Mattia Binotto, Ferrari, Hockenheimring, 2019

Fine instead of penalty for unsafe release was “proper” decision – Ferrari

2019 Hungarian Grand Prix

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Ferrari believe the German Grand Prix stewards did the right thing by fining the team for the unsafe release of Charles Leclerc’s during the race instead of giving him a time penalty.

Rivals have complained the decision goes against past precedents and gives teams an incentive to make unsafe pit lane calls knowing they won’t get a sporting penalty.

However Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto defended the stewards’ decision in Friday’s FIA press conference.

“Several races are difficult situations, difficult situations to judge, difficult situations to act on. During the weekend at Hockenheim, I think that the drivers met with the FIA on the Thursday and discussed the approach.

“What was key was certainly to be safe respective to the mechanics in the pit lane. For example, in the case of Charles, the Red Bull team was ready for a pit stop and was just in front of him. I think the way that Charles drove was very safe in respect of the mechanics and the pit crew. Yes, he had to slow down to be careful with the cars coming in but that’s a racing situation. I think that as a team, when you’ve got such traffic, again, I think what is key is safety first.

“In a racing situation where we have been fined, I don’t think there will be a much different situation or different judgement in the future. I think the way it has been judged was the proper one.”

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, whose driver Max Verstappen received a five-second time penalty for a similar incident in Monaco this year, questioned the precedent set by the decision.

“Max got a penalty in Monaco for what was an unfair release and it was deemed that it was because he touched the car of [Valtteri] Bottas,” he said.

“It’s a tricky one, they are slightly different incidents but I think that what you want to see more than anything is an element of consistency because otherwise, from a team point of view, from the guy that’s releasing the car, what call does he make when he’s making that release now?”

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Keith Collantine
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18 comments on “Fine instead of penalty for unsafe release was “proper” decision – Ferrari”

  1. Of course they’d agree with the FIA reasoning to give off the image all was as previous (though some teams might be honest and admit they were lucky their sporting decision to block Grosjean so Leclerc could get out ahead of those coming up was penalised with just a, very low, monetary fine), but the fact that the FIA subsequently were pushed into establishing racing penalties for future such releases shows that reasoning for what it was: self-serving.

    1. …but the fact that the FIA subsequently were pushed into establishing racing penalties for future such releases…

      Did they? Really? Does anyone have a link to this?

      1. @drycrust, according to the Motorsport Network, during a meeting between team managers and the FIA on the Thursday before the Hungarian GP, the team managers stated they were concerned that imposing monetary fines was too weak of a deterrent to stop teams from taking a risk with an unsafe release.

        Instead, the teams asked for time penalties to be the preferred penalty mechanism, so apparently that has now become the preferred standard. https://www.motorsport.com/f1/news/fia-unsafe-release-time-penalties-leclerc/4505397/

        To be honest though, even a 5 second penalty feels rather soft given that there have been a lot of situations where it’s been preferable for a driver to deliberately take the penalty in order to get past a rival when it’s been that small a penalty. If it is going to be a time penalty, I would prefer it if it was a much harsher penalty given the cynicism that some team bosses have shown about wanting to “race in the pit lane”, with seemingly no care for the safety of the mechanics who are out there.

        1. Drivers should not suffer from team mistakes. Just strip team its points from constructors championship.

          1. Patrick Bogers
            3rd August 2019, 11:03

            That sounds like the easiest solution, but only for top teams. we would then get say Williams at -X points at the end of the season

          2. @regs Of course the driver should. They get the advantage, they should also suffer the consequence.

          3. @losd – Well said. I mentally framed a much more verbose rebuttal to the whole “spare the driver” comment, yours did it far more succinctly.

        2. Thanks for the update.
          I guess Jean Todt won’t see a need to ask questions.

    2. Interestingly, the Sky Sports commentators said the time penalties given to the Alfa team were because their drivers were given instructions about how to do their start after the several formation laps, but the FIA’s website says it was due to the clutch not releasing in 70 milliseconds or less. Does it matter what Alfa did wrong?
      Ultimately the credibility of F1 is at stake, and decisions like these just make F1 a laughing stock.

      1. @drycrust Are you saying that Alfa Romeo should not be punished for simulating traction control when it’s not allowed?

        F1 would be a laughing stock if they didn’t punish breaches like that. Hard.

  2. What a surprising response from Ferrari, the sports’ defender and veto leader – agreeing with the FIA. Ferrari could have used their veto and punished Charles with a 5 second penalty – during FP1.

  3. However Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto defended the stewards’ decision in Friday’s FIA press conference.

    I suspect most Team Principals that were given an time penalty as well as a fine would say they disagreed with the Stewards decision. Really this means that next time an incident like this happens the team involved will be expecting a similar fine and no time penalty. That was entirely predictable. Similarly, if someone is injured or killed in some incident then the family and friends of those hit by a car will be blaming these Stewards.
    As I think about it, since there is dissatisfaction with the Stewards decision (expect from Ferrari and their advocates), then maybe it is time for a change in the pitlane procedures during a Safety Car or Virtual Safety Car event. For example, a reduction in car speed from 80 km/hr, e.g. to 40 km/h during that time and maybe even a limit on the cars allowed to be serviced at one time, e.g. 3 cars. Maybe reducing the speed wouldn’t have avoided the near collision, but if such a collision had happened then the forces involved would have been less.

    1. @drycrust I like the idea of reducing speed lane limit during safety car and VSC. That is when the pit lane becomes most chaotic so it could reduce incidents, and the reduction would also make sense from a sporting point of view since drivers would gain less time from the safety car lottery (where a driver who pitted under racing conditions loses around 15 seconds to one who pits during the safety car period).

  4. Does he think everyone is an idiot? What’s to stop a championship decider in the pits being ‘unsafely released’ when a team can simply pay off the penalty? For most teams especially the top few, any fine is chump change. Money won’t fix broken legs or a death.

    No the penalty should absolutely be a time penalty and directly effect the race outcome, that’s the way that makes sense.

    1. Hell, in a championship deciding unsafe release top teams could afford a 100 mil dollar fine no problem, which is exactly what mclaren got for the spy story, and it’s 20.000 times heavier than what ferrari got here, so you get the idea.

  5. Utterly mind boggling how the stewards could decide this way. There was clear contact and Grosjean was obviously impeded by Leclerc’s unsafe release.

    Obviously the FIA also agree with that view since they have since stated that any unsafe release will result in a time penalty.

  6. Ferrari International Assistance.

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