Drivers criticise “too harsh” unsafe release penalties

2014 German Grand Prix

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The new penalties for unsafe releases introduced this year are too harsh, according to some F1 drivers.

Esteban Gutierrez is the most recent driver to have been penalised for an unsafe release. As well a being given a time penalty during the race he had to serve a ten-place grid penalty at the following event.

Sebastian Vettel described the penalties as being “like going to prison for stealing a chocolate bar”.

“It’s too harsh for the drivers,” he added, “it’s more for the team. There’s not much you can do as a driver but it is what it is.”

Kevin Magnussen echoed Vettel’s view, saying “it’s good that if we, us drivers, don’t get points or penalties that harsh because it’s not really our fault.”

“Of course we are a team and we should be penalised somehow together but I think it’s good if it doesn’t just go to the drivers.”

However Nico Rosberg pointed out that if the rule is changed it should still be severe enough to stop people taking risks with safety.

“It’s one of the most dangerous situations for the people who are working in the pit lane,” said Rosbaerg, “so definitely it should be harsh to try and avoid people doing that and things like that happening.”

“But we need to find the best way, what sort of penalties to do.”

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Keith Collantine
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38 comments on “Drivers criticise “too harsh” unsafe release penalties”

  1. Come on now,Do the drivers have to whine about everything?Unsafe release=penalty.
    Maybe a penalty for crying?

  2. I think they should make a difference to cases where driver loses a wheel (like Webber last year) and cases where mechanic sees instantly wheel is loose and asks driver to stop before anything serious happens (Ricciardo, Gutierrez incidents this year).

    1. I don’t think there should be a difference. If the wheel isn’t properly fastened, the mechanic or whoever is responsible should never give the driver the green light.
      In my opinion it was only down to pure luck that noone was seriously injured or even killed during the Webber incident last year. A loose/flying wheel is the worst thing that can happe, espacially when people are in a direct surrounding like in the pitlane.
      A wheel is a massive object. Combine it with some velocity and you tend to get quite high kinetic enerhgies.

    2. I agree. While the second shows a potential danger in that next time it might go unnoticed until its too late, when someone in the team notices before the car gets out of the pitlane, I would say the time lost is already a punishment. Let them investigate, maybe give fines too, I think even a 5 second add on to a pitstop is still ok. Save the harsh penalties for a team that fails to notice.

  3. Perhaps if the team and driver realise their mistake and stop the car asap, lets say some reasonable distance like within 20m of the pit box then the penalty could reasonably be reduced. I would say a drive through would be enough for this case. If they let the driver drive off and pick up speed then they are risking other peoples safety and a 10 place drop might be fair. I just feel that occasions where the driver stops as quickly as they can do not deserve to be punished in the next race. From memory Ric and Gut both did stop when it happened to them this season

  4. I do agree. Stopping in the pitlane and wasting what is usually close to a lap while the car is pushed back and the issue fixed is penalty enough for the driver, however as purely a team error they should be punished. A fine and/or a deduction of Championship Points.

    However if a car leaves the pitlane with a loose wheel then they should be given a stop/go and a fine and/or a deduction of Championship points.

    Giving them a grid penalty for the following round is absurd.

    1. No, losing time is not a penalty. Losing time is a consequence of making a mistake, a penalty is there because of the rules. It’s the same as saying Grosjean shouldnt have been banned for one race because he didnt finish in Spa.

  5. i think its completely fair to punish drivers for unsafe releases, drivers are competitive animals, they think they can risk it and get away with it, sometimes it can end-up very badly for people in the pits.

    1. Does the driver fit the wheels? No he does not. So how can the driver be blamed when a wheel isn’t fastened properly?

      1. The driver doesn’t build the car. But if the car fails scrutineering at the end of the race, the points are not given to the driver irrespective of who is actually responsible for it. In my opinion, it is fair for the driver to be punished.

        1. Not a valid comparison. The driver may not build the car, but they do have some involvement in the design of the car via their feedback. In comparison, the driver has no influence whatsoever in how well the mechanics bolt the wheel on.

          The comparison also fails because a car failing scrutineering means the driver potentially had an unfair advantage. The same cannot be said for a dodgy pitstop.

  6. Safety first, you can’t risk people’s lifes. Yes, penalising drivers is harsh, but what you can do instead? Fines probably won’t work, team will pay a few thousands euros and keep doing the same thing. Penalty for driver seems to work in this area.
    But not much than a drive – through, not 10 place grid penalty and a drive – through.

    1. How about docking 20 WCC points, or 10% of the team’s current total, whichever is larger? Teams won’t want to risk losing the millions in revenue their WCC position earns them.

      1. Looks even worse for me, screwing up one of the team’s car is enough.
        It would hurt midfield teams most. Front runners could get over it with their big budgets, poor teams wouldn’t lost a lot unless you introduce a 5 million euro fine for teams with no points or something.
        I just don’t get why drivers have to suffer twice, a penalty during the race and grid penalty. Maybe that’s the olny way, after one incident you’ll be so cautious as a team that it’s never going to happen again.

        1. Points can go negative :-P

        2. Front runners could get over it with their big budgets

          But front runners wouldn’t want to lose the WCC title.

          1. Thinking about penalties for unsafe release makes me more and more convinced that current system is good :p

  7. I complained about this a couple of races ago, but someone made a good point that changed my views.

    It’s a serious issue. Team must be sure that the wheels are properly attached, otherwise it’s a massive danger to everyone working in the pitlane, marshalls or even spectators. We all remember back in Hungary in 2009, Alonso’s front wheel bouncing along on the racetrack, all by itself, no chance to stop it…

    Penalty points do seem a bit “too much”. A grid penalty, and an unsafe release penalty during the race, doesn’t look too bad.

    But saying that “it’s not our fault”… well, a malfunctioning gearbox isn’t the driver’s fault either, yet they get 5 grid penalties, so… it’s a team (and machine) sport, it all goes tied together.

    1. I think giving “only” a 5 second add-on to the next stop in cases where the team notices before the car leaves the pitlane would be a good incentive to make sure that IF this happens, they do all they can to prevent the car from going on track though @fer-no65. A fine on top (as well as having to report to the FIA on what happened and what will be changed to prevent it for the future) should be part of it, as well as some kind of suspended penalty to prevent repeats

      Fully agree though that when a team does not take car and lets the car go out on track, or even tell them to get back to the pits with the wheel loose should get a BIG penalty.

  8. the unsafe release can be:
    1, while another car is passing your box in the pit lane, not drivers fault release mans fault, “5sec stop and go penalty”
    2, wheel not connected properly, not drivers fault, wheel man and release man at fault, once out of the pit box a “10sec stop and go penalty” up to pit speed “15sec stop and go penalty” back on the track wheel comes off 10 place grid drop next race..

    1. Is that actually in the rules somewhere? I looked and all I found was this.

      “If a car is deemed to have been released in an unsafe condition during a race the driver concerned will receive a ten grid place penalty at the driver’s next Event. However, if any car released in an unsafe condition is able to resume the race a penalty under Article 16.3(b) will also be imposed on the driver concerned.”

      Which means that those near collisions in the pit lane are supposed to result in a ten place grid drop also, though I don’t believe it’s happened to anyone so far.

  9. I totally have to disagree with the way Magnussen and Vettel argue:
    If we assume that they shouldn’t be penalised for a mistake the team is doing, then why on the other hand should the team be penalised when the driver makes a mistake (e.g. causing a collision).
    The team always suffers when the driver does a mistake, but the driver should never suffer from a penalty if the team does the mistake? Seems quite unfair in my opinion.
    As in every teams sport there is the old saying: you win as a team, you lose as a team.

  10. If anything, the punishments should be harsher, and more focussed.

    Red Bull got away with sending cars out which had unattached or loose wheels on several occasions in races and in testing prior to the incident which injured the cameraman.

    If anyone thinks a paltry 10k fine here and there would have stopped that behaviour they’re dreaming.

  11. Zantkiller (@)
    17th July 2014, 16:19

    They use the same pit crew so why not split the 10 place grid penalty 50:50 between both drivers?

    That is a full team penalty but is less harsh on an individual driver.

  12. Just my opinion, but I think the penalty for an unsafe release should be a 1 million/billion fine to the team. As Vettel and Magnussen say, it’s not their fault. Besides, it’s the team’s responsibility to release a driver, not the driver himself.

    1. The Blade Runner (@)
      17th July 2014, 16:38

      How about a gazillion? That would act as a deterrent…

  13. Why don’t they just enforce a minimum stop time of 5 seconds then the teams wouldn’t keep making these mistakes??

    1. Because that would pretty much eliminate the competitive element of the pit stop & if your going to do that you may as well just ban pit stops altogether.

      Plus I don’t want to see a car sitting stationary in the pits for x seconds with no work going on.

      1. Well that’s the thing, what’s more important, a few wasted seconds or someone’s health and safety??

        I’d much rather the 5 second pit stop than drivers getting drive throughs and other penalties through no fault of his own.

        1. Mandated 5 second pit stops wouldn’t help as even when we had longer stops with refueling we still saw mistakes made with loose wheels & stuff.

          Even in Indycar where pit stops are usually about 10 seconds we still see loose wheels on occasion.

          1. I’d also point out that a mandated stop time idea was unanimously rejected by the teams a year ago & the FIA have since said they have no interest in going down that route anyway.

          2. If a person can’t get a wheel on in 10 seconds then he wouldn’t get it on in a minute. Adding a 5 second minimum time stop would prevent nearly all errors made by the mechanic as most of the errors are caused by rushing.

    2. What might be more effective is a system that helps the chief mechanic know that the wheels are attached – we’ve seen a number of instances where a mechanic, usually at the rear of the car, has to switch to the spare air gun because of an issue with the first one (a cross threaded wheel nut, for example), which the chief mechanic misinterprets as that mechanic having finished his work and putting the air gun back down.
      Better visibility to the rear of the car would help too – even with a longer stop, if the chief mechanic doesn’t have a clear line of sight he can still make a mistake.

      1. When the airgun man has bolted the new wheel on, he raises a hand as a signal. If he changes guns, he doesn’t raise a hand. This has been the norm since at least the ’90s.

  14. Drivers are part of the team so should suffer penalty’s along with the team, After all teams also suffer when the drivers make mistakes.

  15. Paul (@frankjaeger)
    17th July 2014, 19:55

    ‘Kevin Magnussen echoed Vettel’s view, saying “it’s good that if we, us drivers, don’t get points or penalties that harsh because it’s not really our fault.”’

    It may not the driver’s mistake but the car and the pilot are the face of the team on the track. It would be increasingly absurd if the pit mechanic said something similar in the event of Magnussen crashed: “It was the driver’s fault, why must the team incur a financial penalty?”

    If you’re not gonna give the driver a penalty, who do you give it to?

  16. Sebastian Vettel described the penalties as being “like going to prison for stealing a chocolate bar”.

    That reminds me of Helmut Marko describing Sebastian Vettel’s penalty at Germany 2012 like “death penalty for stealing a chicken”

    1. The weird thing is, under the US ‘three strikes’ system, you can be given a life sentence for stealing a chocolate bar.

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