Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Monaco, 2021

F1 will consider adopting “intelligent” IndyCar rule in wake of Leclerc crash

2021 F1 season

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Formula 1 race director Michael Masi says an IndyCar-style rule penalising drivers for disrupting qualifying sessions could be introduced to the world championship.

The topic arose in the Monaco Grand Prix paddock after Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc secured himself pole position by crashing at exit of the Swimming Pool section of the circuit, while he already had the fastest time of the session.

Red flags were waved so Leclerc’s car could be retrieved, which prevented anyone from improving their lap times.

In IndyCar, drivers who bring out red flags – and, in some cases, yellow flags – in qualifying sessions are penalised by having lap times deleted. This prevents anyone from securing an advantageous grid position by deliberately thwarting the laps of others.

Speaking after the Monaco Grand Prix, Masi said F1 is prepared to consider a similar rule.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Monaco, 2021
Report: FIA certain of no foul play in Leclerc’s qualifying crash
“Like everything, when everything arises, the FIA, Formula 1 and the teams look at everything and consider on its merits.

“I know the IndyCar rule, which is also a rule in a number of other FIA international series and domestic championships around the world. And we will look at it and together with all of the key stakeholders, determine if it’s suitable or not.”

Last weekend was not the first time a driver has hit trouble at a critical moment in a Monaco qualifying session while provisionally on pole. Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher stopped on track at Rascasse in 2006, earning himself exclusion from the qualifying session and having to start from the back of the grid.

In 2014 Nico Rosberg was investigated over a similar incident when he went down the Mirabeau escape road, which prevented his pole position time from being beaten. The Mercedes driver was cleared, though his team mate Lewis Hamilton voiced suspicions at the time.

Report: Leclerc’s qualifying crash not deliberate like ‘Rascassegate’ – Alonso
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff was among those who suggested F1 should consider adopting IndyCar’s rule to prevent similar incidents in future.

“I didn’t know that that was the rule in the US, but I think it’s an intelligent rule that would avoid confusion,” Wolff said.

“By any means, I don’t think that Charles put it in the wall because there’s just too much at stake. But it would be a nice little incentive to make sure that all the polemic that such a situation provokes is out of question, is not happening because nobody would doubt.”

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Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching Photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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90 comments on “F1 will consider adopting “intelligent” IndyCar rule in wake of Leclerc crash”

  1. The irony is a red flag ending qualifying is a rare event as nearly every time its simply a yellow flag in sector x. If we’re gonna start deleting laps for yellow flags, we’re gonna see a lot of people with no lap times, especially if they delete more than 1 lap, given most only set 2 laps pers session.
    Given qualifying is the only time we see cars driven to 100%, I fear that drivers may now start peaking at 90% as the risk vs reward becomes less worth it.

    1. As I read it, the “intelligent” part is looking at the consequence of that flag. So if no one else lost time because of it? No matter.

      The important part is the driver with provisional pole not hammering it at 110% when he knows that losing the car wont affect him.

      1. I fundamentally disagree with this. Has he not earned the right to do exactly that? We have seen on Sunday that it has other potential consequences, so not something that will happen very often.

    2. Good point, if anyone was interested in ruining qualifying a yellow flag suffices.

    3. Gavin Campbell
      26th May 2021, 11:09

      I like it:
      Run Wide – Time Deleted
      Run Off Circuit causing a yellow – Fastest Time Deleted

      It adds to the skill and the risk vs reward – otherwise at places like Paul Ricard or Abu Dhabi there’s no jeopardy. If you have a decent banker and are in the top 4 you can throw caution to the wind – doesn’t really matter if you go wide or push too much. In fact its advantagous to run over the limit if you are in the front of the pack cause you’ll either secure a faster time or stop others from improving.

      Im not saying Drivers go off on purpose (Schumacher aside) but with no penalty to pushing, doubly so on modern circuits with car park run offs they will all adopt a different mentality.

      1. petebaldwin (@)
        26th May 2021, 11:32

        If I had even a tiny bit of faith in them to apply this rule consistently and fairly, I’d actually be interested in seeing it but they won’t so I’m not.

        I’ve said it before but F1 is a bit like tightrope walking with the rope placed on the ground at the moment. You can run along the length of the rope hoping to keep part of your foot in contact with the rope. Often you’ll fail but when you do, you just walk back to the start and try again. When you get it right, you’ll have got from one end to the other extremely quickly and the only way for others to beat you is to take the same approach. If the rope was 100m up, you’d never try to run across it because if you fell, there would be severe consequences. You’d have to build up your confidence and bravery by looking for the limits without ever going over them which is a much better test of your abilities.

        Obviously Monaco has walls but at other tracks, there is very little risk vs reward. It’s better to just go for it and hope it works – the worst-case scenario is you have a lap time deleted or over-heat your tyres.

    4. This ruling wouldn’t be needed if they scrapped Monaco what’s the point of this race the pole sitter is always going to win unless he makes a mistake there is no chance to overtake so drivers are just running for the sake of it

  2. Depends on who you are whether that is a good thing or not.

  3. The equivalent of the Indycar rule would probably mean double-waved yellows or red flags would see a laptime deletion.

    I think it’s worth introducing, it’s reasonably rare with F1 tracks being so forgiving so it’s unlikely to be used that often. If F1 is moving towards a strict “white lines” track limit policy, then drivers should already be driving below the limit so I don’t think it’ll take much away in that sense.

  4. Yet another more rule! There is nothing wrong with the current approach : blatant cheating (Rascassegate) is punished, errors are not

    1. This! Maybe if more and more drivers start to abuse the current system it would be worth thinking it about it but so far it’s absolutely fine.

  5. Knowing the FIA Stewards, they will penalise a driver who gets a puncture while attempting to set a qualifying time and then explain why they gave the benefit of doubt to the driver who spins the car in a 4mph corner.

    1. There’s that..

  6. Are they investigating the flexy front wings of the Mercedes yet?

    1. No, because the other teams like red bull front wing flex and he same or more. Your question is on the wrong story by the way.

      1. So illegal components should be allowed if other teams are also using them?

        1. they aren’t illegal because they passed all loading tests and were approved by the FIA. this whole thing is total BS whining.

    2. Matthew Lewis
      26th May 2021, 23:41

      Given that noone has submitted a protest against the legal front wing, no.

  7. I’m not sure about this.

    On the one hand blatant cheating should be punished (such as Monaco 2006), but honest mistakes should not. Who’s to say that any driver who was improving their laps in Q3 last weekend wouldn’t have made a mistake in sector 3 as well, thereby invalidating their claims they would have been on pole? If you listen to them, each of Verstappen, Bottas and Sainz were convinced they’d be on pole had Leclerc not crashed….they can’t all be right.

    It happens fairly often that the grid is set by drivers first runs in Q3 due to track/weather conditions, the fact of the matter is that drivers in Q3 get (in most cases) two timed laps and they have to perform in both of them.

    1. “Honest mistakes” can still be a problem, if it the provisional polesitter drives the car harder than he usually would, because he knows there is no consequence to himself for a spin (beyond a Leclerc-style crash) or having to take the escape road (see Monaco 2014).

      1. To which I would say, fair play, he did the best job in the first Q3 runs, so has earned the right to take more risks on the 2nd runs.

        1. Did he? He could have been the only one to set a fast time. Track conditions might change. Otherwise you might as well just put in a one-shot Q3 rule.

    2. If this is forced into F1 could there be a possibility that if you cause a red flag only your fastest time would be deleted. So if you have done two fantastic laps there should be a reward for that. I think if you crash into the wall there is enough damage for you and your team.

    3. @geemac

      Having honest mistakes being punished is the essence of competitive sports…

      1. @aapje good point

    4. @geemac Part of me agrees with you. I can understand why Verstappen, too, is opposed to any penalties. We want to see drivers on the limit. The walls at Monaco are punishment enough. Why give them an artificial reason to not push?

      On the other hand, if a driver never hears a team call to move over for a car on a hot lap and ruins their lap, that’s also an “honest mistake,” isn’t it? If, at the start of a race, a driver misses their braking point at the first turn, takes out several cars, and is able to carry on, should we not punish them because it’s “an honest mistake”? From that point of view, the deciding factor in penalties is usually not whether your actions were honest, but whether they deprived other drivers and teams of their chance to compete.

      Watching qualifying in IndyCar, it’s not like that rule makes them not push. Racing drivers are too competitive, and the rate of track evolution is too high to not push — unless they are so much faster they can take it easy, in which case, the rule wouldn’t make any difference.

    5. @GeeMac I can see a couple of potential problems with this rule. Like what about drivers who set a very good first run in Q3? They might not want to even risk running again because if they do cause a yellow (or red) for whatever reason, be it within their control or not, then they’ll lose the already good lap they have in the bank. So could we see a lot of cars just doing one early lap and then deciding not to risk another, leading to a different type of anti-climax?

      I wondered if a better solution might be to extend the duration of the session, certainly for red flag situations, so that rivals still have time to complete their laps. But this is an imperfect solution too as in addition to practical timing issues, the drivers might have also already used the best of their tyres and not have any fresh ones available to set a meaningful flying lap after a restarted session.

  8. No change is needed. The IndyCar rule would only make drivers push less for the smallest of lap time gains in fear of making an error, even a small one. A driver on provisional pole crashing isn’t any different from a driver in P10, P15, etc., crashing, so a double standard thinking, which is unfair.

    1. This rule change would affect all drivers so there is no double standard

  9. Sounds more like the FIA folk knee jerking to justify their salaries. I don’t know the situation in indycar but this is nonsense – the current arrangement works fine as indicated by Patrick above, experienced people judge the incident and deliberate stops are punished. It’s not broken, don’t fix it.

    1. Well it is broke though how is ruining other peoples qualifying times without penalty fair? The rule makes complete sense and many other series have the sense to use the rule and it works well.

      1. Both LeClerc and Ferrari were penalized, they didn’t have a second car in the race. That’s punishment enough. The article says drivers that “deliberately thwart the laps of others” which would be difficult to prove anyway. This rule would just be another that the stewards selectively enforce and cause even more speculation of favoritism.

  10. There is no reason such a mistake should be punished with penalties. Completely unnecessary knee-jerk reaction. Leclerc paid dearly for his mistake anyway, how would different rules have improved either session?
    Bottas and Verstappen didn’t qualify on pole because their lap wasn’t good enough. All the teams know that if someone makes a mistake at Monaco it is going to be a red flag. They took the risk to go out for a second lap as late as they could.

    1. Exactly, any driver that would deliberately crash their vehicle into the wall to “secure provisional pole” would do so at the risk of not being able to race at all. F1 is all about pushing the limits technologically, and physically on the track. Penalties for crashes like LeClerc’s would seemingly make drivers push less and result in more predictable qualifying sessions and repetitive and boring starting grids on race day.

  11. Rule seems to make sense.
    But with all changes it opens up other questions and ‘cans of worms’.
    – what if the team mate of the provisional pole sitter causes a yellow/red flag? Or
    – what if the driver/team are not at fault of causing a yellow/red flag (hit a stray dog)?
    – how differentiate between drivers who set a time before and those after such a flag?

    I’d keep it simple, and use the rules that exist today and be consistent.

    1. None of those are an issue really
      1) the team mate would lose their fastest time it’s not just pole that similar rules affects usually.
      2) an animal on track is reason enough to neutralise the session so the driver that hits it wouldn’t be at fault the session should already of been neutralised weather that be by VSC or red flags.
      3) I’m not sure what you’re asking here as every full lap is timed they’ll lose the best one what’s there to differentiate?

  12. Even the drivers that lost pole acknowledged it as an honest mistake and claimed there’s no need to delete his lap. But hey, let’s fix it!

    Still, I think the intelligent rule, if they do want to change something, was proposed by a fellow racefans reader, which said that maybe they should all get more time on the clock to try another time. Surely that’d put strain in the tyres available, but it’s their choice if they want to try again and beat pole.

    Of course it’ll depend on the schedule, but barriers are repared between sessions, so why not at the very end of Q3? just add 2 minutes to the clock after that and away we go. A true shootout for pole.

  13. Also one should note that the reason this problem exists in the first place is because it is an unintended consequence of the current qualifying format. I don’t think it is very fair to punish teams and drivers for that oversight.

  14. Why not simply require that the driver in provisional pole may start his last lap during the last 30s of Q3 if there is no risk of wheather change…

  15. petebaldwin (@)
    26th May 2021, 9:18

    No thanks – they’ll apply this rule inconsistently and it’ll just cause more controversy. One week someone will crash and not get penalised and the next week someone will have a technical issue and get all their times deleted.

    Does a drive lose his lap times if his brakes fail and he brings out a red flag? Does a driver get penalised if he brings out a yellow but it only affects someone who was down on their best lap time?

    The drivers (including those who were affected by Leclerc’s crash) pretty much all said they didn’t want this rule so it shouldn’t even be considered in my opinion.

    1. Exactly.

      Maybe, if drivers and teams are so worried about red or yellow flags, then maybe they’ll make a point of getting their drivers out earlier instead of the last second crush at the end that always involves the drivers out last having the risk that someone in front causes a yellow dues to going off track or a spin.

      Absolutely no need to change anything, nor do the teams or drivers seem to want it changed. Let’s not forget that Charles paid a pretty huge price anyway.

    2. @petebaldwin

      Does a drive lose his lap times if his brakes fail and he brings out a red flag?

      In the race he loses a bunch of points so why is it unthinkable that it costs in qualifying too.

  16. Toto’s comment is a bit strange. If the only benefit of this rule is to try and pacify smooth-brained troglodytes on the Internet who can’t tell the difference between a genuine mistake and a deliberate attempt at sabotage, then it probably isn’t a very good idea.

    1. I vote FOR this rule. Eliminates both cheating and the pesky last minute yellow.

      It requires strict no-exception enforcing though. Leaving it up to the stewards case-by-case is a recipe for disaster.

      1. I vote Against. Leclerc and Ferrari paid the ultimate penalty, a DNS, without any steward intervention. In an era of cost cap where teams cancel tire tests for fear of going over the cap, I think voluntarily binning the car into a wall has become prohibitively expensive. All drivers understand it could have been them, they all supported Leclerc. Why brake something that’s working fine?

    2. @red-andy
      I agree, as frankly I believe it’s creating a problem that didn’t exist. Cheating a la Schumacher has been caught whilst honest mistakes are left alone. This rule will create more confusion and there wasn’t anyone clamouring for a rule like this before this weekend. It’s a typical F1 knee jerk reaction and it’d be bad for the sport if it were introduced.

  17. Think about the side effects. f1 needs less rules not more.

    1. Amen!

    2. Do you really wanted to deprive the stewards for another chance to be inconsistent?

  18. Surely a middle ground of putting time back on the clock could be investigated, say 2x current pole time to allow new outlaps. I know that doesn’t solve an issue over the fact that a final set of soft tyres may have been compromised anyway.

    I think the solution proposed is unnecessary, it is generally obvious when someone does this on purpose. Also given the effective punishment of DNS that Leclerc received for his red flag, people are going to think twice about putting the car in the barrier on purpose. Also with the cost cap now in place, expensive repairs are the last thing that teams need, certainly front running teams at least.

  19. Although at the time I pointed out the potential option of introducing this Indycar rule, I think perhaps Formula E’s rule is better, in which the session is extended only for the drivers impeded by the flag to run again. OK, so their tyres are a bit 2nd hand, but it’s a reasonable balance that doesn’t prevent drivers from pushing 100%.

    1. But that doesn’t work since the tyres really only have one attempt of maximum performance in them. And they would have been used by then.

  20. AJ (@asleepatthewheel)
    26th May 2021, 10:14

    Typical kneejerk F1 reaction. There’s absolutely no need to tweak anything. Luck is one of the variables in the championship and if someone gets caught out by a yellow/red flag, then so be it.
    If they have to introduce a rule for the sake of it, I’d suggest an alternative only for Monaco where there is a provision for an extra Q3 run in case someone decides to park or deliberately bin it. Neither is there a circuit on the calendar which provides as much incentive for pole as Monaco (probably Singapore?), nor have I heard of drivers crashing at other circuits to get pole.
    I know there’s going to be tyre issues and other loopholes, but it is way better than deleting all their lap times of that session. There’s no way to determine whether a driver crashed out on purpose or it was an accident.

  21. Horrible idea! There is absolutely no need for such a rule. Drivers punish themselves by wrecking their car already. They don’t need to be additionally punished for their error by race direction.
    How about instead just reset the clock to 3 minutes (if the time has run out). That way drivers, who were disadvantaged by the red flag, would have a chance at improving their times. Punishing one driver doesn’t help the other drivers (except that they would probably move one place higher up the grid).

  22. i wouldn’t worry to much, they’re still trying to get track limits right.

  23. F1 has far more serious issues in qualifying, mostly the idiotic, slow unsafe driving that has happened at courses like Monza that doesn’t get punished.

    Or how top drivers don’t get punished for blocking driver’s on a fast lap(watch Q1 at Monaco again and see)

  24. 😡😡The rule is fine. It’s just Monaco, and drivers have to make the first laps count. That is part of the pressure in qualifying, to get a good first lap.

  25. I vote FOR this rule. Eliminates both cheating and the pesky last minute yellow.

    It requires strict no-exception enforcing though. Leaving it up to the stewards case-by-case is a recipe for disaster.

  26. slowmo (@slowmo)