Formula 1 teams now face a penalty threat if any of their personnel climb the pitwall fence during chequered flag celebrations, Motorsport.com can reveal.
The move effectively brings the end to a long-standing tradition of team staff waving their successful cars home at the end of races, and will come into force from this weekend’s 2023 Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park.
It follows a situation last time out in Jeddah where team personnel from Red Bull and Aston Martin were spotted climbing to the top of the lattice metal debris fencing that lines the Saudi Arabian street track, and is in place at most venues F1 visits, as they respectively celebrated Sergio Perez, Max Verstappen and Fernando Alonso securing the podium positions.
Team staff were also spotted climbing to the top of the pitwall debris fence and leaning over the track in the Bahrain season-opener – scenes that are not uncommon in modern F1.
The new enforcement development began in Melbourne with the release of F1 race director Niels Wittich’s pre-weekend event safety notes, which included the line “it is forbidden to climb on pitwall debris fence at any time” and referenced Appendix H, Article 2.3.2 of the FIA’s International Sporting Code – rules that are enforced across the motorsport categories sanctioned by the governing body.
Part of the rule that covers this particular situation regarding climbing pitwall fences states that “team personnel are only allowed in the pit lane immediately before they are required to work on a car and must withdraw as soon as the work is complete”.
It continues: “It is forbidden for personnel to climb on pitwall debris fences at any time. Any action by a team breaching this ban will be reported to the stewards.”
This means that the new situation facing F1 teams in not a new rule introduction but can be considered a stricter interpretation of Appendix H, Article 2.3.2. If any team members are now spotted breaching the regulations then the team concerned will be referred to the stewards, who will be asked to consider whether a punishment is required.
It is thought highly unlikely that any such resulting penalty would impact the race result of a driver a team was celebrating, but nevertheless a punishment such as a fine has a challenging new context for teams withing F1’s current cost cap era.
A notable point relating to this new development is that at the Melbourne race it is actually impossible for team personnel to get into the dangerous circumstances that were spotted in Jeddah.
The debris fencing lining most pit straights at top FIA Grade One-certified tracks goes up vertically and then angles over the track in an effort to stop any dropped or loose parts flicking up and flying into the pitlane – and this is mirrored on the opposite side to protect fans in the grandstands.
But instead of grated metal fencing being used, Melbourne's pit straight is lined with thick glass panels to allow fans a better view of the action in the pitlane, which means the ‘footholds’ provided by typical metal debris fencing are not present and so no-one can climb high.
Even with Appendix H, Article 2.3.2 now being policed in a different way, it is understood that team members will still be allowed to lean out of the larger gaps in all pitwall protection systems – required to show pitboards to drivers – at the end of races so long as this doesn't go to an extreme length and remains safe.
The FIA is understood to have acted to remind the teams that climbing debris fences is forbidden – although it has in effect been allowed for many years given Appendix H, Article 2.3.2 has not previously been used to threaten penalties so overtly – as it considered the potentially grave consequences of a person falling onto a track where cars are passing by at high speed and often close to the pitwall in celebration moves at the end of races.
The governing body has also acted to remove the dangers of any person climbing high on pitwall debris fencing and potentially dropping an item onto the track and therefore endangering the drivers flying by.