Sergio Perez, Force India, Baku City Circuit, 2018

Why Perez was allowed to serve his penalty during the Safety Car period

2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Sergio Perez scored a shock podium for Force India in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. But he can consider himself fortunate as he was able to serve a penalty during a Safety Car period.

Having been hit by Sergey Sirotkin at the start of the race, Force India decided to bring Perez into the pits on lap two to check the damage and fit fresh tyres. The Safety Car was out at the time and on his way in Perez overtook Lance Stroll’s Williams before the first Safety Car line.

Around 40 minutes later the stewards issued Perez a five-second time penalty (plus two points on his licence) for the incident. By this time he had recovered to seventh place but had Romain Grosjean’s Haas four seconds behind him.

Perez probably would have made it to the end of the race on his tyres without pitting again, when he would have served the penalty. The five seconds would then have been added to his final race time and likely would have dropped him behind Grosjean and probably also Carlos Sainz Jnr, who was catching both of them.

But the Safety Car triggered by the Red Bull drivers’ crash changed all that. To a man, the front-runners took advantage of the opportunity to fit fresh tyres. Perez duly served his five-second time penalty and it appears he bought himself just enough time on his way into the pits to leave his pit box still ahead of Grosjean’s Haas.

Previously drivers were not allowed to serve time penalties during Safety Car periods. Jules Bianchi did this during the 2014 Monaco Grand Prix and was given a further five-second time penalty for doing so.

However the interpretation of the rules has changed since then. As FIA race director Charlie Whiting explained yesterday, drivers are now allowed to serve time penalties such as these during Safety Car periods.

Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, Baku City Circuit, 2018
2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix in pictures
“Five seconds is five seconds whatever you do. It doesn’t matter if it’s done under Safety Car or what.

“It has to be done the next time the car comes into the pits. So whether he just waits five seconds and does a tyre change, five seconds is five seconds, it doesn’t matter when it’s done.”

The upshot was Perez took the final restart in fifth place, poised to capitalise on the dramas which befell Valtteri Bottas and Sebastian Vettel to claim his first podium finish since the same race two years ago.

His result came under threat again when he was investigated by the stewards for using his DRS incorrectly during the race. Although he and two other drivers were found to have done so, they all avoided penalties, and Perez’s third place was safe.

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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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59 comments on “Why Perez was allowed to serve his penalty during the Safety Car period”

  1. Glad to see Perez back to podium. The most underrated driver.

    1. Maldonado is the most underrated driver.

  2. petebaldwin (@)
    30th April 2018, 11:24

    For once, I agree with Charlie. If you serve the penalty under a safety car, you are still adding 5s to your overall time. If you can’t serve your penalty under the safey car, your penalty is effectively made much more severe as the cars will bunch up and the 5s will cost you more positions.

    1. Jonathan Parkin
      30th April 2018, 13:11

      Even in the olden days I still think they should have done this. I believe in 1998 the stewards had to inform a team within 25 minutes of an incident if the driver was to receive a penalty, which he then had three laps to serve once it was posted on the timing screens

      If the Safety Car was out while the notification came through the driver would have to leave the queue to serve his penalty but then would be at the back because he would have to wait for the queue to pass the pit exit, so I never understood why this was regarded as a ‘free’ pitstop

  3. “5 seconds is 5 seconds” is no explanation at all. Why wasnt it allowed before and why is it allowed now?
    Great for Perez but i still have no clue to what has happened with the rules.

    1. it is like asking what is heavier, 100 kg of steel of 100 kg of feathers?

      It is actually feathers, because you have to live with that weight on your conscious for killing all those poor chickens just for a stupid joke

      1. @johnmilk, you make me laugh all the time, brilliant :-)

      2. well, you don’t have to kill an animal for getting its feathers unlike leather or milk.

        1. well, you don’t have to kill an animal for getting its feathers unlike leather or milk.


          Dude, if you have to kill a cow to get it’s milk, you’re doing it wrong!

          1. @nick101 It is not about the cow, it is about the calf.

      3. Think about the surface area of 100kg of feathers… Mad

        1. @hugh11 I could’ve made my point with less feathers couldn’t I? Oh well, care for some chicken?

          1. @johnmilk well, we have to make use of the 100kg of feathers somehow… RaceFans BBQ anyone?

      4. @johnmilk 100 kg of steel is heavier than 100 kg of feathers, because the air trapped by the feathers contributes to the 100kg.

    2. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      30th April 2018, 14:22

      @rethla I think Charlie interprets the rules any way he cares and they depend on the driver.

      Lewis is the only one who’s questioning him and I think all drivers need to do that – at least they can all laugh at Charlie’s replies and decisions which are binding. It’s akin to having a dictator in F1.

  4. This is stupid. 5 seconds during a safety car aren’t equal with 5 seconds during a live race. The distance the cars cover is vastly different.

    1. But still, a pitstop costs the same time in the race and during a SC, just that relatively you lose less time – same here, so why should the rule be different when after a SC all the distances between cars on track are gone, so 5s penalty before a SC is not the same as just after it?

    2. petebaldwin (@)
      30th April 2018, 13:48

      @afonic True but 5s after a safetycar when everyone is bunched up costs you more positions. It’s arguably unfair either way if a SC is involved….

      1. @petebaldwin They are not bunched up at the beginning. So the bunching up happens afterwards and then the time penalty basically disappears.

    3. @petebaldwin almost nobody pits when the field is bunched up, unless they absolutely have to. They either pit when the SC appears or not at all.

      @bosyber generally when a safety car appears some drivers gain and some lose. This is part of racing. However, when a driver has a penalty, he has done something wrong, which might have even affected other drivers’ races. So it’s unfair to serve your penalty when the field drives to the SC delta, because the penalty is calculated based on what 5s would cost at driving speed, not SC speed.

      They can just say that if you pit during SC you cannot serve your penalty, you can either do it in another pit stop or have the time added at the end. I think it’s more than reasonable.

    4. GtisBetter (@)
      30th April 2018, 16:37

      The 5 seconds are the always the same, the only difference is the speed of the other drivers during the safetycar, but that has nothing to do with the penalty. The overal time of Perez is the same if he would stop for 5 second in the pit and then do the pitstop or if he would do the pitstop and get 5 seconds added.

      1. The logic here is so flawed it’s almost laughable!

        Yes, to PEREZ, there would be no difference – but Perez isn’t running the race in isolation. Of course the time in which HE finished the race would be no different, but due to the fact that it’s a RACE, there are other people involved – people he is racing.

        If he takes his 5 second penalty during green flag conditions, his competitors cover more ground over that 5 seconds than they do under safety car conditions. That’s the problem.

        He gains an advantage by taking his penalty during safety car conditions – just like drivers take an advantage if they pit under safety car conditions as opposed to pitting under green flag conditions.

    5. That would apply if they were already bunched up behind the SC, but they weren’t at that point. Drivers normally keep driving pretty fast (but above a minimum time set by the FIA) until they catch the SC (unlike in the case of VSC, when everyone slows down immediately after the deployment).

      Either Haas made a mistake during Grosjean’s pit stop, or Grosjean fell asleep and let Checo pull a 5s+ gap on the way to the pits.

  5. Either way – there’s a reason Perez is always the one there to pick up the pieces in these kinds of races. He and Ricciardo (except yesterday…) seem to have a knack of nicking podiums when others hit trouble. This podium could so easily have been Nico Hulkenberg’s, Esteban Ocon’s or Romain Grosjean’s, had they not made such costly mistakes.

    1. @ben-n
      Could of, should of, would of…If you want it this way then last year in Baku Perez should have won if it wasn’t for Ocon’s idiotic move and a possible 1-2 for them. How about this?
      You know, and don’t get me wrong about this, there is an old wise saying in my country:
      If my grandma had balls she would have been my grandpa“.

      1. True, but I think @ben-n made the point that some drivers are more often the ones picking up the pieces than others, and both Ricciardo and Perez are amongst the first group.

        1. @bosyber
          I know what the point was. But it is a non-point.

          I am sick and tired of reading “Vettel lucked the win”, “Hamilton lucked the win” and all this piece of crap here. Lady luck is everywhere in our lives. Bad luck also. But these are random things and not pre-programmed ones. Good and bad things can happen to anyone and especially in sports it has been a major factor since forever. Mansell, who had a dominant car almost throughtout his entire career, ended up with just 1 WDC. It should have been at least 3 but due to reliability issues (and that flat tyre in Phoenix if I recall correctly) it wasn’t.

          So what? What is the point of Ben’s “point”? Ricciardo was unlucky yesterday. I can number a double amount of times where he was unlucky than his lucky ones. Does anybody keep “luck statistics”? Is there an official FIA reference point on it? Perez was hit by Sirotkin and on the fourth lap he was 16th. Why nobody mentions this bad luck of his? Verstapped was unlucky on his judgements during the last GP. Why do people keep fixated on Ricciardo’s “good luck” and not VER’s bad luck or RAI’s bad luck in Bahrain?

          A coin has two sides. Some -if not most- people always prefer to see only one.
          The one that suits their beliefs.

      2. “If my grandma had balls she would have been my grandpa“.

        That’s a old saying.. nowadays the balls do not define the gender anymore ;)’

      3. Er… …the whole point of @ben-n;s comment, from what I could tell, is that Perez and (usually) Riccardo know how to make the most of opportunities, while several others do not. In other words, the “stealing podiums” is a skill rather than any sort of luck.

  6. Safety car Rules package is the most ridiculous thing in F1. It was something ready to pick from NASCAR or Indy, yet they thought they can do better than Americans. Result is depending where you are on a lap you can serve Safety pit stop or not, you can or you cannot serve penalties under safety, depending who you are, drivers must check several Safety lines painted on the tarmac. Simply ridiculous. Easy: Safety line = finish line, pits are closed until the safety car don’t spend one entire lap out, you cannot serve penalties during safety car time. Simple as it is. Fair for all…and not subjectively applicable. Maybe this is the matter, isn’t it? They don’t want clear rules in F1. Only subjectively applicable. I expect more from Liberty and Brawn.

    1. That wouldnt be fair at all to cars who have pulled a gap. There is no way to make an safetycar fair.

      One way to make it fairer is to limit the speeds in pitlane. Its ridiculous how the drivers stamp on the throttle as soon as they enter the pitlane. How it can be allowed to compete in the pitlane when the entire track is locked down for safetyreasons is beyond me.

      1. There is a limit in pitlane and has been for years now so not sure where you think they are stamping on it as soon as they hit pitlane.

      2. Where do they stamp on the throttle @rethla surely you have evidence of this? Considering they have a speed limit to adhere to at every track and have had it for years, and have a setting that has been shown numerous times on onboards…it’s quite confusing how you’ve come to this idea.

        1. Gabriel is talking about racing to the pit entrance. The cars race up to the pit entry line then slow to the pit speed limit. If the safety car is out controlling the pace it is possible to be faster in the pit entry than the bunched safety car group. So, yes, you can make up time going into the pits.

          I recall an incident where Hamilton spun in the pit entry……….

        2. I dont have a timestamp but it was very obvious last race and the commentators noted it. Just check when all cars dive for the pitlane.

        3. @magillagorilla
          Lap 40 when bottas enters the pitlane on the world feed is an good example.

          30th April 2018, 18:48

          I may be wrong, but I believe that Gabriel is saying when the cars exit the racing line for the pits, they accelerate from the safety car pace as much as possible BEFORE reaching the pit lane line where the speed limit is enforced.

          1. @rethla So that isn’t the pit lane that is the out road that leads to pit lane. The out road isn’t considered the racing track and thus the rules allow for you to speed up to the pit lane line even under the safety car. So unless you want a rule that eliminates that and only during VSC or SC, which makes even less sense under VSC, that’s you’re only option.

            However, that road isn’t pit lane, and pit lane is defined by a set of lines at each track. You might want to learn the various terms to avoid confusion in the future.

          2. @magillagorilla
            Those are some crazy rules. The whole point of the safetycar is for everyone to stop competing and just keep the warmth in their tyres while the track can safely be cleaned up. Then you have these odd bits of track that is nomans land to race on… I have always herd them referred to as pit entry and pit exit.

    2. I agree, I hate the safety car! Totally unfair system! I loved the introduction of the VSC as it is so much fairer as the well earnt gaps are held, however there is still the issue of being able to gain a ‘free’ pit-stop under VSC conditions.

      At Team-Sport go-karting venues they have a light system (much like the lights around an F1 track)… Green means go at whatever speed you want/can. Flashing Yellow means slow down to a walking pace and no overtaking, much like the VSC does. A Flashing red light means stop as soon and safely as possible. Everyone stops where they are, the obstruction is removed then the green lights switch back on. Everyone still has (roughly*) the same gap between them as before the incident and the track is safe as everyone is stopped. Much fairer than a safety car!

      I realise the red light is harder to do in F1 than at go-karting because of tire temps etc so the marshals would have to work a lot quicker than the abysmal display in Baku (maybe this should be a stipulation for F1 track license – to be able to clear a car or two in a specified time from any location), but once the race is restarted the conditions are still the same for everyone (having to re-get the temp in their tires) so still mostly fair. Or if they can’t stop where they are due to overheating/cold tires being too much of a risk etc then with a red light simply have VSC speeds to get back to the pits and time the gaps between each. Then when safe to go out, release everyone at the set times that they came in under still at VSC speeds until the last car comes out of the pits when the lights can go green again. Surely that is not beyond technology to do?

      I know several people rated the last few races highly and love a safety car to ‘spice things up’ but personally I want to see a fair race where the winner is the car/driver combo who deserves to be there (F1 is a team sport so I believe car failures are fair as the car is the Engineers part of the team). In Baku this was Vettel, not Bottas as Vettel would not have been in the position to have to make the move which lost him more positions (though if Bottas would have been bale to close the gap and overtake on fresh ultras is something we will never know but would have been a fair and still exciting (more so as it would have been all merit) end to the race imo).

      *Yes you would lose out a little if you were in the middle of a straight when had to stop compared to a driver in the middle of a slow corner who had to stop, but this would amount to a few seconds and not totally wipe out an 11 second advantage you had spent the first 30 laps of the race building up, so much fairer!

  7. Hmm. I think its fair. Force India were probably managing their race keeping this 5 second penalty in mind. If there was no safety car, he most likely would have kept the gap over 5 seconds to Grosjean. But the SC came and unfairly robbed Force India of this 5 second buffer that they were managing all the time.

    However, the team showed agility in calling Perez in immediately, serving the penalty and changing tyres before Grosjean crossed them. This is very smart work by everyone involved. Kudos to the team. They definitely don’t deserve another penalty.

  8. Charlie is wrong to say 5 seconds is 5 seconds whenever you serve it.

    If you serve it under the SC it’s like the difference between counting to 5 and counting to 5 while the world around you goes in slow motion. To the rest of the world you may as well have only counted to 1.

    1. See my post, and @sumedh’s post above @johnnyuk, a 5s gap over someone else also goes with the SC, seems fair enough, as far as you can be with a SC.

  9. Agree with the consensus that Charlie is talking bobbins about 5 seconds being 5 seconds no matter what. A fairer way to do it would be to just only add the 5 seconds to the race time at the end, as that way you bake in the fact that everyone had the SC slow them down.

    On the flipside though we see race results changed utterly by safety cars all the time (we’ve seen it in 75% of the races so far this year) and drivers without penalties still being penalised by the luck of the safety car draw, so in a way a time penalty being rendered absolutely inconsistent by the SC is actually completely 100% consistent with the sport as a whole.

    1. If you look at the rulings though it hasn’t much to do with the SC but the fact that rules state you can not serve a penalty between your last stop to the end of race if given a time penalty before that. So had the ability not been there for Sergio to pit under SC then he’d not been able to serve the penalty and it would have been a 5 second time penalty added to his end of the race. It’s these little nuances that seem to confuse people.

      So perhaps shut down the pit lane, and only make it accessible to those who truly need it for services, like cut tires, damaged cars and failures. Then he keeps his timed penalty, though I’m confused why this is such a big deal, considering the penalty for the added time to begin with…

  10. the obvious way around it is to just add 5 seconds to the finishing time and stop taking the penalty at the pit stop.

  11. Five seconds under the SC is not the same as five seconds under racing conditions. If that would have been the same, then Hamilton would have won in Australia. I generally think the 5s/10s are over-used and don’t particularly like them. They should be for minor incidents like exceeding track limits, not when the driver gains track position over his victim. Sometimes is better to illegally overtook a slower car and still pull away. Vettel-Verstappen in China, Gasly-Magnussen in Baku warranted DT. A driver serves his penalty within a few laps and is already in a real position.

    1. petebaldwin (@)
      30th April 2018, 13:52

      I agree. It should go back to penalties being served within 3 laps although the stewards need to be MUCH quicker for simple penalties. Why did it take 40 minutes to deal with a clear-cut incident?

    2. I would only use time penalties to “correct” results of last laps overtakes where there was no time to order the driver to give back position. Anyways either an offence is big enough to deserve a drive-through or not big enough to deserve a penalty.

      I am thinking if “slow-down” penalties could be implemented in real life. It could be served on the longest straight of a circuit. It would not be as harsh as a drive-through but would be a real on-track penalty. White flag could be used during serving the penalty. Let’s say the driver must go at 160-200 kph for a given period far from the racing line on the longest straight and that is the penalty. It could have safety issues, that should be thought over. The pit exit could be used as a reference for the end of the penalty.

      1. @f1mre
        Yes, time penalties for late moves would be good, they are in use right now though. “Slow-down” penalties seem like an unnecessary complication. FIA loves to create complicated rules in recent years, whereas history shows the simpler usually is the better. Same with grid penalties, if we start giving fines and dropping constructors points instead, it will have more bad consequences.

  12. If it is the Virtual Safetycar, drivers are to maintain the maximum speed (low speed) from when the VSC is “deployed”.

    When it is a real safetycar, can drivers go full throttle until they catch up with the safetycar lineup? (of course in this process not overtaking the guy in front of you).

    And when lapped cars may unlap, can they go full speed till they have retaken the lap and cought the lineup again? (or is there a maximum speed for this).

  13. I thought the late safety car phase was a really good argument for standing restarts.

    1. I think Lewis Hamilton agreed with you; he argued there should have been a red flag…

  14. Safety Cars in F1 are inherently unfair: cars get to reduce the gap, no matter how far behind they were beforehand. In the past, this was only way to do it because there was no way to accurately maintain and monitor the speed and the gaps between cars. Now, with the Virtual Safety Car, the can do that but it’s too difficult and complicated to maintain the VSC over many laps and also because the Safety Car makes the racing more exciting.

  15. AdanFinnell
    Safety car depolyments are arbritary. It will benefit some drivers and disadvantages others. Of course, we could just say the pits are closed when ever a safety car is deployed. That to my mind takes away the lottery that racing can sometimes throw up. After all, would Sergio Perez have made the podium without it?

  16. Richard (@)
    1st May 2018, 0:57

    It seems to me that the “5 seconds is 5 seconds ” reply is utter foolishness because 5 seconds under a safety car period will be a reduced penalty to NO penalty.
    First , during a 5 second period the competition can , at 200 mph ,gain about 2,200 feet and under a reduced safety car pace gain 1,100 feet if the safety car is going at 100 mph or 550 feet if the safety car is going 50 mph . So at the very least the penalty is reduced if permitted to be served under a yellow flag situation .
    Further , the fact of the matter is that the penalized driver will not have any track distance to make up because under the safety car rules drivers can and do close the gap to the car ahead . So… a penalized driver need only wait for the 5 seconds then pull back onto the track and close the gap to the next car . If he lost 500 feet or 2000 feet it matters not because he can drive as fast as he wants and close the gap to the next car thus not being penalized any track distance at all .
    The only possible disadvantage will come if there are other cars in the pit ( box as some may say ) and another car pulls out onto the track during the 5 seconds which the penalized driver is waiting ,if no other call pulls out during the penalty period THERE IS NO PENALTY !
    That is the result of letting a driver serve his penalty while a safety car is on the track.
    If you really want to be fair ( I suggest that the powers that be do not ) but,if you did you do not allow cars to close gaps during yellow flags. We have GPS which is accurate to a foot or so and timing systems accurate down to the thousandth of a second so if the circuit wanted to maintain exact distances between cars the technology is there but, they don’t so instead a driver can hit another’s car ruining the other driver’s race or perhaps knocking him out of the race altogether and then NOT be penalized an inch of track distance for the transgression .
    ( For those who measure in meters and not feet and kilometers and not miles you’ll need to do your own math but, take my word for it ,what Charlie said was nonsense no matter how you measure it )

  17. I have an opinion
    1st May 2018, 9:38

    Yet another poor interpretation of the rules by Mr Whiting (read his defence of Herr Vettel’s actions at the head of the safety car pack for another recent example). In his position as race director, he has become first and final arbiter of many rules – breaches are only referred to the stewards at his recommendation and penalties imposed by the stewards are meted out in a manner that he sees fit.

    Is Mr Whiting capable of conducting races in a fair and safe manner? Apart from experience, does he have any qualifications for his position? Is his performance assessed, credentialled and overseen? I feel the FIA skirted around these questions following the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix.

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