Nico Hulkenberg, Felipe Massa, Singapore, 2015

Over 100 driver penalties issued in record-breaking 2015

2015 F1 season

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The number of penalties being issued to Formula One drivers continues to grow year-on-year. The total number of penalties issued last season exceeded 100 for the first time.

This came about largely due to a substantial increase in the number of penalties issued for power unit component changes. The two McLaren drivers collected a total of 310 grid place penalties over the season chiefly for this reason and the Red Bull drivers received 125.

The number of penalties issued because of driving infringements was largely unchanged compared to the previous season:

F1’s stewards have become much busier over the previous five years. Last season 163 incidents were investigated, more than two-and-a-half times as many as there was during 2011.

Unsurprisingly the leading causes of driver penalties is incidents with other drivers: causing a collision or forcing them off the track. Other leading causes of penalties are speeding – past yellow flags, in the pits or behind the Safety Car – leaving the track and impeding.

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The rise in penalties has prompted criticism from some, notably Fernando Alonso who at the end of last year compared F1 unfavourably with other motor sports after being penalised in Abu Dhabi. “I think these kind of decisions they need to make a little bit more sense than what they are doing now,” he said, “because I don’t see this in WEC, in Moto GP and other categories that are much more fun than us.”

However while penalties have become more commonplace they have arguably become more lenient and more consistent as well. In recent seasons stewards have been given new powers to issue more lenient penalties than they used to, and they have increasingly taken advantage of them:

This could be seen as a step forward in two respects. The time taken to drive through the pits is much higher at a track like Singapore (24.7 seconds) than Spa (17.4 seconds), so the impact of a drive-through penalty is much greater at some tracks than others. A five or ten-second penalty is not only less damaging to a driver’s race, it is consistent in severity from event to event.

And while there will always be complains from drivers, teams and their fans about rulings on specific incidents, there have been fewer alarmingly contentious decisions of late than there was in some late-2000s races before driver stewards were introduced.

A good example of this is the rise in incidents being settled informally by drivers being advised by the race director to relinquish a position which was gained by going off the track – something the previous FIA president insisted was not possible following one especially controversial decision.

Over to you

Are too many penalties being issued in F1? Should drivers receive penalties due to problems with their cars that are beyond their control? Have your say in the comments.

You can find a full breakdown of investigations and penalties during 2015 here:

Notes on the data: Minor, non-racing infringements such as fines for pit lane speeding during practice not included.

2015 F1 season

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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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  • 26 comments on “Over 100 driver penalties issued in record-breaking 2015”

    1. Between 2011 and 2014, the number of penalties for driver errors more than doubled. I don’t think that drivers became more aggressive, so the stewards ‘must’ be handing out penalties more easily. And all these tarmac runoffs will also contribute in driver penalties, with all the ‘gaining advantage’ and ‘pushing driver off the track’.

      1. @matthijs Isn’t it obvious? When are driver-error penalties handed out? When there are crashes. And when do we have crashes? When people are racing and overtaking each other out on track, and 2011-2014 has had more overtaking than the decade preceding it.

        1. You are right, but crashes do normally not occur during DRS-passes.

    2. I think drivers shouldn’t receive penalties due to problems with their cars that are beyond their control.

      1. I agree, but the teams should. And the best way to punish the teams is to penalise their drivers.

      2. That’s like saying a team in football should not suffer when a player is sent off or an F1 team should not lose the points they were due to get because a driver crashed whilst in a points paying position. The driver is just one part of the team so you cannot separate them.

        1. Exactly markp, when will this nonsense of “the driver shouldn’t be penalised if it was the team’s fault” will stop, and if that was the case then it should also be applied the other way around, haha I imagine Lotus would’ve benefited the most these past two years with all the points Maldonado lost them.

          1. Maldonado is the reason why the number of penalties has doubled;-) But hopefully he is history now.

        2. There is logic to both applying the punishment and not applying the punishment in F1 though. And also just because something is logical in one sport, doesn’t guarantee that logic will carry over to a completely different sport. The reasons why it makes sense in football as a team sport don’t directly follow over to F1 any more than player substitution do.

          But I will tackle why they should apply to drivers first. When the team does something that results in deserving a penalty you can argue the driver should also be hit with a penalty as well because if the risk had paid off, the driver would have benefited from it so by that same measure should also suffer for it.

          But then when looking at why a driver shouldn’t there are a couple of points which even though I think have weaker logic than the other side of the argument, do bare considering. F1 has separate drivers and constructors points unlike other team sports. In football if the team commits a fowl, there’s no benefit in say allowing a striker to continue and get the goal, but then just strip the team of that point. F1 hands trophies to the drivers based on their personal results. And there are ways of punishing the team without punishing the driver. Financial penalties or just stripping the points from the constructor mean their is a way of giving the team a consequence without sanctioning the driver which other team sports don’t have available.

          So ultimately I think really the stronger argument is to also sanction the driver. But from a personal point subjective point, I would like the driver to not suffer for team errors in the interest of the drivers championship. And as this is all for fun, ultimately satisfying the largest number of subjective opinions is surely more important?

          1. I see the reasoning and respect your points but I still disagree. The WDC is won not just by the driver but the team. Hamilton last year could not be champion in a McLaren so Mercs car helped him so even there it is a team sport.

    3. That this article is published the day after it has basically been confirmed that Maldonado will be dropped is surely too much of a coincidence!

      1. I went searching for information about Maldonado and whether it was true he’d lost his seat (I can’t find anything official to say he has, just rumours), and discovered there was a website that tracks Maldonado’s crashes. Currently it says it has been 61 days, 4 hours, and 17 minutes since his last crash, which apparently happened on Turn 1 at Abu Dhabi.
        Oh look, there is a link to another website that tracks his penalties.
        As far as I can tell Maldonado has the skill to be an excellent driver, he just chooses not to use it. If he does loose his seat then he only has himself to blame.
        http://hasmaldonadocrashedtoday.com/
        http://maldonadopenaltycounter.com/

        1. Opps … it appears I’m not the first to post links to those websites. My apologies to Todfod and others for not reading or not remembering their post.

    4. They need to get rid of this ‘gaining an advantage’ nonsense, by designing the circuits so that leaving the track always, automatically, costs time. It’s not that hard, after all. Monza did it, simply by providing a legal but slow way back on. It’s ridiculous that what surprises everyone – when drivers zip through an unobstructed runoff, or speed bumps make cars take off, or an exit at right-angles to the track causes the exiting car to travel across the track to the far side.

      1. I always wondered if you have line calls in tennis why can they not apply this rule to F1 corners? Technology like hawk eye can cover this and I volunteer to be a form of line judge so I can go and watch F1 for free.

        1. They used to use ‘judges of fact’ to keep an eye on things like jump starts, before it was all automated.

          1. @keithcollantine Or back when the wives kept the laptimes, surely they all had the ‘fastest lap’…

            1. @xtwl That only happened in the first Japanese GP ;).

      2. Agreed @lockup . Tracks like Fuji have grass at the edge of the road before tarmac runoff, which would help the issue.

    5. We have a big rise in driver penalties and there must be a reason (or reasons).

      First, the drivers are falling foul of the rules more often, either by pushing too far or maybe just not being able to operate within the rules due to their complexity.

      Second, there are tighter rules now because of safety issues, past manipulation of situations by teams and drivers and also because rules tend to accumulate and get more complex over time.

      Can we do anything about it? Clearly the answer is yes, but it would require a lot of bravery – a root and branch pruning back of the red tape; a move away from the micro-management built into some of the modern rules.

      So who’s brave enough and powerful enough? Who could shake up the rule book like that? Not anyone currently in F1, I think. In other businesses, external “management consultants” would be used, people who can safely and expendably carry the can if it all goes horribly wrong.

      We need to call in someone like Max Moseley, Ross Brawn, Martin Whitmarsh or maybe a driver like Alex Zanardi.

      But just one or two people, not a committee.

    6. I don’t think drivers have been particularly naughty last season. A lot of penalties have come from gaining an advantage by leaving the track. This has to stop. The FIA has to be consistent and not allow cars to leave the track at any circuit. Also a lot of run-off areas or curbs could be more punishable. I would even go as far as placing lightweight TecPro barriers at certain corners where drivers normally leave the track. That would have the effect of a wall, but without the safety risk.

      Also I would like the FIA to make quick decisions, instead of applying penalties after the race. The obvious example of how it should not be is Massa’s tyre penalty in Brazil. If any team, car or driver doesn’t apply to the rules, they/it/he should not be allowed to start the race.

      I also think the term racing accident should be used more often. Like the Hulkenberg-Massa crash at Singapore. Both drivers were to some degree quilty, as well as disadvantaged by the crash. Neither should be further penalized.

      1. @me4me But the Massa DQ was basically a mistake by the FIA – which Williams didn’t bother to rectify, as it would only have cost them money. If the FIA didn’t let Mercedes start the race at Monza for example – then it was revealed they had done their measurement wrong – how do you let Mercedes start the race after it has finished?

        1. @fastiesty, if the stewards think the car is illegal before the race, it shouldn’t be allowed to start the race. They can send the car into the pit to change tyres before the start if necessary. It’s ridiculous to apply a penalty after the race when everybody has gone home.

          It’s the FIA and race stewards responsibility to make the right call. They also have to make sure the way of checking each car is reliable, and that incorrect measurement doesn’t happen.

          1. @me4me True, in theory, but in practice, their incompetence would run riot. This year alone there were 3 attempts to measure tyre pressure correctly by the FIA, including a rules change, and yet they still can’t get it right.

            The example I can think of that best matches your description is Toyota at Australia 2009. They started from pit lane with fixed rear wings, after it was found post-qualifying. On the other hand, Sauber were DQ’d after the 2011 race for a similar infringement.

    7. i think you need to be careful when talking about been more lenient with penalty’s because it could send the wrong message & end up resulting in more accidents.

      look at nascar as an example, a few years back then decided to be more lenient & to stop handing out penalty’s for ‘avoidable contact’ and after this we suddenly saw an increase in contact that resulted in crashes as drivers started to feel they could push the boundaries more & more & the end result was drivers intentionally wrecking each other because they felt they could get away with it.

      and also look at gp2 when they were been more lenient 2-3 years back and you had drivers pushing each other off track on purpose, driving into each other & constantly getting away with it despite fans & journalist’s like will buxton pointing out how utterly stupid & dangerous what was happening was. the gp2 officials calmed down & the nonsence largely stopped.

      its the same with the f3 series last year, there was some appauling bad driving early on in the season which stopped as soon as penalty’s began been handed out more frequently & the officials let it be known that the sort of driving that was been seen was unacceptable.

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