MONZA: Eight drivers were called to the Monza stewards’ office before Saturday’s qualifying session at the Italian Grand Prix after a high-speed near-miss involving six-time world champion Lewis Hamilton in final practice.
Hamilton had to swerve his Mercedes instantly and run off across grass on the side of the track as he avoided two slower cars running side by side on the approach to the Parabolica.
Hamilton had moved to pass a train of drivers on the straight, all of them running slowly in search of clear air to assist a choice of slipstreaming opportunities ahead of a fast flying lap.
As a result of the incident, when Hamilton changed direction at around 300 kph, he was summoned along with Nicholas Latifi, Romain Grosjean, Sergio Perez, Pierre Gasly, Lance Stroll, Alex Albon and Carlos Sainz to explain what happened.
The two practice days at the event were dominated by discussions about such incidents at the fastest circuit on the F1 calendar, where drivers all seek a ‘tow’ behind teammates and rivals before entering the main straight.
Last year’s qualifying session was ruined by extraordinary and farcical scenes in the final minutes of Q3 when drivers held back for so long most of them ended up failing to record a final lap.
As a result, the International Motoring Federation (FIA) this weekend introduced a minimum time of one minute and 43 seconds for all cars on their slow out-laps.
Sainz who was second fastest in final practice for McLaren behind Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas said: “It’s clear that everyone is going to be looking for slipstreams and it could create a bit of chaos.
“As long as we can all do our qualifying laps, then messing around with tows is part of the show – so I don’t care if it is too much of a show. What we all want is safety – and to get all our laps.”
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen said: “You will see in qualifying that everyone will be going for the tow. It depends a bit on how you are going on your out lap, but expect that this will cause a lot of chaos.” – AFP