Should drivers get grid drops for gearbox changes?

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The 2012 season has seen a spate of penalties for gearbox changes.

Over the first 13 races drivers have been handed gearbox change penalties on 16 separate occasions – as many as there was throughout the whole of the 2010 season.

The standard penalty for a gearbox change is a five-place grid drop. But should drivers be punished in this way for failures which are outside of their control?

Gearbox changes in 2012

Under the current rules each driver has to use the same gearbox for five races in a row before changing it:

Each driver may use no more than one gearbox for five consecutive events in which his team competes. Should a driver use a replacement gearbox he will drop five places on the starting grid at that event and an additional five places each time a further gearbox is used.
FIA 2012 Formula One Sporting Regulations article 28.6 (a)


Requiring teams to use the same gearbox for consecutive races forces them to build more durable units to reduce costs.

So far this year 16 gearbox change penalties have been issued – an average of more than one per race. Pastor Maldonado has the most with three and Sergio Perez, Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg have had two each.

The table on the right shows the number of gearbox penalties handed down over the last three seasons so far, and for comparison the corresponding figures for engine change penalties.

Five-place grid drop

Is a five-place grid drop a suitable penalty for an unauthorised gearbox change? It’s not hard to see why there have been objections (such as here and here) to punishing a driver for a fault that is not their responsibility.

Grid drops are more appropriately used as punishments for driving infringements such as impeding other drivers or causing collisions.

Another shortcoming of using grid drops in this way is it allows teams to make ‘tactical’ gearbox changes if their driver has qualified poorly, offering an undue benefit as rewards for a poor performance.

Alternatives to the grid drop

What sort of penalty would work better than a grid drop for an unauthorised gearbox change?

Ideally it would be one that gave teams a strong incentive to design gearboxes that are less likely to fail, but did not compromise a driver for a fault that is out of their hands.

One idea might be to dock a team points for each unauthorised gearbox change. This would be a tangible disincentive, as it could compromise their position in the constructors’ championship and the financial reward that comes with it.

But the problem here is how many points to dock? Such a penalty would affect teams to differing degrees based on how competitive they are.

For example, a one-point penalty would make little difference to Red Bull’s championship lead at the moment, but it would drop Caterham from tenth to last – a swing which could have serious implications for their bank balance.

Taking the idea a step further, why not exclude the car’s finishing position from counting towards the constructors’ championship? This would satisfy all the requirements: it would be a severe enough punishment to encourage teams to avoid it, it would not penalise a driver for a problem they could not have avoided and it would affect all teams equally when applied.

There is precedent for such a penalty. It was applied to both McLarens in the 2007 Hungarian Grand Prix, and to Michael Schumacher’s Benetton and David Coulthard’s Williams in the 1995 Brazilian Grand Prix.

Over to you

Should drivers get five-place grid penalties for unauthorised gearbox changes? Cast your vote below, and have your say on what kind of penalty you think would be appropriate in the comments.

Should drivers receive grid drops for gearbox changes?

  • No opinion (4%)
  • No (67%)
  • Yes (29%)

Total Voters: 377

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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131 comments on “Should drivers get grid drops for gearbox changes?”

  1. I agree with your opinion about the constructors’s points Keith but I selected ‘yes’ because it’s right to have penalties for gearbox changes.

    1. But the question was about grid drops, but penalties in general.

      1. *not penalties in general

        1. Yes I meant ‘yes’ about what you said, but I am not the best in English.

    2. I voted yes because there is no good alternative now.

      1. Wait, what? The alternatives are mentioned in the article! Excluding the car’s finishing position from the constructors’ championship is a really good and viable idea.

        1. @maroonjack None are good, excluding from the CC and waht about the race prizes, every race gives you a big amount of cash.

    3. Why don’t teams make better gearboxes that don’t break? Isn’t that the point of the rule?

  2. No there shouldn’t be a penalty for this in my opinion. It’s a load of nonsense that teams are penalised, and that they are so because it is apparently in the interests of costs, when most teams have a new front wing every other race, as well as endless exhaust modifications and DRS innovations which they can spend as much money on as they like without getting penalised.

    1. B.I.N.G.O.
      What he said.

    2. @matthewf1 Yes! Yes! That is exactly right!

    3. But if there are no penalties for gerbox changes, teams will happily go through a new gearbox every race. They’d probably go through two; one for qualifying and one for the race. And that will drive costs up even further.

      1. This is true so hit the team where it hurts & take away the constructors points they would have won in the race. You may say that the 3 teams at the back have not much chance of scoring points so they can take a new gear box when they want but can they really afford that & if there is a big crash at the start they would risk any potential points.

        Even 1 point for the 3 back teams would pretty much guarantee them to finish ahead of the other 2 teams.

        I like the idea

    4. No penalties for gearbox change.
      1. Because there’s no need to ruin the efforts of entire team just because of one component.
      2. Because if there’s a general problem with the gearboxes it should be fixed from the core (i.e. different design)
      3. If there’s a penalty for the gearboxes, why not having a penalty for worn disk brakes or broken steering wheel?

      1. Dude, pounding a piece of equipment as accurate as an expensive Swiss watch for more than 4000 times in a span of 100 minutes is bound to fail at least sometime.

    5. Look gear box and engin changes should be penalized. F1 is the experimentation ground for tomorrows technology for commercial cars. Therefore durability is not something that can take a back seat. The question here is —> should the driver get penalized for a mistake he didn’t do? Answer—> NO! I would like to see a percentage of constructor points taken away for gearbox change. Say 10% then as of today’s standings the top team…RB would lose 36.7 (37) and the lowest scoring team toro roso will lose only 2.1 (2) points. Now the new question is, by this logic the teams that have zero points stand to lose nothing.

      1. In an unfair way this could make the competition fierce considering the fact that the top teams spend $500+mil and the underdogs spend 10 times less.

  3. I voted no, because I agree with what is written in the article : drivers shouldn’t be punished for something beyond their control.

    The best alternative would be to do the same thing done for the engines : a limited number of gearboxes for the hole season, and a total flexibility about how and when they are used. That way, we can really hope the reliability will improve, we won’t see too much shcuffle grids, and it could really help average drivers to improve (it’s quite frustrating to have a penalty after a strong qualifying for a driver who isn’t used to high grid positions).

    1. But if you extend that, then you should reinstate a driver into his previous position, should his engine fail.

      1. No, there is a vast difference between reliability affecting somebody during a race and prior to a race. Reliability during a race always has been and always will be an issue. Penalising a driver before a race is very different.

        1. Yes, I agree, but nothing here is that specific

    2. The idea was proposed several times already and I was surprised to see no apparence of that in Keith article about matching the rule for engines.

      I had to vote no because I’m not happy with the current rule, but of course teams shouldn’t be allowed to use as many gearbox as they want. Thus best way is still to have a allocated number of gearbox for the year and do with those.

      Like the comparaison of penalties handed for gearbox and engine is showing such difference between gearbox and engine, but with that system, it’s more likely to lead to penalties at the end of the champ, at more crucial times.

      Handing teams points not counting toward WCC isn’t a solution as some teams doesn’t care as much as other about it. If you are sure of your position, it’s even a beter way to pay less (as team pay per point earned) and still having a driver fighting for WDC

    3. Agree with that comment. Sometimes you just can’t help that a freak incident happens and causes the gearbox to fail. However, unlike engines, their performance don’t degrade as much as an engine that has run more than 2-3 races. So I think it might also be sensible to allocate each team one (or two) free gearbox change without penalty to be used throughout the year at the team’s descretion.

  4. Why not have the driver unpunished BUT the team cannot score WCC points from that car at that race?

    1. so if, say, Webber has a gearbox drop, he starts where he qualifies but RB can only score WCC points from Vettel at that race.

      1. That wouldn’t work…If Webber’s normally seen as a No 2 for Vettel imagine how he’d be treated if at a weekend where he can’t score WCC points and WDC points could be useless if he’s not allowed to race Vettel..

        1. @dd42
          Its not illegal to have a clear number two driver, nor are team orders.
          Yeah they might use Webber as a road block, but that is the team’s descision. The rules will allow him to score points, but only for him self.
          The rule will still make the teams want better gearboxes like the current regulations as the WCC is where the real money is.

      2. I like your idea, but I’d modify it a bit: Let the driver start the race from his originaly qualified position, let him score WDC pts, but when calculating the WCC pts, first “demote” the driver’s final post-race position 5 places and then calculate his WCC pts.

        So: Webber gets on pole and should drop five grid places for unscheduled gearbox change. He still starts from pole, wins the race and gets 25 WDC pts, but brings home to RBR only 10 WCC pts.

        1. No. If, say Webber wins and Vettel is 2nd, but Webber had to change a gearbox. Rather than Webber starting 5 places down, he starts normal (and wins the race)
          However, Webber can only score 25 WDC points for himself, NOT 25 WCC points for Red Bull. Vettel scores 18 points for his WDC and 18pts for Red Bull in the WCC.
          Result: Webber 25, Vettel 18. Red Bull 18 (instead of 43)

          and Commendore, Webbers WCC score would go down 5 places from 1st to 6th (not 5th), therefore in your model, RB gets 8 (not 10)pts from Webbers car.
          It’s a reasonable idea there, though it does give them no chance of achieving full points, whereas todays system still does.

          1. why would you give a full-points-scoring chance to someone who has broken the rules? wan’t the idea to punish the constructor only, but not the driver? :)

          2. you got me there. quite a glaring error. so it then boils down to, do you half penalise the team by taking that car’s score down 5 places, or do you penalise them fully by having that car score zero?

          3. @91jb12 only 5 places and only from the WCC points. not giving them WCC pts at all would be quite unfair.

  5. No it penalises the driver and ruins their race for something he has no control over – there must be a better way

    1. The driver has no control over engine failures either….. Still he’s the one who faces the consequences of it… The driver may not be in control over any failure to the car, but he’s the one getting DNF’s, lower grid position, or lower finishing positions!

      1. Yes but the main difference with the engines is they can shuffle them around and swap them whenever they like up to 8 engines. As has been mentioned before something along these lines would be far more appropriate for gearboxes. And also engine failures are far rarer than the gearbox failures.

      2. You mean to tell me a driver cannot blow an engine? Surely you jest.

        1. A driver can also blow a gearbox by continually mis-using it.

  6. I think there should be a penalty at the point in which they use more than x number of gearboxes in a season. If a small repairable part was to go wrong on a Saturday morning then they should be allowed to take the unit out to repair it and put a spare in without receiving a penalty.

    If the gearbox should last for 5 races each then using this season with 20 races – each team should be allowed 4 gearboxes for the whole season. The punishment should come when and only when they move onto a 5th gearbox.

    The penalty should be financial and not something that affects the driver (it is after all the team/suppliers that build the gearboxes and not the drivers)

    They get 8 Engines per season, why not couple that with 4 Gearboxes and say that anything over and above that results in a choice between a substantial fine or a 5 place grid penalty?

    1. +1
      It seems strange that it’s one rule for engines and a different rule for gearboxes.

    2. I partly agree with you: it do seems kind of silly not to have similar rules for engines and gearboxes. I do disagree with the penalty: something financial is not sufficient I think. Again Keith’s suggestion of punishing the team in the constructor’s championship could be an outcome.

      1. Financial, definitly not, it would go against the limited amount of gearbox and would be like buying a right for one more gearbox than others and not very legitimate …

        Keith suggestion about WCC, still not great (in the context of an allocated amount of gearbox per season) because as for engine, the problems will come by the end of the season when teams have use the previous units. Then both championship are quite clear and some team could afford not to score any point in constructor but need a lot in driver so that could play a strategic role and it’s not the point either … I believe that if they have a certain amount for the whole season, you could still have the penalty applied to the car when the driver uses the supplement gearbox as it is for engine (and you wouldn’t see case as Webber being penalised twice like this year)

    3. Exactly that @mcgregski, I voted yes to the penalty but as you propose it should be done in the same way the engines are, giving a penalty when more than the allowed amount of GBs are used during the season (I think I would allow one extra GB, having 5 instead of 4, because a GB gets damaged more often in a crash or someting like that than an engine).

    4. The penalty should be financial and not something that affects the driver

      I agree with the most of what you said but except this point , if the penalty was financial then top teams with the highest budget like Ferrari & Red Bull they will be bringing a new gearbox every race
      I think a grid drop is the only way to prevent teams from doing such thing

      it is after all the team/suppliers that build the gearboxes and not the drivers

      i don’t either agree with this, F1 drivers are racing for teams not for their selves if a driver get a penalty that would affect automatically his team in the constructors
      Penalties are not made to punish the drivers but it’s the only way to ensure that everybody will respect the regulation in a fair way

    5. +1
      I think with this system (four of five gearboxes a year, use as and when you wish) and 5 place grid penalties for going over the limit, it would be fine.

    6. I think there should be a penalty at the point in which they use more than x number of gearboxes in a season.


      If they really try to cut costs, why they allow the strategic gearbox changes? If top driver fails qualifying by what-ever-reason, they will change gearbox just because they can. Its ridiculous.. And after all, it would be less about luck, if there is change to use some of gearboxes more if you have bad luck with one unit.

      1. Not sure that you can change a gear box between quali and the race without incurring a penalty as the cars go into parc ferme after quali, but for sure you can do it between practice and quali without penalty. It wouldn’t be unusual for a team to use a previous gear box during practise so that if it does fail they won’t get penalised.

    7. artificial racer
      20th September 2012, 0:32

      Could combine this with the other solution. Have an overall gearbox allocation, and if they exceed it, give a penalty to WCC points.

      A penalty to overall WCC points can make sense because a gearbox is supposed to last over several races. A grid penalty at one race does not really address the reliability issue across the entire season.

      You could dock their WCC points according to some formula. Example: dock a % of WCC according to how badly the allocation is exceeded.

      Example: Red Bull earns 100 WCC points in a season. They use 7 gearboxes out of an allocation of 5. Therefore, they are penalized 40% of the max gearbox penalty of 50% (say). So they end up with a 20% penalty, leaving 80 WCC points.

  7. I voted yes. You can’t see the team as separate from the driver. The driver is a member of the team. Drivers often suffer as a result of things outside of their control, it’s just that in this instance the result of mechanical unreliability is a grid penalty rather than a race retirement. At the end of the day there is no reason why teams can’t build gearboxes that’ll last the whole season if they wanted to. The problem is that they compete to build in the minimum required mechanical strength in order to minimise weight and size. This is why they fail to last, and this is a decision the team themselves take when designing the gearbox. If the rule were unfair, and it was impossible to build a gearbox which did what they are asking, then I would say that the rule is unfair. But it’s not, and so the drivers must bear the consequences really.

    I do think that we’re seeing far too many of these penalties, but I think the responsibility lies with the teams for building unreliable gearboxes, rather than with the rules.

    1. Thank God, there’s someone who actually understands how the sport works!

    2. I agree with all of this.

    3. Agreed, a driver gains from the plus points of a car, and loses from the cars negatives. I don’t see why a driver should have the negative nullified in the case of reliability.

    4. “You can’t see the team as separate from the driver.”

      But the sport itself does so, by having two separate championships for teams and drivers.

      I agree in principle though, the drivers are just another two employees, and who is to say that a gearbox failure wasn’t caused by rough driving?

      1. I don’t think that the drivers’ and constructors’ championships are making this distinction in quite the way you’re suggesting. The drivers’ championship measures the total points scored by a single car and driver combination, whereas the constructors’ measures the combined points of both cars and drivers in a team. The drivers’ championship points are awarded solely for the finishing place in the race, and most would acknowledge that the finishing position of a car is as much (if not more) a result of the efforts of the team’s effort than the driver himself. The car’s relative performance is determined by its design; a driver by himself can’t score points in the drivers’ championship without having a good car under him and a good team behind him. Heikki Kovalainen may drive better than any other driver on the track in a race, but because the machinery doesn’t allow him to compete at the front, he won’t score points in the drivers’ championship. For this reason, you have to see that the drivers’ championship is certainly not simply measuring individual performance for the drivers.

        Teams design gearboxes which are marginal on weight and reliability because it gives a performance advantage. The drivers themselves enjoy this advantage while the gearbox is working, so it makes no sense that they wouldn’t then suffer the consequences of unreliability.

        My only concern is that it seems to be happening too much at the moment, and as a fan what I don’t enjoy seeing is the ‘provisional’ grid from qualifying then being mixed up after umpteen penalties are applied. It would be interesting to get some feedback from the teams to see what they think of the rules; that is to say, I’d like to know if they feel that the FIA has set them a target which is almost impossible to attain, or if they feel that the unreliability of their gearboxes is something they’re responsible for and they could, as I say above, conceivably build a gearbox which would meet the requirements while probably taking a bit of a hit in terms of competitiveness.

    5. I voted the other way, because the 5 place penalty seems rather arbitrary, and is illogically treated differently to the engine rules. But your argument is something I thought of too, and it certainly made me hesitate. For one thing, if the gearboxes weren’t so thoroughly analysed, the teams would just run the gearbox for one race longer than it could handle and it would fail, and nobody would bat an eyelid due to it happening during a race. i think the rule, if it is to affect the driver, needs to do so better.

    6. I agree and I voted Yes on these grounds. I hate seeing drivers get penalties for grid drops I understand that it’s a team sport.
      Teams can make reliable gearboxes. It’s not beyond their capability or should it cost them too much to do so. It’s up to each team on how they want to push the limits of their engineering with their design.

    7. @mazdachris
      While I did vote no, because I think a similar system to the engines will make more sense, but I do agree that a the team and driver is one unit. They win together, they loose together therefore they should be penalized together.

    8. Amen to that.

      I think the problem with the current penalty system is that driving standards penalties have been far too lenient recently. A 5 place grid penalty is not huge, and is proportionate for minor violations such as unscheduled gearbox changes. It is not proportionate for Maldonando deliberately ramming someone…

  8. I believe in 2011 a driver could take one ‘dummy’: change the gearbox without receiving a penalty.
    In 2012, any gearbox change (except when a driver crashes) is punished with a grid drop. (Can anyone confirm this?)

    If this is true, than the number of multiple gearbox changes has risen from two in 2011 to four in 2012. If I’m mistaken and the 2011 gearbox rules haven’t changed for the 2012 season, then the number of gearbox changes has risen from two in 2011 to sixteen in 2012 (that would be a bit exagerated, so I assume my statement in paragraph one is right).

    Still: the number of gearbox failures has increased dramatically this year. Is there an explanation for this?

    1. Returning to the actual point of this article: I can see why the current set of rules might look unfair to the driver, but in F1 history drivers have always been punished for car failure. For instance: if Jim Clark’s clutch, suspension, engine and gearbox would not have failed during the entire 1962 season (just like his teammate’s car), he would have easily won the championship (instead he finished runner-up).

      Nevertheless I voted ‘no’, because I think this gearbox penalties are ‘artificial’ car failures. The FIA are sending the penalties to the wrong receiver. I think your suggestion of punishing the team in the constructor’s championship is a very good alternative to the current regulation.

  9. This is a tough one – it’s a team sport. The driver wouldn’t be where he is on the grid without the team, and vice-versa. So a 5-place grid drop for a driver infraction could be argued to hurt the team as much as a 5-place grid drop for a team error (gearbox) hurts the driver.

    But personally, I think that the approach is flawed, and the correct approach should be that a driver has 4 gearboxes per season, with penalties applied after that. Then if a gearbox failed, the team could change it without penalty and stand a chance of re-building it.

    (incidentally, the number 4 is chosen because it roughly equals the 5-races per gearbox rule, I’m not sure what the right number really is)

  10. Why not have a system similar to that of the engines; you are allowed to use (e.g.) 5, and can use them whenever. This would also give teams an opportunity to repair only certain parts in the gearbox, rather than using a whole new unit, which would cut costs further.
    Or the system that was in place last year, where you are allowed 1 change without penalty.

    Penalising the team probably wouldn’t work, as the loss in prize money would eventually filter down to effect the driver, plus I doubt the FIA would go for such a scheme as it would mean altering several other rules, such as team personnel on the grid, which is also not the drivers fault.
    Giving the teams a fine wouldn’t work either, as some larger teams would be able pay easily, but smaller teams might struggle.

  11. I think issuing a different penalty would also have its problems; the most credible would be to exclude the constuctor’s championship points for that team, but with a championship so close that could have adverse affects. However that may just be extra encouragement to build them to last!

  12. I think that a hefty fine would suffice; maybe $250,000

    1. $250.000 would be a lot of money for HRT, but for McLaren, and the other big guns, it’s a fraction of what their motorhomes have in electricity bills over a race weekend…..;)

      1. How about on a sliding scale, so the teams higher up the manufacturers championship have to pay up $1,500,000 per gearbox.
        The teams lower down, like HRT or Marussia have to pay something like $200,000 per gearbox.

        Then, for a final twist, half of the money given to the FiA gets given to GOSH

  13. I find it hard to vote either ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

    I do think that drivers should receive a penalty, when their team decides to change gearbox against the rules. Performance of the car has and will always be a big factor in Formula1. It’s possible that a gearbox change isn’t driver’s fault, but neither is running a slow car or engine failure.

    I don’t like the idea of giving separate points for drivers and teams. Gearbox rule alone isn’t a big deal, but changing it and other reliability rules such as the engine rule, could lead to driver’s, whose teams are seeking speed with the cost of reliability, have advantage over others. There are of course some cases in which points have been awarded separately or taken away from teams, but those are exceptions given in rare situations. This would be a rule that would be used quite often.

    But no, I don’t think the current system is good enough. I have nothing against the grid penalties, but I think engine rule is better, since it lets teams decide when to change their engine thus eliminating some randomness. Similar rule for gearboxes would be fine. Either that or giving teams a ‘wild car’, letting them change gearbox prematurely once without a penalty.

  14. They should get drops, build a better gearbox if it cant hold up. Its a team effort.

  15. I voted no, for a number of reasons. First of all, I think cost-cutting regulations should interfere with the sporting side of things as little as possible, and 16 penalties so far is way too many.

    Copying the engine regulation, with a penalty as soon as the 6th unit (9th for engines), would be a big improvement, as it should result in fewer penalties and allow teams to employ some discretion in when to take the penalty. On the one hand, you may feel this is unfair as you take your penalty when you’re already behind, but I think more important is that good qualifying results (like diResta in Monza) aren’t spoiled by the regulations.

    A second reason I voted no is that, although cost-cutting is important, how expensive are a couple of extra gearboxes anyway? I don’t have any insight into teams’ expenditures, but I suspect manufacturing a few extra gearboxes is a minor part of a team’s budget.

  16. They should at least remove advantage of a tactical gearbox change after a poor quali as mentioned above.
    Why not insist that they start on the tyres they qualified with even if they are outside the top 10 after the 5 place drop? That would cut out a large proportion of the penalties we see.

    1. @mv, I don’t agree there’s any advantage to a tactical gearbox change. In Bahrain, for instance, Mercedes opted to change Schumacher’s gearbox moving him from 17th to 22nd. The reason I think this is a bad idea, is that starting from 17th he has a reasonable chance of passing a number of fast(ish) cars at the start and on the first lap, whereas from 22nd, there’s a good chance you still have to make your way past all of the cars that do not belong to the ‘three new’ teams.

      Obviously, a penalty from 17 to 22 is less harmful than a penalty from 1 to 6, but it’s still a penalty, and I feel some teams are accepting them too lightly.

  17. Taking away constructor points could also lead to favoritism and peculiar strategies. For instance, would Ferrari change Alonso’s gearbox, if they suspected it to be flawed? Possibly. What about Massa’s? No, why would they give a damn about how Massa finishes in championship standings, yet he might be able to finish the race with some luck.

  18. Although I agree with teams being penalised for changing gear boxes I don’t feel a grid drop is fair. It’s a tricky thing really to decided as you said Keith, point deduction is out of the question whilst I feel that dropping a driver five places for changing a gear box is too harsh considering that worse on track violations have just received that and a drive through. I honestly feel financial implications would be better off, I mean Red Bull and Williams seem to always be changing gear boxes whilst HRT and Marussia never seem too have many or at least I don’t think see (Lazy couldn’t luck up the facts I’m sorry).

  19. Wouldn’t it be five gazillion times better if it was the same with the gearboxes as it is with the engines?!
    If the teams were allowed to allocate the gearboxes to different races which are more/less demanding and have a restricted number of them to use… this change in every five races is ridiculous and seems a bit wastefull even…
    If a gearbox would fail then they have to use the other ones more sparcly, I fail to see the negatives of this approach since it works really well for the engines

    1. I noticed that this was already proposed by another post, but still, strength in numbers I guess

  20. Why should a driver suffer a penalty for a car fault? Because he is only one member of a team. If the driver gets a drive through, then the team suffers along with the driver. The blame for a gearbox failure most likely can’t be blamed on one person, but probably could be ultimately blamed on a handful of designers/engineers/technicians i.e. Team members! So maybe these guys should get the penalty rather than the whole team, but of course that’s not possible. In the other team sports I can think of football, rugby, etc. if a team member gets penalised it effects the whole team, you generally can’t substitute a player whose been sent off.
    So why should a team sport like F1 be any different? Well I guess it’s glaringly obvious since there is a diver’s championship, but then again maybe there shouldn’t be. I mean it’s obvious a driver will only win the championship if his team is good enough to do it. So it’s not really an individual championship.
    Maybe a driver should be seen as the striker, or the flyhalf? The key team member.
    Anyway the way I see it the driver is just the final link in the chain to get a car around a track as quickly as possible, so penalties should not be separated between the team/driver.

  21. I voted yes. The only real reason I can see to remove this rule is to improve ‘the show’, so I feel morally obligated to disagree.

    Drivers have to put up with what they’re given, it’s always been a part of motor racing that the car counts for more than the driver and this goes for reliability as much as speed. Docking constructors points after a race on a regular basis would be very confusing, and might lead teams to issue orders if one driver is locked into not scoring constructors’ points.

  22. I voted yes. I see the penalty as a punishment for the team rather than the driver. For many teams on the grid it is somewhat out of their hands as they are supplied gearboxes as part of their engine package from whichever manufacturer, however, the teams decided to go with said suppliers.

    It also helps to keep the sport relevant and current.

    Also, I dont think the idea of excluding the finishing position of the car from the constructors points is a good idea. There are many, including on this website, which criticise the sport for being too confusing to the casual fan, this would only complicate things further. A grid place drop is far more understandable, and easier to explain to the average fan.

  23. The problem with docking the team points or any of the other suggestions is that those are penalties which cannot be overcome.

    F1 is a team sport and the driver is totally dependent on the team, so to serve a penalty to the driver and the team is really the same thing.

    The great thing about the gearbox penalties is that they allow the best drivers to shine and overcome the setback. They also mix up the grid rather nicely and allow other drivers to creep a bit closer to the front from time to time!

  24. The assumption is that the team changes the gearbox because it would fail in the race. If it fails in the race, more often than not the driver will be eliminated from the race, and neither they nor the team score points. The driver loses his chance for points through no fault of his own.

    Following that logic, if a team changes a gearbox when they shouldn’t, they should be thrown out of the race altogether to get the same effect as the failed gearbox. That’s obviously a dumb idea, so the compromise is to push the car further back down the grid to reduce their chances of scoring points. The team and driver are punished equally, just as they would be for a failure during the race. Therefore the grid drop is a reasonable penalty to impose.

    Whether five places is enough is a matter of opinion. You could argue that the car should be sent to the back of the grid to maximise the ‘simulated’ effect of the ‘broken’ gearbox. I’m undecided on that score.

  25. I voted no opinion, because there are two things I’d like to know before making a decision:

    1) How big a percentage of a team’s budget goes into gearboxes?
    2) Has this percentage dropped since the introduction of this rule, or has it increased?

    If it is like I think it is, that a gearbox is a marginal expense for a team and that there hasn’t been any change in the development cost since this rule, then I would vote to just drop the rule. If the cost of a gearbox is significant to a team and this rule has managed to decrease that cost, I would vote to keep the rule. If it’s a combination, well… we’ll see then.

  26. NO, i’ve always thought a 1 constructors point deduction the better option. Or if the FIA wish to be harsh, half the points won in the race at which the gearbox was changed.

    1. But in that case Alonso would be getting a new gearbox every race now, unfair!

  27. Transmissions should be treated like engines. Limit the number per season, but let the teams swap them as they see fit throughout the season. Anything above 4 engines should result in a penalty and I am fine with a grid drop. While not “directly” the driver’s fault, who’s to say that a driver’s overly aggressive abuse of the curbs 2 races ago didn’t impact the longevity of the transmission?

    As the rules stand, with 5 consecutive races, then “no”, the driver should not be penalized.

  28. Definately NO! I think drivers should only be responsible for how they drive on the track. To this end even unsafe release, if it is the teams fault, should hold the team responsible and not the driver. Ultimately, the driver is going to have is performance measured and while a team may say that “Oh we understand he has a gearbox penalty” and so on, it is particularly frustrating for a driver as well. It is particularly harsh for a midfield or backmarker team who would not have much of a chance to gain places without a decent qualifying performance. Also consider that the title depended on it. Would the championship leader be 1) responsible for his gearbox failing 2) have to incur a penalty and then make up places to win the WDC?

    I agree that teams should be docked points from their total however drivers should not. This way a driver is unaffected by something that is not really in his control.

  29. I think the drivers should get the penalty, They are a part of the team afterall.
    If your going to start seperating team/driver from penaltys do you start saying that if a driver suffers a time penalty post race for causing an accident or something that the team should get to keep the constructors points from the original finishing position because it wasn’t there problem?

    Also what if the gearbox failure came about as a result of something the driver had done?
    For example we saw in 2009 Rubens Barrichello over-torque a gearbox at the start of a race which damaged it.

  30. They should allocate a certain amount of engines and gearboxes that they can use whenever they want. It doesn’t have to last an x amount of races before they can change it. If they have 5 engines (or gearboxes), then they could run engine no.1 for FP1, engine no.2 for FP2, 3 for FP3, 4 for QP and 5 for the race (of course using it like this is stupid, but this is only an extreme example of what should be allowed).

  31. To those voting no – do you think a car’s finishing position should be excluded from the driver’s championship if the driver is adjudged to have caused a collision during the race? If not, why should the team be punished on account of the driver?

  32. I voted no opinion. It seems very clear cut, but why are there some drivers within a team who get all the gearbox problems? Maybe they pay a price for their driving style or (gearbox) set up preferences?

    Back in the day people did blame Kimi for all those blow ups at McLaren… And seeing Maldonado heading up the list doesn’t help me to think that the driver really has no influence at all.

    Since a large part of me thinks otherwise, I used the schyzo-option…

  33. As I wrote it before gearboxes should be handled just like engines. X gearboxes a year. When the driver uses the X+1st, he gets a penalty. Or a better version. One gearbox/weekend. Are gearboxes really THAT expensive?

  34. i thought they had this rule because they didn’t want teams to have gearboxes just for qualifying like in the old days they used gearboxes and engines just for qualifying and they would destroy these during the session.

  35. But should drivers be punished in this way for failures which are outside of their control?

    Well, reliability always penalizes you, but I don’t think that they should penalize drivers and maybe ruin their weekends if the gearbox happens to fail… I mean, F1 is about reaching the limit of what’s technically possible, and it’s obvious some of the gearboxes will fail.

    I think they should do like the engines, maybe 10 gearboxes per season and if one fails, you can always use another one. But you limit the amount of components you have to build per year, bringing down costs and everything. And if the team needs another gearbox (or if they chose to get a new one), then 10 place grid penalty.

  36. The penalty is harsh on the driver if the fault is an internal component in the gearbox. But haven’t some gearboxes been changed due to damage to the casing, ripped out drive shafts or rear supension mounting points due to crash damage. And in that case was the crash the drivers fault or was the car crashed into by another driver. Also punishing the driver for causing gearbox damage due to a crash when he is testing the limits in practice sessions would also seem harsh.

    Difficult one but 5 place drop is definitely too much.

  37. I voted – ‘ yes’. For a very simple fact that there is no other penalty that is best suited for the team other than 5 place grid penalty (currently). The other way round is to amend the rules in the first place…allow 2 gear boxes in 7 consecutive races instead of the current one. According to me it should solve the issue!

  38. Yes..they score points and win races with those gearbox’s regardless of who built the gearbox. They win as a team they lose as a team..impossible for a driver to race without a gearbox. So yes grid drops that affect the driver and team is perfectly reasonable. I have yet to see a driver win a gp in a fred flinstone way.

  39. Why can’t they just have the penalty when they have used up their allocation of gearboxes, which should be about 5 or 6 a season.
    The gearbox is a significant part of the drivetrain, but if the FIA is concerned that team would have an advantage from mixing and matching gearboxes, then the teams could just submit the approved number of gearboxes to be sealed at the start of a season, and we have a similar situation as we now have with the engines.
    currently, a lot of time is spent mating gearboxes to engines to meet the regulations.
    It has cost many a driver grid penalties and has cost some other drivers practice times.

  40. As long as the gear ratios originally submitted for the race are used, then I don’t feel a penalty for replacing the gearbox is necessary. If the gear ratios are changed, then yes. Teams could claim a failure, swap the gearbox and ratios, and gain an unfair advantage where the compliant teams are “locked” into the ratios they submitted.

  41. No driver penalty. Dock the constructor points. Make it a percentage based on current position in championship. 1st = 10%, 2nd = 8%, 3rd = 6%, 4th = 4%, 5th = 2%. Anyone else no penalty. The big guns should have their gearbox technology sorted with all their riches. Don’t be so hard as we move towards the bottom of the table and the lower budgets.

  42. I say take 5-10% points off from the Constructors championship and hand a fine to the manufacturer of that gearbox.

  43. Despite being in the minority, I picked “yes”, and here’s the reason: although I am not happy with drivers being penalised for an infringement committed by the team, and not on purpose as well. However the alternatives are worse in my opinion. When a driver who should be left without gearbox replaces it he gains a benefit in a way, avoiding to be penalised for it. That would be unfair for the others, therefore that driver starts 5 places behind, which is not enough for his race to be completely destroyed but it makes life harder for him. After all it’s the driver who gains benefit from a new gearbox, so he should pay for the substitution. It’s unfair when the gearbox brakes because of bad luck, but bad luck can’t be avoided. It would strike the driver in a way or another.

    1. @fixy Agreed. F1 is a team sport. It isn’t just about the driver, it’s about the car and its reliability as well.

      1. Precisely. I didn’t think about adding that line to my comment, which sums it up well. Thanks @enigma!

        1. @Fixy We should be comment teammates :)

          1. @enigma hahaha I like the idea! :D

  44. I agree with the grid place penalty. To look at the argument from a technical point of view, if a team would value the imposed penalty as to light to have an effect on positioning. They may choose to gear the cars to work to higher torque values and more extreme gear ratios to gain the benefit from doing so. With no intention of making the gearbox last five races, rather making it last three and taking the penalty every third/fourth race.

  45. Wow, 2011 was a good year for gearboxes.

  46. Why not line the driver up on the grid in the position they qualified in,
    with the car receiving the 5-place grid penalty ?

    A Le Mans start would seem to satisfy all the criteria !

  47. If we allow gearbox changes, there must be a punishment to prevent changes at every race, but personally I would prefer to see gearboxes blow up on track, it’s alot more dramatic and the high mechanical attrition rate we once had in F1 used to be something that really appealed to me, something about drivers and engineers pushing things past the absolute limit!

  48. I’m leaning towards Constructor Points penalty, but it must not be fixed, maybe some kind of percentage as fixed point penalty will be much more severe for mid table teams compare to front runners.

    But then teams like Ferrari couldn’t give a **** about constructors, they will be bringing new gearbox to every race if it help their main driver to get an advantage. It’s very tricky.

    Maybe it’s good as it is now and maybe after teams/driver loose enough grid positions they will consider a more reliable gearboxes.

  49. Chris (@tophercheese21)
    19th September 2012, 6:31

    I dont think they should get a penalty if their gearbox box doesnt last 5 races.
    However, i think perhaps it should be reduced, so that they only get a penalty if their gearbox doesnt last for say 2 or 3 races, then they should get a penalty.

    But its tough because its not always that the gearbox fails.

    Im undecided.

    1. Chris (@tophercheese21)
      19th September 2012, 6:33

      edit: *But its tough because its not always the drivers fault that the gearbox fails. **

  50. Why dont teams just build stronger gearboxes. I bet if the rule got changed to DSQ rather than -5 grid slots we’d never see a gearbox go again. Teams are playing a percentage game with reliability (chance of failure) against lap time. When you play a game, sometimes you lose.

    1. Umm, that’s the very nature of F1…

      1. That’s my point exactly. It doesn’t matter what the rules are, F1 teams are going to push the limits.

  51. Yes there should be a penalty but maybe one like the engine penalty system. A set of gearboxes for the year and they need to look after them but only after a using all of their allowance is a penalty needed.

  52. Of course the bloody should… its a team sport after all!
    Fans love it when drivers and managers say “we win as team, and lose as team”… yet whinge when penalties are applied to the driver for a teams mistake….
    Isnt the driver a part of the team, and by penalising the driver, you penalise the team anyway?

    So a team screws up a pitstop, or calls the driver in when the pitlane is closed… should the driver then be given a drive through penalty but his finishing position (and points) be calculated forwards to his effective position on the track?
    Similarly, a driver speeds in the pitlane… should he be penalised with a drive through only for his points to be calculated forwards while the teams stay as they are?

    Bloody ridiculous argument if you ask me….

  53. The driver is part of the team so yes, they should be penalised.

  54. Yes! The best way to discourage the teams from going through gearboxes without a second thought is to penalize the drivers which, in turn affects the team. As, though the fault isn’t the driver’s, he definitely benefits by using a newer gearbox!

    If the penalty is to be changed, an alternative (off the top of my head) would be to combine the number of engines and gearboxes per season and to fix a certain number of gearbox changes allowed per season and if the limit is exceeded, there should be some sort of penalty where the team is then made to use one less engine through the course of the season.

    This, in my mind, would be a strict enough punishment and would discourage the teams.

  55. Yes, they should. It’s a team effort and the win/lose philosophy has to resonate throughout the entire team. If a player is sent off in football then his teammates have to make up the shortfall. F1 admittedly is not quite as clear as that as it makes a clear distinction between rewarding drivers and rewarding teams, which is unique to motorsport, but nevertheless rules are rules and the drivers are aware of them. If a driver believes his position in the WDC is compromised because of starting the race lower than planned then perhaps he should take up his issue with the team. They’re the ones providing him with insufficient equipment for the job and you wouldn’t catch them leaving the pits with less fuel than required or damaged tyres without complaining about it.

  56. I see I’m in the minority here, but I voted “Yes”.

    My reasoning is that F1 is a team sport. The Team is dependant on the driver’s performance, and the driver is dependant on the team’s performance. Saying that the driver shouldn’t be punished for the team’s mistake is incorrect in so many ways.

    If you take this argument further, ignoring the obviously absurd argument given about failures during the race, what about when a team has mis-interpretted the rules? They turn up to the track with a slightly out of spec rear wing. Should the driver still be allowed to race that car “because it was the team’s fault”? No!

    There should be no way of separating the team’s performance from the driver’s. Simple. They are a team(well, 2 teams really, one per driver), they should be dealt with as such. When Grosjean faced a one race ban, IMHO the team should not have been allowed to race another driver.

    In addition, I don’t believe the McLaren precedent for removal of WCC points is not appropriate. That was an exceptional set of circumstances, and was only used in order to allow LH & FA to testify with imunity. The option should be there for such exceptional circumstances, but should not be a general rule.

    There is already too much focus on the individual sport side of F1, and many forget that it is a team sport. They focus on the driver, and the team is seen as of secondary importance (if that) to most people I speak to. They talk of drivers being hard done by and teams messing up. They praise the drivers’ skills, and ignore how much the hard work of the team puts them in their respective positions. Swap the order of drivers/teams (i.e. put the best* driver in the worst car and the worst* driver in the best car) and I think we would see a much different outcome. People would be praising the performance of Charles Pic and calling Hamilton, Vettel and Alonso shite.

    So let’s stop this separation of team and driver. The driver is part of the team, it is the team who win races.


    *Best and worst drivers are in terms of how they are perceived in current conditions. I.e. the best driver is the one who comes first in the championship, the worst the one who comes last.

    1. The top teams try their best not to gamble on driver choice. They pick what is perceived to them to be the best drivers. The best drivers attract the top teams. The top teams attract all drivers. Drivers are picked after a shed load of analysis, quite a bit more involved than watching races on TV. A driver is picked that meets as much of the criteria that they are looking for.
      I don’t subscribe to the simple rule that all drivers are equally good, just in different performing cars. Some are just better than others – just like in all walks of life.

      1. I don’t subscribe to the simple rule that all drivers are equally good, just in different performing cars.

        Nor do I. Not all drivers are equal, but nor are all cars or all teams.

        All I was saying is that without a good team behind them, even the best driver will struggle, and the worst driver in F1 would do significantly better in the best team. Conversely, the best team would struggle without a good driver, and the worst team would do significantly better with a top driver.

        Which brings me back to my original point: F1 is a team sport.

  57. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
    19th September 2012, 13:52

    The penalty should apply to the team only. The driver should start in the grid position he has earned and score points normally for his finishing position. However the team should only score points based on a five place drop in finishing position. I think this is the fairest and neatest way to separate the rule requirements for economy and durability versus the performance of the driver.

  58. i voted no, but only because keith has provided the perfect solution – car excluded from manufacturer’s championship, which also means the ‘lower’ teams stand a better chance of a points finish even if they are outside the first 10 over the line.

    1. that said, it could get messy towards the end of the season if one team is so far ahead in the CC, that they can afford to not score points and thus give driver xyz a new box / preferential ratios for the latter races in order to secure the WDC

  59. davidnotcoulthard
    19th September 2012, 14:13

    But the problem here is how many points to dock? Such a penalty would affect teams to differing degrees based on how competitive they are.

    How about making it a few percent of the points (i.e. 10%) , instead of a few points, which differ in value for each team (Which Keith pointed out). As for teams with zero points, what about excluding their highest race finish from the Constructors, but not Drivers, Championship?

    As for teams that have never finished a race, exclude their first finish from the Constructors Championship (again, not the Drivers).

  60. A driver can be responsible for damaging the gear box through improper use. And they are limited to a certain amount. I would say view gear box’s like engines and after they’ve used their allocated amount and need extra, then penalize them.

  61. Intuitively you’d think yes no certainly. Ultimately that is my official answer, because there are definitely better alternatives than grid penalties, many of them mentioned here.

    However the wording of the argument is often that ‘drivers shouldn’t be punished for mechanical failures’.

    That makes me uncomfortable. Drivers are punished all the time for things out of their control. Button and Vettel were last week. Until recent times it defined every world championship. That is natural. Pure luck.

    I think it’s important to differentiate what we mean. The reason it makes no sense to have penalties here is that it’s not a component failing IN QUALIFYING, rendering you powerless and at the back. It’s a component failing (generally) earlier in the weekend, with a SPORTING regulation then arbitrarily punishing you further, beyond the ‘natural’ punishment of losing the rest of whatever session your gearbox might fail in.

  62. No*

    No is my official answer.

    I agree with the engine allocation alternative.

  63. No. The Team should be docked WCC points. That will make sure the life-span rules of parts are adhered to.

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