Lewis Hamilton, Charles Leclerc, Circuit de Catalunya, 2019

Unsafe releases to get time penalties – even if team gain no advantage

2019 German Grand Prix

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Teams will no longer escape penalties for unsafe releases in the pit lane as Ferrari did in the German Grand Prix, FIA race director Michael Masi has confirmed.

The stewards’ decision to fine Ferrari after Charles Leclerc was released into the path of Romain Grosjean at the Hockenheimring was met with surprise. Previous similar incidents have earned time penalties.

However following a meeting with teams in Hungary, Masi confirmed the time penalties will be reinstated for future races.

“At Thursday’s team managers meeting we had quite a good discussion and it was agreed that from this weekend effectively, forget about what’s happened in the first part of the year, and during a race if there is an adjudged unsafe release then it will be a time penalty. Regardless if there is or is not a sporting advantage.

“So there will be no differentiation and all the teams are quite happy to effectively start from this weekend onwards. All the teams and all team principals were made aware of exactly the same thing.”

Racing Point team principal Otmar Szafnauer said teams “shouldn’t be making those types of decisions” based on whether they would get fined or not.

“I think it deserves a proper sporting penalty because the risks are big and what you don’t want is teams making a financial decision based on a safety risk,” he said.

Prior to the German Grand Prix the stewards had tended to issue time penalties if one car was waved out into the path of another and fines if a car was sent from the pits without its wheels fully attached.

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38 comments on “Unsafe releases to get time penalties – even if team gain no advantage”

  1. Well, good to see this decision.

    Can we also ensure that the magnitude of the penalty is significant? And not a 5 second penalty for which a buffer can quite easily be built up. Say, a drive through, or a 10-second stop-and-go penalty?

    I’m happy to see this decision come about, but it doesn’t detract from Maisi’s mealy mouthed excuses justifying the penalty at Germany.

    1. +1 Just worsens those excuses in fact. It was a horrendous decision given there is only one issue, human safety, and they overrode that to assist Ferrari.

    2. @phylip
      Please no drive through or stop & go penalties; the penalty for the driver is to harsh in my opinion and although there is a giant gap between the frontrunners and the rest of the field, in general there are usually quite a few drivers within 10 seconds of each other .
      A 10 second time penalty and a 50.000 euro fine seems a more appropriate penalty to me.

      1. 10 sec penalty and 5% of your prize money. Funds go into a fund that goes to the bottom 3(?) teams.

    3. @phylyp, I definitely agree with you on both front – firstly, that they have now finally agreed on a standardisation of the penalty for that offence, and secondly also echoing your call that the penalty has to be made tougher to make it a real deterrent.

      I still feel that, in the cases we have seen this year of teams getting penalties for unsafe releases, those teams would still have preferred to take a 5 second penalty given that it was actually strategically preferable to take the risk of an unsafe release. By making the penalty fairly cheap, it meant the risk of an unsafe release and just taking the penalty became preferable because the potential gains for those teams outweighed a 5 second penalty – it does not take much to regain that advantage.

      1. You mean like Vettel building a 5 second buffer at Montreal? Oh wait…. :)

        1. grat, that is a rather specious and inaccurate comparison, because this is about the intent – Vettel did not want to leave the track and risk earning a penalty, but in this case it was more of a conscious act for the teams to take the risk because they saw the downside (the penalty) as being less than the potential benefit.

          In the case of Verstappen in Monaco, the strategy of the team was to take the risk because they were confident that they could build the gap – as far as they’re concerned, there would be no penalty to pay.

          Similarly, in the case of Leclerc in Germany, even if Ferrari had taken that 5 second penalty, chances are that they would have taken it anyway because the team would have known that, if they got the timing of the tyre change right and got Leclerc out into clear air, the difference in tyre performance could allow him to easily make that time up in a couple of laps.

    4. @phylyp weird thing is that leclerc pitstop was not an unsafe release. Unsafe reactions by grosjean.
      You’ve just said that any pitsop like that one is an unsafe release, therefore we are going to have 5 unsafe releases per GP. F1 fans for the win.

      1. @peartree, The regulations make it explicitly clear that it is the responsibility of the pit crew to ensure a car “must not be released from a garage or pit stop position in way that could endanger pit lane personnel or another driver.”

        The fact that another driver (Grosjean in this case) was close enough that a collision could occur means that it was Ferrari’s responsibility not to release Leclerc. Trying to blame Grosjean for not braking soon enough in your eyes comes across as either an act of intentional trolling or intentional ignorance – by forcing Grosjean to be the one to have to take evasive action, Ferrari are automatically violating the regulations because they should not have been forcing Grosjean to have to take evasive action in the first place.

  2. Probably dim of me, but I thought they always did incur a penalty of some sort? Any unsafe release, any car being released dangerously, etc. Like great for the clarification but I kinda thought that was what already happened…

    1. Me too. I kinda took it for granted. But here we are….

      1. I think a penalty of constructors points should be involved as well. A small time penalty in the race, and some % of constructors points docked at end of season for each offence. Driver penalty should be low, as they have little control over the release, but they usually gain in these circumstances. Team penalty should be high.

    2. No, you just didn’t read the article. At Hockenheim, Ferrari was given a 5,000 euro fine instead of the usual time penalty. Much wailing and gnashing of teeth resulted, and at Hungary, they decided to go back to the time penalties.

      1. No, you just didn’t understand his point. Before Hockenheim, it was universally accepted that this scenario is always a penalty, no questions asked. He’s still wondering – like I am – why this changed suddenly for Leclerc at Hockenheim.

  3. GtisBetter (@)
    10th August 2019, 13:07

    It was always a time penalty (when done during the race) until the stewards decided to change it for no good reason and now we had a discussion about it and we all agree the rule was good in the first place. And if the stewards just did it right in Germany we didn’t even need to have this discussion. They messed up.

  4. Foolish decision by FOM, unsafe release should always be a drive through plus massive(5 figure) monetary penalties just so the teams will learn.

    1. Black flag! DQ the driver!

  5. Glad to hear this after that awful decision in Germany. Shame that decision was ever defended, though.

    1. @neilosjames
      It was explained and now changed as it wasnt popular. Everyone who thinks it was a “shame” should have voiced it before the incident.

      1. The previous instance by Verstappen in Monaco was a time penalty and a lot agreed with that penalty at the time. The stewards just made up an excuse not to penalise Ferrari and then defended the ridiculous call in the face of evidence showing they were wrong.

      2. @rethla recent previous instances of releasing a car into the path of another car, causing either a collision or evasive action, had been dealt with using time penalties. Keith posted a table showing this.

        This was a departure from the established punishment. Rather difficult to voice our objections to a penalty-switch we couldn’t have known was coming…

  6. In German GP, safety of pit crews being valued as ridiculous 5000 euros was unacceptable. Better late than never to change that. Still I condemn invalid explanations from Michael Masi after that race. I hope he understands how wrong he was.

    1. @bulgarian
      I agree, they should be valued as 5sec instead……

  7. I understand the decision with LeClerc but im also happy this is taken out of the greyzone. Im not a fan of any “team penaltys”.

    1. Every time someone spells Leclerc “LeClerc”, I’m leGally obliged to tell you to stop. Please don’t do this.

      1. UnderStood. Will NeVer HaPpen AgAin.

      2. Sorry, I tend to make that mistake but I will considered my wrist well and truly slapped lol.

  8. Now make it a 10 second penalty too please.

  9. What about releases that ends up with 2 cars side by side like at Silverstone?

    1. GtisBetter (@)
      10th August 2019, 22:06

      When you have two pitboxes that close, the first car can be released while the last on is also just being released, making the release not unsafe, cause at the time of the release of the first car there was no car driving in the pitlane. As you can see with Verstappen en Leclerc it’s very close.

      But with Max in Monaco, Bottas is already driving in the pit lane right next to Red Bull and there is no way they should have released Verstappen right into Bottas.

      1. @passingisoverrated, and it is that sort of situation which highlights how even a 5 second penalty was no deterrent to Red Bull there. If anything, it created an incentive to deliberately take the penalty and to take the risk of an unsafe release, with some of Horner’s comments about “racing in the pit lane” suggesting that their mentality is to take those risks and not care about what consequences that could have for the safety of those in the pit lane.

        Now, when you look at the traffic in the fast lane, because Ferrari were able to turn Vettel’s car around quickly, Vettel was close to Bottas – if they waited for Bottas to pass, they’d also have to let Vettel pass them too. With that in mind, they could either hold Verstappen and end up in 4th place, with two drivers ahead of them that would be harder to pass, or they could instead risk an unsafe release, hope nothing went wrong and then have a go at trying to pass Hamilton instead.

        In that situation, the worst that could happen was that Verstappen would end up back in 4th again due to a cheap penalty, whilst the positive is that Verstappen could have a chance of taking victory – the cynical thing to do is to take the gamble and hope you don’t accidentally run over a mechanic or have a collision, because the potential upside makes it worth taking a cheap penalty.

  10. forget about what’s happened in the first part of the year, a

    Sure, we’ll just ‘forget’ it. What a load of ….

  11. But then, why is someone behind should have priority on pitting? Shouldn’t front car mechanics have a right to stop cars behind to allow safe release?

    1. If the car behind is coming into the unsafe window it means said mechanic has been slow so he should do better next time.

    2. If you mean what I think you do that is a can of worms, mechanics from another team stopping a car entering the pits because he deems it too close and may cause an unsafe release could be open to be interpreted as “gaining an unfair advantage”.

  12. Maybe it should be “5 seconds plus demoted one place”. So, for example, say a car number 11, running at 7th place, finishes 6 seconds in front of car number 12, then car 12 is promoted one place to 7th place, and then the 5 second penalty is applied … which could mean car 11 is classified as 8th, or it could be classified as lower than that.

  13. Unsafe releases to get time penalties

    To be fair to all fans, it was news to us that it doesn’t always… In the last few years, it has always been an automatic time penalty. We’re still curious as to why that changed at Hockenheim.

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