The FIA will reconsider its parc ferme procedures following a stewards investigation into people blocking Esteban Ocon’s entry into the pit lane on the final lap of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Ocon had started the race from pit lane and run the first 50 laps on a set of hard tires hoping that a late red flag or safety car would grant his a free or cheap route into the points.
With no sign of an incident as Sergio Perez started the final lap, the Frenchman was called into he pits to concede defeat on the strategy and make his mandatory tire change.
But when he entered pit lane, having navigated the entry chicane at more than 100 miles per hour, he was greeted by a crowd of people, most of whom appeared to be photographers, spilling into the fast lane and blocking his access.
They managed to dive out of the way of the car once they realized Ocon was still racing, avoiding a potentially dire collision, and Ocon took his pit stop.
The FIA is responsible for maintaining safety in pit lane and for securing the parc ferme area, and after the end of the race the stewards requested a representative of the governing body attend a hearing in relation to the incident.
In a judgement issued shortly afterwards, the stewards said the FIA would be required to “take immediate steps to reconsider these procedures and protocols with the relevant stakeholders (including FOM, the teams and the FIA) to ensure that this situation does not occur again”.
“The stewards heard from the FIA representatives and determined that the relevant representatives took steps to set up the parc ferme area and also permitted media and other personnel to gather in the start of the pit lane and the pit wall during the last lap of the race while the pit lane was open and before the final pit stop of (Ocon),” the stewards wrote in their ruling.
“We noted that it was not unusual for the representatives to allow such persons into the pit lane just before the end of the race, in the usual course of preparation for parc ferme and the podium ceremony. However, in this case there was one driver that had to pit in the last lap and this created a very dangerous situation for those that were in the pit lane at the time.
“We considered that it was fortunate that there were no serious consequences on account of what happened today.
“We stressed that the requirements of ensuring a safe and orderly event are paramount. This was acknowledged by the FIA team.”
Speaking before the ruling, Ocon said he wanted to see action at the next race to avoid the possibility of a repeat.
“We can’t wait for anything, it’s clear,” he said. “You need to wait until all the cars are past the checkered flag and ensure there is no racing in the pit lane any more until you start prepping the podium.
“It’s not a mystery, it’s very simple.
“I don’t understand why we’re starting to prep the podium and prep the ceremony while we’re still racing. There’s one lap to go, there’s still people that didn’t pit.
“I’m arriving at 300 kilometers per hour, I’m braking very late, and I the people around. This is crazy.
“It could have been a big, big one today, and it’s definitely something that needs to be discussed. It’s something that we don’t want to see.”
The Frenchman, who finished 15th, said he needed to take evasive action to avoid hitting one of the bystanders.
“I had to lift off, I had to back off,” he explained. “I would not have liked to be the one in the middle there, at the speed we are arriving there, especially so close to the line.
“If I missed the braking point, it’s a big disaster.”
It’s the second time breach of the circuit perimeter in as many races, with Australian Grand Prix organizers having been summoned to the stewards following a spectator track invasion on the last lap of the race in Melbourne earlier this month.
Last year’s Australian Grand Prix also saw people enter the pit lane before the end of the race and shortly before Alex Albon’s last-lap pit stop.