Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull, Albert Park, 2018

Red flag to a Bull: Why Ricciardo had to get a penalty

2018 Australian Grand Prix

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Daniel Ricciardo fumed at the “shithouse” penalty which last weekend condemned him to a three-place grid drop before the first qualifying session of the 2018 F1 season.

The penalty was for a straightforward violation. When Friday’s second practice session was red-flagged Ricciardo, who was on his qualifying simulation run at the time, didn’t slow down enough.

Ricciardo didn’t dispute the stewards’ case when he met them, as he explained the following day. “I walked in there and said I understand I was too fast, I wasn’t making excuses. I knew I had to get a penalty of some sort.”

Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen, Albert Park, 2018
2018 Australian Grand Prix in pictures
However he was dismayed that the sanction cost him three places on the grid. “The guideline is a grid penalty but that’s just a guideline,” said Ricciardo.

“There’s reprimands, there’s fines, there’s other things they could have done. If I’d passed a car upside down in the gravel and I was going too fast, sure. I didn’t pass the incident and the incident was a cable. So I thought they could’ve been more lenient before the season started.”

On the face of it Riccairdo deserves some sympathy. After all, he did reduce his speed by 175kph according to the stewards’ report, and was “consistently and significantly slower in the final three turns” which they took as an indication he intended to obey the rules.

He didn’t stand to gain any kind of competitive advantage from driving too quickly at that time. The only reasonable conclusion to draw is this was an innocent mistake.

Nonetheless it was a potentially dangerous one. And, as FIA race director Charlie Whiting explained, there was no grey area here: Ricciardo had broken the rules.

Drivers are given a clear target for how much they must slow down by in these situations and it was clear Ricciardo hadn’t hit it. Drivers must be above a minimum time [i.e. slower]

“The regulations say you have to be positive [above the minimum time] at least once in every marshalling sector,” said Whiting. “So generally you’ve got 20 light panels around the track, you’ve got 20 marshalling sectors, so they have to be positive at least once.

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“Daniel by his own admission made a mistake. He was being told to stay positive, he thought it was positive, but it seems he was just on the wrong side of the line. He thought he was positive but in fact he was negative.”

And as there was no disputing he broke the rule, it’s also clear he did do under potentially dangerous circumstances. A red flag tells a driver that a situation has been considered serious enough to stop a session. While he is correct in pointing out that the danger lay on part of the track he didn’t drive on, he wasn’t in a position to know that at the time.

So on one hand Ricciardo had clearly broken a rule. Driving too quickly when a session was being red-flagged was, the stewards noted, potentially “extremely serious”.

On the other hand this was obviously an innocent mistake: He hadn’t been trying to gain an advantage. The stewards clearly took this into consideration when issuing the penalty, which was more lenient that all of the four penalties issued to drivers who were caught speeding past yellow flags last year. In each of these cases the driver was found to have deliberately not backed off sufficiently:

Driver Race Session Penalty Stewards’ notes
Romain Grosjean China Qualifying Five-place grid drop “The driver attempted to set a meaningful lap time after passing through a double waved yellow marshalling sector.”
Jolyon Palmer China Qualifying Five-place grid drop “The driver attempted to set a meaningful lap time after passing through a double waved yellow marshalling sector.”
Felipe Massa Belgium Third practice Five-place grid drop “The driver made no attempt to significantly reduce his speed in the area of the double waved yellow flags.”
Kimi Raikkonen Belgium Race Ten-second stop-go penalty “The driver made no attempt to significantly reduce his speed in the area of the double waved yellow flags.”

Unsurprisingly, Ricciardo felt it should have been even more lenient. “I’m sure even if they’d given me a reprimand no driver would have gone up and said ‘are you guys crazy, he deserves a grid penalty’,” he said.

Equally, one could argue that speeding under a red flag is even more serious than speeding past a yellow flag. It’s certainly far more serious than missing the national anthem ceremony, which Ricciardo got a reprimand for last year. On balance, getting a slightly less severe penalty for accidentally speeding in a red flag situation than deliberately speeding past a yellow flag seems fair.

“Luckily we weren’t at my home race,” quipped Ricciardo after qualifying. But of course he was, and when the chequered flag fell on Sunday he was fourth, separated from a home podium appearance by 0.76 seconds and – quite possibly – the penalty he picked up two days earlier.

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

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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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43 comments on “Red flag to a Bull: Why Ricciardo had to get a penalty”

  1. Best drivers in the world………surely you lot can hit your targets in the blink of an eye. When you get paid big you need to deliver big too.

  2. Vettel fan 17 (@)
    28th March 2018, 11:32

    I think it was too harsh. He didn’t want to gain a advantage and he didn’t. The point is he did by accident. If driver x has a mechanical failure all of a sudden and spins into driver y, why should driver x get a penalty? He never intended to hit driver y, like Ricciardo never intended to speed. He was positive for the rest of the lap and made a small mistake, but that ended up messing up his qualifying.

    Also, he was nowhere near the incident. Yes, it’s a red flag, but they didn’t really need a red flag. Putting out the VSC and telling drivers to go through the pit-lane. Ricciardo didn’t put himself or anyone else in danger, nor did he hit anything, and made a simple mistake he didn’t want to make. Yet he lost out on a home podium. We all want the stewards to be lenient for on-track action, but first of all they need to look at these issues.

    1. Thats what i say to the police speeding on an empty road aswell. It doesnt work….

    2. @vettelfan17

      Firstly, being a home podium is irrelevant – it should have no bearing on any penalty or lack thereof. Secondly, that is was done by accident was taken into account; the stewards said he received a more lenient penalty as a result.

      When a red flag is waved, the driver doesn’t know why. They don’t know where it is, whether it’s a crash or a cable, if it’s safe or not. You just have to follow the rules. If you start saying “well it wasn’t actually dangerous, so it’s fine” then you’re just inviting every driver to make their own judgement about whether to follow instructions or now, or to what degree. That’s absurd and will lead to dangerous situations. I for one certainly don’t want to have another situation like Bianchi just because a driver through they new better than race control.

      These are supposed to be the best drivers in the world: meet the required standards or suffer the consequences.

      1. Vettel fan 17 (@)
        28th March 2018, 13:29

        But he was following orders. He slowed down, admittedly not enough but he intended to. It’s not like he thought “there’s nothing here, I can speed up”. Plus, he was going at a reduced pace. A reprimand and a fine would have been enough.

        1. @vettelfan17, so would you then extend that same courtesy to other drivers if they just so happen to be at their home race and were involved in a similar incident?

          If, for example, it wasn’t Ricciardo in the Australian GP but, instead, Sirotkin at the Russian GP, would you and others here then say “well, it’s his home race so we should be more lenient to him”, or would most have just brushed off the incident and said “well, he deserved the penalty”? As others have noted, fans have been crying out for more consistency from the stewards, not less: relaxing the rules to the benefit of a local driver surely goes against that principle, and it seems many here are more in favour of meeting out a similar punishment wherever it happens to occur and whomever it involves.

          1. Vettel fan 17 (@)
            28th March 2018, 18:35

            If Sirotkin did the same here, I would still think that a reprimand and a fine would be sufficient.

          2. If I recall sirotkin wouldn’t mind the grid drop, think he was like starting 20th (not totally sure but I know he had a bad qualifying)!

    3. I think it was too harsh.

      I think it is harsh too, but not too harsh, @vettelfan17.
      At least his setback was caused by his own ‘sleeping at the wheel’, whilst Lewis’ setback was caused by the algorithm guys (or the rule setting/implementing guys) sleeping at the wheel

  3. I still find it hard to judge if a penalty is harsh or not. We know he was slow enough at some points, but how much faster was he when he was too fast, and how many sub sectors was this for?

    1. 2 marshalling sectors (the penultimate and final marshalling sectors).
      But does that really make a difference? Is 1 sector OK, but 2 too many?

  4. I will have no concerns with the penalty if they adhere to the same standards of “break a rule, get a penalty” to other violations across the year such as exceeding track limits (irrespective of whether the driver gains any advantage or not).

    1. @phylyp

      The difference is that track limits are a “fairness” rule – red flag is a “safety rule”

    2. @fluxsource – that is a fair point, and definitely justifies the penalty given to Ricciardo. However, as both red flag regulations and track limits are all codified in the sporting regulations, I’d say the same yardstick has to be applied to other violations. I wasn’t asking for flexibility for red flag violations similar to track limits, it was quite the opposite.

  5. I agree he should have been punished and I agree with the penalty. Yes it seems harsh given what we know about the red flag, but as you said he wasn’t to know where the incident was, it could have been round the next corner for all he knew. When the red flag is flown you have to obey the rules and slow to the required speed, end of.

    1. @geemac, but was he ignorant. Here in Oz the TV had shown the errant cable at least 1 lap earlier, I would be surprised if the team had not told him (over the radio) of the cause of the red flag.

  6. No problem with it, even though it broke the hearts of all of us Aussies.

    Provided of course they keep it consistent.

    What I’d love to know is whether or not the same scrutiny was given to the speeds everyone was doing when the red flag was shown after Bottas crashed?

    Any way you can find out Keith? Dieter?

    1. Race control monitors various sensors, GPS and other measures at all times. I guess they have alerts popping up whenever this happens as I don’t see how they could manually monitor such amount of data.

      1. I think it was 2 years ago that FOM started showing the times of every marshalling sector with small coloured dots under the (3) sector times. I quite liked that.

  7. This to me is a big hoohaa over nothing. He broke the rules, and has a penalty.
    The sport doesn’t need another preventable accident, slow down, stop, red flag means potentially someone could already be in a serious condition or fighting for their life, he had nothing to gain, and above all leniency spawns more people pushing the envelope further. We have already lost one drive in the last few years to an incident which could have been avoided for a number of reasons, but chiefly among them in my view is the competitors taking yellow and red flags more seriously, slowing down with the intention or ability to stop at a moments notice. In the real world you lose your license for breaking these same rules, same should follow for those who are the role models for all drivers of all vehicles all over the world. Case closed, don’t do it again.

    1. @graigchq

      This to me is a big hoohaa over nothing. He broke the rules, and has a penalty.

      Exactly. I wish he stopped complaining, because that was a slam dunk penalty. His arguments are: “It’s my home race, and no one would’ve minded if I had received a less severe penalty”. Yeah, well, that’s not the point. The FIA doesn’t want anyone, under any circumstances, to drive even the tiniest bit too fast, and the only way to ensure that are strict penalties.
      No one is saying Ricciardo drove recklessly, or dangerously. I think everyone agrees that he simply made a mistake, but in an area where there can be absolutely no tolerance. He received the punishment he deserved, and should finally move on.

      1. @nase Exactly…and he did get leniency. The FIA didn’t go all black and white on him. They allowed a bit of shades of grey. He just wanted more leniency than he got.

      2. I imagine that he moved on immediately and that this is not actually “News”.

  8. FIA done good, a red flag doesn’t go hand in hand with grey area, just apply the rules as they are.

    Sorry for Ricciardo, but not giving a penalty would have led to even more discussions, same goes for yellow flags.
    Raikkonen got punsihed at Spa (2017) where a year before Rosberg came away with doing a fas(ter) lap under yellow.

    Let the FIA stand firm on this, it’s the same deal for every driver.

    1. @ Matn

      Raikkonen got punsihed at Spa (2017) where a year before Rosberg came away with doing a fas(ter) lap under yellow.

      Not comparable. Räikkönen was flat out as he passed the yellow flags, Rosberg abode by the rules by lifting off the throttle significantly. He still improved his time owing to track evolution (the track was still damp, getting quicker all the time) and the fact that the caution was lifted before he reached the scene of the incident that had caused it.
      The entire controversy developped for the sole reason that Rosberg lucked in and got pole, while Hamilton arrived there earlier, had to abandon his lap, and made some very sore comments to the press afterwards.
      Therefore, these incidents were fundamentally different. One driver ignored the flags, while the other reacted appropriately. Race Control did right to treat them differently.

    2. @Matn ”Rosberg came away with doing a fas(ter) lap under yellow.”
      – It’s OK to set a green or purple sector and or lap time, i.e., improve in a sector and or lap time following a yellow-flag zone as long as the improvement isn’t achieved within the relevant local mini-sector (an approximately 200-meter long marshalling sector between any given two marshalling posts) where the yellows were active. That’s precisely the reason Rosberg got to keep pole for the 2016 edition of the Hungarian GP and the same with Hulkenberg in Austria a bit earlier in the same season. The same approach applies to off-track excursions as well.

      1. Thanks guys for explaining… but me understanding things wasn’t the problem it was the discussion it stirred…and still does.
        Rosberg wasn’t wrong, didn’t receive a penalty which cause a stirr
        Raikkonen was wrong, received a penalty he didn’t agree with, but the public opinion agree he was wrong…as far as it got discussed at all.
        Ricciardo was wrong, received a penalty, felt he got screwed over at his home GP, public opinion agreed with that.

        Each penalty seems to lead to some kind of discussion, but in the end the FIA was right.

  9. It would be nice to hear a few more facts. I have no reference point for reducing speed by 175kph.
    How fast was he actually going at the time?
    How far below the target was he?
    Did he only mess up in one timing sctor or several?
    At the point of the red flag being shown how much grace is given to observing and reacting? One marshal post? Ie: if you don’t see the first flag, but react to the 2nd is it already too late?

    1. It doesn’t matter
      1. Too Fast
      2. He was Below (the amount is irrelevant)
      3. One timing sector is enough

      Fans have repeatedly called for (and complained about) consistency in applying penalties and this is the result. The FIA now have guideline penalties for each offence to enforce some form of consistency in their rulings. There is no ‘it was only 0.001s under, if you commit the crime you do the time.

      1. Fans have repeatedly called for (and complained about) consistency in applying penalties and this is the result…. it was only 0.001s under…

        I agree. The oddity is the omission from the final report of the amount of time below the minimum time is strange because Ricciardo’s haste is what he was penalised for. My guess is the Stewards failed to mention it because it was within what some would say was a trivial amount, but of course then someone will exceed that amount by another trivial amount … and then someone else by another trivial amount, etc. No, the Stewards applied the rule correctly. This was a practice run, no one would have been hurt by complying with the stipulated time.

  10. I only broke the rules a little bit. Yes, I knew I was breaking the rules. I expected to just get a slap on the wrist. Wah, Wah, Wah. Suck it up Danny.

  11. I must admit I can’t really see any argument against the penalty (or even a more severe penalty). A red flag is a red flag… there was no benefit in speeding back to the pits – it was a practice session after all. The organisers had deemed the incident serious enough to warrant a red flag, it is not up to the driver to decide whether the incident is serious or not.

    1. I can’t really see any argument against the penalty

      What about “I am colourblind”? In cycling they seem to be getting away with similar sophisms.

  12. You got off lightly Danny boy. It’s not like your career is in tatters for just rubbing a ball with a bit of sandpaper. You potentially put people’s lives in danger you numbskull. You had no idea what was awaiting around the next corner, and yet you thought it’s ok to drive as YOU want not as those in the know tell you. Your arrogance and stupidity is breath taking.
    Numbskull indeed.

    1. I’m not really sure what you’re trying to communicate, but I did gather that you identify as a numbskull and would like to be treated as such. Personally, I see no problems with that.

      1. I must admit I haven’t paid a lot of attention to this, but from the media comments in New Zealand it seems the Australian Cricket Captain and some others recently got caught tampering with the cricket ball and publicly apologised for it. One of the tricks is to roughen up the cricket ball on one side with a bottle top or such like and to polish the other side so the ball swings as it flies through the air. It seems to have fascinated the media and now there’s outrage in Australia over this episode of cheating, as though bending the rules wasn’t done in any other sport. So now the Captain and the others have had to resign, and the Australian Cricket team has lost some major sponsors. I guess the F1 equivalent would be to get caught doing something like exceeding the maximum fuel flow regulations or running the car too close to the ground.

  13. I think something that needs to be considered is that had they been more lenient then it sets a precedent so that the next time someone is caught doing the same thing they would then be able to argue that ‘You let Ricciardo off with a reprimand so its unfair to give me a grid drop’.

    I think they have already created a bit of a problem by reducing it from 5 to 3 places because if somebody does this next race & gets a 5 spot penalty that driver, There team & I can guarantee many fans will be screaming foul & complaining about inconsistent penalty’s etc…

  14. Guybrush Threepwood
    28th March 2018, 17:40

    You guys are missing the point. Everyone admitted the rules were broken and a penalty should be applied, it’s the severity of the penalty being argued.

    When stewards are showing leniency towards incidents in races, blocking on track during practice and qualifying, etc. all potentially dangerous situations resulting from mistakes, you would think they could provide some leniency toward a mistake that did NOT cause a dangerous situation.

    I think at the end of the day it’s easier to punish someone when it’s a cut and dry beach of the rules, than when you have to use your brain and interpret a situation.

  15. About this, since no one commented on it:
    “Luckily we weren’t at my home race,” quipped Ricciardo after qualifying. But of course he was, and when the chequered flag fell on Sunday he was fourth, separated from a home podium appearance by 0.76 seconds and – quite possibly – the penalty he picked up two days earlier.
    Ricciardo qualified 5th, 3 tenths off verstappen and the ferraris, would’ve likely ended up behind magnussen after the start and lost contact; I’m ofc not sure whether he would’ve gained enough advantage thanks to the VSC to jump raikkonen, but aside from that, there was no way to overtake a ferrari for a red bull on track.

  16. I have read most of the comments posted so far and a majority of the comments support the penalty given to Ricciardo and think the FIA got it right. In 2017 the FIA issued around 275 grid penalties and I thought that at one stage Alonso had that many grid penalties that he would have to start the race in the next town. If F1 race fans are happy for the FIA to continue to inconsistently issue BS penalties then keep supporting the FIA. If F1 race fans think that group of stewards who are too wrapped up in their own self importance are doing a good job keeping supporting the FIA. The FIA rule makers have over the last 10 years given us a boring sport that does not allow any real racing or overtaking and disproportionately rewards the wealthy F1 race teams. The FIA have sold the TV rights to broadcasters that have taken away any free to air TV coverage of races. This year we have one free to air race in Australia (Aussie F1 GP). We can only see delayed highlights the day after. The 3 engine rule was designed to reduce costs but has actually increased costs as the wealthy race teams spend millions of dollars trying to improve the reliability of their engines and many teams still expect to take grid penalties this year. So drivers will coast around to preserve engines – is this true F1 racing that fans want to see? People should have a good look at Moto GP where there is real racing and the race is often decided on the last corner of the last lap. Something has to change otherwise more people will stopping watching this great sport.

  17. Lewisfan 54
    2nd April 2018, 11:48

    Daniël Ricciardo is suffering in My opinion , from overconfidence. ! He is starting to be a dumm troublemaker.Because of his behavior the Grid Girls had to go! Suddenly this Australian amateur thinks he’s the king of the Hill But infarct he’s nothing . In ten years Racing he’s got nothing to show for .As for the spreading accident They should have put this idiot on last space of the grid. If your a proffesional you make sure you got your act together. In the end Daniël Ricciardo was steaming m angry he sad to the Press and for that provocation They should have disqualified him all together.

  18. Would it be sensible to bring in another rule where we have double waved red flags.
    So the drivers know where the incident is and know to significantly slow down and be prepared to stop.

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