Esteban Ocon, Max Verstappen, Interlagos, 2018

Analysis: Why F1 drivers received fewer penalties in 2018

2018 F1 season

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Formula 1 drivers received fewer penalties in 2018 than in any season of the last five seasons.

The total number of penalties issued by the stewards fell from 104 in 2017 to 80 in 2018, despite there being one more race last year.

There were two main reasons why fewer penalties were issued in 2018. The first was the stewards chose to take ‘no action’ more frequently than in previous seasons. While a total of 80 penalties were handed down, 79 investigations resulted in no action being taken, a substantial increase over previous seasons.

The other factor behind the fall in penalties was improved power unit reliability. Pre-season fears that a reduction to three power units per driver would lead to an increase in penalties were largely not borne out.

The number of power unit penalties being issued has fluctuated since the current V6 hybrid turbo regulations were introduced. The difficulty Honda has experienced making its power units reliable has been a major contributor.

Despite only supplying power units to one team per season since it returned to F1 in 2015, Honda has racked up almost as many penalties each season as its three rivals combined.

As the data below indicates, Honda made significant reliability gains in 2016, but struggled the following year when it introduced a significantly different engine architecture.

F1 driver penalties in 2018

Drivers incurred fewer penalties as a result of technical problems but received slightly more due to errors of their own making – collisions, impeding etc… – than in 2017:

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Brendon Hartley received the most penalties of any driver this year, but most were due to his team (i.e. technical problems with his car).

Max Verstappen picked up the most penalties for driving infringements, followed by his new team mate for 2019, Pierre Gasly. At the other end of the spectrum was Charles Leclerc, who went the whole season without committing a driving infringement.

DriverPenalties due to driverPenalties due to teamNo action
Brendon Hartley380
Max Verstappen642
Pierre Gasly540
Daniel Ricciardo251
Nico Hulkenberg150
Romain Grosjean332
Marcus Ericsson240
Valtteri Bottas321
Sergio Perez321
Sergey Sirotkin323
Carlos Sainz Jnr321
Lance Stroll221
Kevin Magnussen223
Stoffel Vandoorne130
Sebastian Vettel302
Kimi Raikkonen123
Esteban Ocon211
Fernando Alonso121
Lewis Hamilton111
Charles Leclerc022

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F1 driver penalty points in 2018

Although no driver has ever accumulated the 12 penalty points necessary to trigger a one-race ban, for the second year in a row one of them came within two points of doing so. This time it was Romain Grosjean. Daniil Kvyat, the only other driver to rack up 10 points, returns to F1 with Toro Rosso this year.

Kvyat will start the season on zero following his year away, while Grosjean will still be on seven points when the cars line up on the grid at Melbourne. The same goes for 2018’s most persistent offender, Verstappen.

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Full penalty data

Review all the penalties and major investigations for each driver over the past eight seasons here:

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2018 F1 season review

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Author information

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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  • 5 comments on “Analysis: Why F1 drivers received fewer penalties in 2018”

    1. Although some of the incidents that led to the ‘no further action’ decision could’ve/should’ve led to a penalty like, for example, the Stroll-Hartley incident on lap one in Canada, as well as, the Ocon-Raikkonen incident in Azerbaijan although the DNF for the responsible driver (Ocon) more or less acted as a penalty for it already. The same with the Magnussen-Leclerc incident in Japan.

    2. Personally I am totally not aligned with the FIA stewards ruling, therefore the numbers mean nothing to me. But nice means to start debating some of the incidents again ;-)

    3. So if I understand it correctly, there are three categories an incident can fall into: no action, team responsible (which is usually grid penalties, so essentially the driver still get penalized) and driver responsible. The latter two categories are then merged into total penalties in the graph, which is a little confusing.

      The driver penalties are somewhat correlated with overtaking, even though they peaked in 2014-2016, while overtaking peaked in 2011. Perhaps overtaking was easier back then, and as overtaking got harder, drivers had to try riskier moves, hence more collisions and more penalties. In 2017 the number of driver penalties dropped, likely as there were fewer on-track battles, though the Stewards may have eased off as well (which is a good thing I think).

    4. The total number of penalties issued by the stewards fell from 104 in 2017 to 80 in 2018, despite there being one more race last year.

      @keithcollantine I think you meant “being one more race than last year”.

      1. No, keith is right, I don’t remember how many races 2017 had and I don’t want to look it up, but I know 2018 had 21 races, which is the record, so 2017 can have had at best 21 races, so if a year had more races than the other, it’s 2018!

    Comments are closed.