Power unit grid penalties change announced for 2018

2018 F1 season

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The FIA World Motor Sport Council has changed how Formula One’s controversial power unit grid penalties will be imposed during the 2018 F1 season.

As of next year the maximum number of places a driver will be moved back on the grid is 15. If a driver incurs a greater number of penalty places than this they will be sent to the back of the starting grid.

In practice the change is unlikely to make a significant difference. As power unit penalties are applied in increments of five grid places the smallest grid penalty a driver can receive which is larger than 15 places is 20 grid spots, which is already the total number of places on the entire grid. However it will change how the grid is formed when multiple drivers incur more than 15 penalty places.

“If a driver incurs a penalty exceeding 15 grid places he will be required to start the race from the back of the starting grid,” confirmed the FIA in a statement. “If more than one driver receives such a penalty they will be arranged at the back of the grid in the order in which the offences were committed.”

Other changes to the sporting and technical regulations for 2018 were also agreed. Changes are being made to the procedure for starting or resuming a race behind the Safety Car. This rule was introduced this year but has not yet been used in F1.

Alterations are also being made to the F1 timetable “to increase flexibility”. Revisions to testing were announced restricting the testing of older cars to FIA Grade 1 and 1T-classified circuits and limiting demonstration events to no more than 50 kilometres.

Technical changes to the cars for 2018 will now include more detailed specifications for oil and restrictions on using oil as fuel. A new minimum weight for batteries will be brought in and revisions to the positions of onboard cameras and wing mirrors due to the introduction of Halo.

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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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53 comments on “Power unit grid penalties change announced for 2018”

  1. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
    6th December 2017, 20:38

    Having 7 cars starting from the back is going to make it even more confusing and make qualifying even less relevant

    1. OOT, I think all finisher deserve some points, so they will drive like a crazy….imagine Vettel on P15 and Ocon in P13, if it goes till the end, surely Ocon got more point than Vettel

  2. What is the change? We stop counting after 15; that is a huge difference from last year.

    1. still don’t understand why the driver gets the penalty, this rule should be a no brainer as a team points penalty!!

      1. @nosehair Problem with it been a points penalty is that it has a worse effect on some teams than it would others.

        Later in this season for instance Red Bull were far enough behind Mercedes/Ferrari yet far enough ahead of Force India that taking points penalty’s wouldn’t have had any effect on them. However teams further down where the points gap was smaller could have lost a few spots in the championship order with just 1 penalty of a few points.

        Also when you consider that points & constructors standings affect team income, It’s far less fair for a customer team that are paying for/been supplied with an engine to be docked points. Look at STR towards the end of the year, Suffering failures because they were having to run old components due to Renault apparently not having enough new components available. How would losing constructors points & ending up dropping down the constructors standings/losing a lot of prize money been fair on STR?

      2. So you would let drivers run away with world championships with totally illegal cars (lets say 6 wheels, 5 litre, V12 engines, new engine every day) and you would only punish the teams? It makes no sense at all.

    2. Say if Vandoorne qualifies P15, but only gets a 15 place penalty, that would normally mean starting BOG. However, if Bottas qualifies P1, but gets a more than 15 place penalty – as this change specifies – i.e. 20 place penalty, that would mean he starts from the back of the grid. i.e. even if in theory Vandoorne has to start further back than Bottas, he starts one place ahead of Bottas, even if Bottas got his penalty first (the order of precedence would have meant otherwise in 2017).

      Hope that makes sense. It’s to prevent someone who knows they’re getting a 5-15 place grid penalty entering a race weekend, from adding new parts wherever they can, and getting a 60 place penalty, and then starting higher up because someone ahead of them got a 5-15 place penalty later.

      1. No, in fact it would have the OPPOSITE effect. If all drivers can only be penalized 15 places, and the penalty to the rear of the grid occurs in the order the penalty was applied then a driver could replace everything incurring a 15 place penalty on Friday while another driver has a failure of enough to incur 15 places but be sent further back. Yes it is one car further back but it is still a driver starting one, or more if there are more failures later, place higher than the parts penalty total deserves.

  3. Even though it does not change much on track, we will not be seeing “XY has a 45-place grid penalty” headlines. It is not bad for the reputation of F1.

  4. This seems to be a change in the wording of the regulations because people were complaining about 25 place penalties sounding silly. The only difference would be if a, say, 15 place penalty is applied after what would be a 20 place penalty. It still doesn’t make a difference if somebody before the 20 place penalty has a 25 place penalty.

    As I’ve said before, the best thing to do is apply all the penalties (including non engine penalties) at once, say half an hour before the race, and any clashes can be sorted based on who qualified higher or who had the bigger penalty. Really simple and much fairer too.

    1. @strontium

      the best thing to do is apply all the penalties (including non engine penalties) at once, say half an hour before the race

      How is that different to the current publication of the official grid, which takes place around the same time?

      That said I do agree this looks at first glance more like window dressing than a substantive change.

      1. @keithcollantine to avoid driver skipping quali altogether i presume, but i dont really see the point considering penalty are known in advance, even if not officially announced.

        1. I’d prefer them just to remove constructors points, instead of penalising, drivers, the sport & fans who was there to see a race.

          1. That would only serve to disadvantage the customer teams, who have little control over the manufacturing of the engines. That penalises the engineers who work hard to create the race the fans are there to see.

          2. Waist of time and money let’s keep it simple just deduct constructors points. Could be interesting though might end up with minus points!

      2. How about restoring penalized drivers qualifying positions with points, qualify for pole but have a 15 place penalty, lose 15 points and go back to the front?
        I’ll now go and hide under the table…

    2. @keithcollantine @pyon Sorry it’s not very clear. I mean that, rather than applying them based on who got the penalty first (one-by-one), they are all applied based on their original qualifying position. Then the remaining grid can be shuffled forwards in one go at the end, rather than after each individual penalty.

      The grid publication time would remain the same, that’s what I was basing it on

      1. @strontium i think this would change very little considering not all penalties are equal and teams tries to bundle them together. Only if the penalty is more than 15 for more than 1 pilot your system will make a difference. Hopefully there will not be so many penalties per race to make it worthwhile.

    3. This. Because

      arranged at the back of the grid in the order in which the offences were committed

      is not fair. The one who got 35 grid penalty often place in front of the who got 20. This is the one which doesn’t make sense. The grid position should tied to qualifying result not encouraging teams to skip it.
      After summer break, we will see some teams trying to claim penalty first.

      1. @ruliemaulana
        I agree with you and @strontium on this one. If multiple drivers get ‘back of the grid’ penalties then they should be sorted by qualifying position rather than first come first serve.

  5. Once a driver gets moved to the back of the grid it makes no sense to take part in qualifying at all, save to test the car.
    The driver should definitely not progress to Q3, because that means he has to start on used tires for no benefit whatsoever…!

    If we thought the penalty system could not be made worse than it already was, the FIA proved us wrong.

    1. Agreed. If a set of rules promotes decision to not to race, then something is fundamentally wrong with these regulations.

  6. So… they’ve made no real practical changes at all, other than ensure Stoffel Vandoorne will forever be the holder of the record for the most grid penalties.

    I’d rather they just allow an extra power unit each, but I’m just a fan… what do I know?

  7. So basically no change for the fans – we’re still screwed out of potentially riveting fights at the front because of these overly-complex engines and a ridiculously low number that can be used over 20+ races.

    Well done Todt.

    1. I’m sorry for you, but over-simple engines of the seventies are not going to come back anytime soon.
      I guess you should deal with it.
      Constructors agreed on the current component limits and engine structures, so what are you blaming todt for?

      1. petebaldwin (@)
        7th December 2017, 13:42

        I want aware engines from the 70s and the disasterous current generation of power units were the only 2 options…. Neither would be great for the sport to be honest.

  8. Dear teams. Just all agree to take 5 or so extra engines in some suitable order after 5 races (allowing time to manufacture them all), maybe after qualification in an early European race so the order can be fairly set, then this whole mess can be forgotten.

    Honda can have 10.

    You’re welcome.

  9. @keithcollantine I think something here is not clear. First it reads “As of next year the maximum number of places a driver will be moved back on the grid is 15” and then “As power unit penalties are applied in increments of five grid places the smallest grid penalty a driver can receive which is larger than 15 places is 20 grid spots”: does this count penalties not related to the engine? Let’s say I get the 15 places for the engine and a 3 places penalty for something bad I did the previous race. Let’s say I take pole position and nobody else has penalties: will I start 16th, 18th or 20th?

    1. @alfa145 20th. The sum of grid penalties is the only thing matters for this purpose, irrelevant of the cause.

      The power unit penalties lines is there because the only reason someone going to have more than 15 grid penalties is because they changed at least 3 engine components (and/or gearbox). I think Keith just forgot about your possible scenario because it’s indeed possible to get 18 grid penalty. Driver infringement rarely gives someone more than 5 grid places penalty and if they did, the offence probably would be so great that people will demanding a race ban or something.

    2. I meant 19th as the second possibility anyway

  10. just to remove constructors points, instead of penalising, drivers, the sport & fans who was there to see a race.

    1. I never understand people who want to ‘protect’ drivers from car/team penalties.
      F1 is a sport in which the strongest combination of driver/chassis/engine should win.
      If you just want to find the best driver, then follow a spec series.

    2. Yeah, remove points from midfield and backmarker teams, who are not likely even in control of the engine. These teams do not have a lot of points, to begin with, and then a couple of engine problems will erase their efforts for the entire seasons. Great solution (not).

      For this to have any meaningful effect the number of subtracted points must be substantial, otherwise, top teams will be changing engines every couple of races. But if so, poorer teams’ standings will be entirely decided by removed points. For instance, Toro Rosso will be dropped behind Sauber, and great results shown by Sains will be all for nothing. Goes kinda counterintuitive to ‘fans want to see a race,’ if the ultimate outcome is basically randomized.

  11. I seem to be the only person that cares about this little detail after all the penalty tals….but what is the new “minimum battery weight”? Is it higher or lower now? I’m going to guess lower as battery tech has improved since 2014 when it was set initially and they should be smaller/lighter batteries for the same storage and power now.

  12. Oh….and after being one of the loudest voices screaming for driver safety the last two years, I’d like to officially say the halo does little to help safety, it’s hideous and a waste of time providing little or no benefit.

    1. It provides the benefit of making the cars and the entire sport less sexy, thus making fewer people wanting to see it, thus making fewer people wanting to drive faster, thus contributing to safety. See? Todt is a genius!

  13. I don’t understand why many people ridiculing engine penalties, blaming the rules when the one at fault is the engine manufacturers. The rules was written to enforce and highlight that reliability of engine in hybrid era is one of the most important goal and it’s not sudden last minute change. The only thing that makes them looks silly can be pointed at one major source: Honda, and one lesser source: Renault.

    If you took out McLaren-Honda out of equation in grid penalties, suddenly you only got a handful of ridiculous number of penalties. Furthermore, take out Renaults and you only got one or two instances of 15+ grid penalties and you can argue they took it for strategy benefit like Hamilton’s new engine change in Brazil. A classic F1 team going for a loophole case.

    All I want to say is Mercedes and Ferrari done their homework right, Renault and Honda don’t. Blame them, not the rules.

    1. +15 grid places

  14. Right, so here’s a patently silly idea. But hey, if the FIA can do it, why can’t I?

    Power unit penalties are for the power unit, right? And these are made by an engine manufacturer, not a team or a constructor. So, let the FIA start charging (penalizing) manufacturers an amount for each component change required by a team due to a component failure.

    25k euro for a single component, 150k for the whole shebang. If the manufacturer is also a constructor, double it.

    Yeah, yeah, I know that the power unit isn’t a fully standalone component, its integration into the car also plays a role. But as I stated earlier, the FIA don’t have exclusivity on silly ideas.

    1. @phylyp I guess the concern with that would be that would taking money away from the 2 engine manufacturer’s that are struggling the most really do much good?

      Given how many failures Honda have suffered this the amount they would have been fined would have only hindered them more by taking away money that would have otherwise gone into development’s to improve power & reliability, Additionally given how much it would have cost them you may well have just ended up with them walking away.

      1. Quite true, @stefmeister

        That said, how much is it? Taking Honda, they used 23 power units this season. Counting out the 8 allowed by regulations, that leaves 15 additional power units. 15 PUs x 150k = 2.25 million. It’s definitely not pocket change, but also not large enough that it’s the kind to cripple any team, looking at these figures Joe Saward put out (this is dispute over some aspects of this).

        In any case, this was just an off-the-cuff thought :-)

      2. Hm, so the penalty for an engine manufacturer must be divided by the number of teams they supply, methinks. The more teams supplied, the chances of a PU failure go up proportionally.

  15. Really an unnecessary change, now its more ambiguous as to who has how many penalties. What was wrong with the old system? Who cares if Stoff and Fernando were getting 30 place penalties, its just a knee jerk reaction to something that was clear. Now you’ll have Hartley and Gasly with 15+ penalties but unable to tell which one has more.

    This is exactly like having a bar in your battery icon so you can guesstimate how much percentage you have left instead of just having the percentage number.

    I guess you need to appeal to the lowest denominator to grow the sport.

  16. Dont penalise the driver, penalise the team, a system to either dock points or in the case of the lower grid teams with no points then a fine, but to see a championship decided by putting a contender to the back of the grid through no fault of their own, is a joke.
    Can you imagine the last race of the season if the championship leader qualifies on pole and his engine lets go on the warm down lap and hands the title to the person in 2nd.

    1. What’s strange about your scenario?
      It’s happened thousands of times that a driver had to drop a win due to a reliability issue. Hamilton lost a title for the exact same reason in 2016.
      F1 is a mechanical sport, it’s not based on drivers only.

  17. I think we need detail of other new regulation too like procedures for starting or resuming a race behind the safety car (Hamilton and Vettel might want to know);
    Ensuring that testing of previous cars may only take place on tracks currently holding an FIA Grade 1 (No more RedBull in the snow/dessert?);
    No demonstrations may exceed 50km in length (Williams-Kubica?);
    Changes to ensure that oil cannot be used as fuel & Introduction of a detailed specification for oil. (Assisting Renault?);
    A minimum weight and volume for energy storage/batteries. (Anyone knew who was now had technological advantage on this?);

  18. Ooh, clever. Same system, but less transparent. Designed to silence habitual complainers while changing absolutely nothing. Very wise and delightfully immoral.

  19. joe pineapples
    7th December 2017, 11:33

    Thanks FIA, you’ve really knocked it out of the park, listening to the fan’s issues with the the current (driver) penalty system and addressing nothing for those same fans [slow clap]

  20. The grid penalty system isn’t ideal, But I honestly think it’s better than the alternative solutions that are always put forward.

    Points penalty’s & fines wouldn’t be as fair, Especially for the mid-field teams who don’t have the budget’s to deal with fines & who tend to be in closer fights in the standings so would be hit more by point drops.

    Fines for manufacturer’s is another option but I don’t see how taking money away that could be going into trying to fix reliability/performance problems would do any good. I’d rather see Honda & Renault be able to put all of there resources into fixing there issues rather than chunks of it having to go towards fines.

  21. “If more than one driver receives such a penalty they will be arranged at the back of the grid in the order in which the offences were committed.”
    It should be in order of time set in qualifying by qualifying session (ie times set in Q3 first then Q2 etc).
    Still a silly rule. This “change” is just cosmetic and won’t change the buffoonery of engine component-based grid penalties.
    How ’bout fining the engine manufacturer for blown engine quotas? I know the car packaging has a big impact on engine reliability, but these grid spot penalties accomplish nothing. If the manufacturer is hit, perhaps it would give them more incentive to fix their issues.

  22. If 15 places is the maximum the next line saying if they receive morie than this means 15 places is not the maximum?

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