Three-place grid penalty for Hulkenberg after wheel mishap

2016 Chinese Grand Prix

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Nico Hulkenberg has been given a three-place grid penalty for tomorrow’s Chinese Grand Prix after stewards found Force India guilty of an unsafe release from pitlane.

The Force India driver pulled off the circuit after his left-front wheel disconnected from his car in the closing minutes of Q2, bringing out a red flag which ultimately ended the session.

The penalty means that Hulkenberg will start tomorrow’s race from 13th on the grid, moving Felipe Massa, Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button up by single place each.

The stewards’ decision was published as follows:

The Stewards, having received a report from the Race Director, heard from team representatives and examined video evidence and the parts concerned, have considered the following matter, determine a breach of the regulations has been committed by the competitor named below and impose the penalty referred to.

No / Driver:
27 – Nico Hulkenberg
Competitor: Sahara Force India F1 Team
Time: 15:59
Session: Qualifying
Fact: Car 27 was released in an unsafe condition during practice.
Offence: Breach of Article 28.13 (b) of the FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations.
Decision: Drop of 3 grid positions.
Reason: Car 27 was released in an unsafe condition as the wheel and tyre fell off at turn 10.

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    Will Wood
    Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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    45 comments on “Three-place grid penalty for Hulkenberg after wheel mishap”

    1. Robert McKay
      16th April 2016, 11:05

      Is that the normal penalty for this type of incident?

      1. Nah, they just make something up each different GP. And I’m not even joking.

        1. It’s based on how much the race director likes the driver, his age and whether it’s a top team. So Verstappen would get a 12 place penalty for a similar incident.

    2. Usually quite a heavy fine (£50k) for the team and driver penalty is usual…

    3. not checking into weighbridge during PRACTICE (magnussen) gets a pitlane start but a loose wheel flying around the track is a 3 place penalty… time to revise the F1 rules..

      1. And why is that?

        1. one of them is harmless..

          1. I don’t see how that matters. They are two different set of rules, trying to prevent different kinds of things. You can’t compare them.

            1. You cant compare them??? So gaining an illegal technological advantage is much more important than safety for spectators, track officials and other drivers.

            2. @bigfoot Yes, you can’t. It’s apple vs orange. One is about a premeditated effort to cheat (they already gave a reprimand alternative for a honest mistake incident, Magnussen just stepping too far from the line), another is a really incidental situation (can’t see any scenario why someone purposely want to set loose wheel). One also has fixed consequences written in the corresponding rule, while the other doesn’t have that and thus any given penalty is under “steward discretion” with established guidelines.

              Or are you suggesting team caught cheating penalized with 5s or 10s stop-go penalty because “gaining an illegal technological advantage is much more important than safety for spectators, track officials and other drivers.” penalized with 3 grid drop?

            3. You are so sloppy at assembling your car, that the wheel fall off when you drive it, you should be penalized heavier, that if you are fail to check in to a weight bridge.

      2. ben (@djdapimp) +1.

      3. Well, one is suppose to catch teams from cheating…

        Other simply to penalize wheels falling off.

      4. Disagree. Missing the weigh bridge means you can run the car lighter than legal without being discovered. For all we know, Magnussen could have been 20 kgs underweight. Pit lane start is fair then.

        1. Dude…it was during FP2, how is that cheating?

          1. RaceProUK (@)
            16th April 2016, 20:11

            Because it’s a violation of the technical regulations

            1. Failing to drive to the Walbridge is not cheating, just a violation of rules. Passing all technical scrutinizes during free practice, doesn’t mean that a team cant change the car for qualification and race, where it really matters. Of course the rules should be followed, but the penalty is rather harsh compare to the offense, and compared the penalty Hulkenberg received for dangerously loosing a wheel.

            2. RaceProUK (@)
              16th April 2016, 23:36

              Breaking the rules is cheating by definition

    4. Once again: a team mistake, but the driver gets penalised.

      1. ColdFly F1 (@)
        16th April 2016, 11:45

        The team races as well, collecting points for WCC.

      2. Punishing the driver punishes the team.

        Punishing the team punishes the driver (even fines, since that’s money not spent on car development, which ultimately hurts the driver).

        Drivers and teams aren’t entities in a vacuum, they are interconnected. Any penalty you give to one will have an effect on the other.

      3. Someone should start a championship where the driver brings his own car and services his own car, so it is a true driver’s championship and the driver does not get punished for other’s mistakes. Then eventually this could become a more serious and professional sport, and the driver could hire a group of people to help him with servicing the car, setting it up etc. etc., this would be called his “team”… Wait, hold on a minute…

    5. Atleast its a small penalty, is there any smaller penalty at all?

      1. Reprimand, fine, or 5s penalty is the only smaller penalty i can think of. The others (drive-thru, 10s stop-go, 5 grid drop, 10 grid drop, time deletion, exclusion from a session/DSQ) is harsher than 3 grid drop. Obviously superlicence point is inapplicable here because this is team mistake.

    6. I’d say it’s a really small penalty considering it’s an instant black flag if it happened in the race.

    7. I think this is fair, as He prevented a lot better placement for other drivers

    8. If Hamilton and Mercedes GP Petronas AMG Hybrid Whatever would have done it, they would’ve got a FiA special “Reprimand” . That is how bad the F1 double standards have become.

      1. have you got some examples of these double standards?

    9. The penalty is absolutely ridiculous. Hülkenberg and Force India ruined Q2 for Massa, Alonso, Button and both Saubers who had to abort their final attempt because of FI negligence. At the very least, his time in Q2 should be disallowed. If one considers the potential outcome of losing a wheel at high speed, a pitlane start is definitely motivated.

      As for F1, the rules should be re-written so that in the case of a red or yellow flag negating qualifying in this manner, the people who were out of flying or warm-up laps who had a realistic chance of starting a “hot” lap before the chequered flag should be sent out for a final effort in the order they were at the time of the flag with a 10 second gap between them at the release from the pitlane.

      1. No, while 3 grid drop is small penalty but after some more thinking, I agree it’s appropriate. On the race, the car must be stopped immediately, if they don’t then the car will get black flag. Notice that stopped immediately is voluntary retirement, not disqualification. The same already happened when Hulkenberg stopped the car immediately and removing his further participation on qualifying, thus time deletion (we can see this as exclusion from Q2) or starting from pitlane (exclusion from qualifying practice altogether) is not warranted, unless he tried to continue and given black flag which is disqualification.

        While many driver 2nd run get aborted, it was not Hulkenberg fault. It was Charlie Whiting who has the power to call for red flag instead of just yellow flag, and no drivers entitled to get a late run that free of disruption. All drivers and teams knew the risk and reward of going late and this is one of the situation when they lost the gamble.

        1. Schumacher, Monaco – need I say more to demonstrate how flawed your logic is, Sonics? Hülkenberg *and* the negligence of Force India prevented the other drivers from a final attempt at reaching Q3, hence he should have been demoted to 16th at the very least. As it is, three other drivers that were impeded by the three-wheeled FI have to start behind it. That in unacceptable.

          1. And Schumacher penalized for cheating and excluded from qualifying. Hulkenberg penalized for unsafe release. So where the flaw in my logic? I repeat, the failure of other drivers to have a chance to complete their 2nd run is not Hulk fault, although he the one that trigger the event. Notice how no drivers that fail to do their 2nd run blame Hulk? Because they understand what they’re doing and the risks of it. The fans are the one who raising the pitchforks. The penalty is quite fair until you can prove there’s a deliberate attempt to alter Q2 results, then we can talk about cheating.

            1. It is perfectly valid to nullify your qualifying laps if you cause a red flag in the qualifying. It only makes sure drivers and teams do their best to not cause a red flag and thus would allow the quali to run green to the end. Sure for this occasion it would have been harsh for hulkenberg but not the end of the world.

              Fia also can’t and won’t recognize any kind of cheating. Fia did not see anything suspicious in the telemetry data when piquet spun out (guy going on throttle flatout on corner exit without trying to countersteer or lift the throttle was not suspicious), fia did not see anything odd when ferrari send clearly coded messages via radio. Simply put we can’t trust fia to catch cheaters because they have proven they are unable or unwilling to do so. Having forced penalty for causing a red flag solves the issue and removes all doubt. It is simple and does its job.

            2. @socksolid No it’s not unless it was proven it’s deliberate cheating attempt. Granted it’s very hard to present strong evidence unless doing it blatantly like Schumacher in Monaco. FIA doesn’t necessarily review all telemetry data after an incident unless they need to, and since no one lodged a formal complaint on that, then no reason for FIA to start any investigation. The case itself resurface because Piquet Jr. himself told FIA formally so FIA can start the investigation process. And what do you mean by coded radio message? “Fernando is faster than you” pretty much makes FIA admit defeat on the impossibility to enforce team order thus it was allowed again the very next season. The supposedly weird pit board, I think FIA now enforce the color usage on pit board too. There is reasonable action from them for every clever cheating attempt.

              The biggest problem with giving penalty is it discourage any driver to try something because the risk is too great. Also what flag to be shown and how long that flag shown is exclusive right for the racing director, i.e. no driver can have 100% manipulation of that. That, and not too long ago we complained because too many penalty given by stewards and we want to see driver racing not playing safe. Now after things get better you want them to give penalty like its Christmas again….

    10. Does he have to start the race on his Q2 tyres? Including the one that went bouncing down the grass? (or maybe he set his time for 10th on another set)

      1. @bullfrog, I would assume that the set he was using was too badly damaged for him to use in the race – in those circumstances, the driver is permitted to substitute the damaged tyres for a set of tyres with a comparable level of use.

      2. @bullfrog He must use the 1st set he use on Q2 because that’s the set he set time with. The set that has renegade tires is new and set loose on out lap, he hasn’t set any time with it.

        1. Thanks. A double punishment, then – he couldn’t go again in Q3 to get any better than 10th, plus all the cars around him will be starting on new tyres.

    11. Why did they red-flag the session? Couldn’t they have waived yellows and let everyone finish their laps? Yes, a loose wheel is very dangerous, but by the time the red flag was shown, the danger was over already…

      1. @mike-dee Red-flag is used more often in practice sessions, marshall is required to stand near the track to remove the car, the car itself must be removed because it’s too close to the track, after Warhlein incident, it’s better to be safe and red-flag the track rather than risk similar incident but hitting the Force India or marshalls that working on it. I’d say red-flag is appropriate in this situation.

      2. Even if the yellow flag was used, it would have likely ruined Q2 for those drivers aiming for a quick lap in the dying minutes because they would have to lift off. The red flag probably made no difference.

        1. Not those that would have been past the incident already. I would assume it happened quite early on the track if the wheel wasn’t attached properly. @andybantam

    12. It looked to me that no one was on a flyer when it happened. I thought they were on out laps. If that’s true, Nico’s Force India couldnt have been cleared up in time. Not with three wheels on the wagon.

      Is it true that drivers are forbidden to set quicker sector times when the sector is yellow? I’m not sure if that’s gospel, or if I just made it up… Haha

      1. Meant for @mike-dee

      2. @andybantam They doesn’t necessarily need to post slower times for the whole sector, just the area that the have yellow flag. Each sector have several marshal posts that waiving the flag, these are the ones where the drivers need to slow down. Obviously it’s very hard to recover from these slow-down area and getting the time somewhere else in that sector, so we going to see the sector time goes down as well.

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