fernando Alonso, Alpine A522

Alpine weren’t the only ones to think so though, as even Max Verstappen and Red Bull seemed to be caught off guard that the checkered flag went up when it did.

Despite the race systems showing him as the winner and the checkered flag being displayed, Verstappen pushed on unsure if the race was over.

After arriving at the Degner corners , Verstappen’s engineer, Gianpiero Lambiase , said: “Well, Max, there seems to be some confusion as to whether the race is over. We think so. But make it to the finish line.”

Charles Leclerc also had to ask Ferrari: “Is it over?”

Further back, McLaren asked Daniel Ricciardo to maintain speed after the checkered flag, as he was not entirely sure what had happened.

McLaren team boss Andreas Seidl said: “The checkered flag came out at the right time, but we saw Max Verstappen still going flat out after he crossed the line, so I don’t know exactly what happened there.”

“We all agreed [on the pit wall] that that was the checkered flag. But as Max kept pushing, at first we said let’s play it safe and keep going too, because maybe there was something we had missed.” .

In the end, the answer to why the checkered flag at the Japanese GP came out earlier than some teams anticipated was due to the specific wording of the regulations.

While the two-hour limit in the regulations mentions an extra lap, the three-hour limit for an event speaks to a different ending.

Regarding the time limits, article 5.b says “In case the race is suspended (see article 57), the duration of the suspension will be added to that period up to a maximum total race time of three hours” .

Without any reference to the need to do an extra lap, the three-hour window means that as soon as the time limit is reached, the checkered flag is raised for the race leader. And that is exactly what happened.

However, like the confusion over points allocation that marred the aftermath of the Japanese GP, this three-hour rule could be changed over the winter to align with the way the two-hour limit of a race is managed. normal.

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