The farcical situation at the Italian Grand Prix with grid penalties has brought it back to the limelight and not for the right reasons.
Due to differing penalties nine drivers shared out a total of 150 grid place demotions for last Sunday’s race which seen only four cars start from their original grid position.
The current system makes F1 look stupid as well. How is it possible to have 65 place grid penalty when there is only 20 cars on the grid? I understand it’s in regards to other penalties as well but for the casual fan it won’t make sense and for F1 that is what the sport needs, the casual fan, the hard core fans will watch regardless, even if they might be annoyed as well.
The current rules state that every driver is limited to just four power units for the entire season, with the power unit defined as being comprised of six elements – the internal combustion engine, the motor generator unit –kinetic (MGU-K) the motor generator unit-heat (MGU-H), the energy store, turbocharger and control electronics. When a driver requires a fifth element they receive a ten place penalty at the first event they use it then a five place penalty at any subsequent events and the process repeats.
When you throw in gearbox change penalties and any for driving standards and it can get very messy, and the process of how they are applied is not the easiest at times either.
To show even further how much of a mind screw the current system is lets take a look at Kevin Magnussen. The Haas driver was knocked out in Q1 but due to a number of penalties ahead he actually started in P9. How can a driver that doesn’t even make Q2 be allowed to start within the top ten? Even Sergio Perez, himself subject to a five place penalty for a gearbox change, started one place higher in P10 than he qualified, which was P11. The Red Bull’s of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen suffered the opposite fate as they qualified in second and third but had to start P16 and P13 respectively.
Last time out in Belgium Stoffel Vandoorne was given a 65 place penalty but because he was at the back of the grid already still started in P20, so what was the point of the penalties? People on social media made fun of it stating that if he was giving a proper 65 place penalty he would have actually started between Blanchimont and the final chicane instead!
Martin Brundle, commentating for Sky Sports F1 channel, even threatened to fly home if more than half the grid had penalties and asked FIA President Jean Todt if the system could be changed for 2018.
“I’m not a magician, it goes through a certain process.” was the Frenchman’s reply.
Many team owners have been critical of the current penalty system, Red Bull’s Christian Horner especially. But what are the possible alternatives?
The first one would be deduct constructors points. This would hit the teams rather than the driver but the downside would be that the title could be decided by a penalty, something the sport would rather avoid am sure. The other downside is if a lower team like Sauber struggling to score points they could end up on a minus figure, again not a good look for the sport.
Another option would be to fine the teams. This is all fair in principal but if the cost of the fines are not enough then the larger teams might use this as a loophole to use more parts.
Most people are in favour of keeping the system but only if the number of elements is increased from the current four. It would still allow costs to stay down and only three drivers so far have had to use a fifth element, the two McLaren Honda drivers of Alonso and Vandoorne and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.
The other options being mentioned would be less severe penalties and to remove the spending limit but this final option, although would allow for F1 to be the pinnacle of motorsport technology, would see an arms race between the best funded teams and lead to a wider gulf between those with the cash and those without it.
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Photo Credit: LAT Images via F1 Super News