Guenther Steiner, Silverstone, 2019

F1’s unpopular engine grid penalties likely to stay

2019 F1 season

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Formula 1 has been unable to find a better alternative to giving grid penalties to drivers who user too many power unit components, according to Haas’s Gunether Steiner.

Each driver is limited to a maximum number of each power unit element for a full season. If these are exceeded the drivers are moved back places on the grid or even relegated to the back of the field.

The penalties are unpopular with fans, but Steiner says the sport has been unable to come up with another solution which would force teams to stick to the limit on the number of engines they can use each season.

“It’s difficult to find another solution,” Steiner admitted. “If the penalty is too little the chance that you do something just by spending more money and getting an advantage is easy to do.”

Steiner compared the situation to Ferrari’s fine for sending Charles Leclerc from the pits into the path of Romain Grosjean’s car in Germany. Rival teams were unhappy at the decision and urged the FIA to give sporting penalties for similar incidents in future.

“It’s like when you get a fine for an unsafe release,” said Steiner. “Five thousand Euros in Formula 1 is nothing. If you can get a tenth of a [second] advantage for €5,000 you do it every day.”

Other alternatives to the grid penalties have not found favour. Docking championship points is impractical as the value of a single point to each team varies enormously. And Steiner believes giving drivers penalty ballast or less fuel would likely be no better than the current arrangement.

“I think that is even more confusing than grid penalties,” he said. “A grid penalty, [you] explain it at the beginning of the race and then you are OK. But then if you have ballast or less fuel, [the] commentators on TV [have] to explain why all of a sudden that car is slower than the other one.

“Therefore I think in the moment they haven’t found a better solution so at the moment it’s the status quo.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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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  • 16 comments on “F1’s unpopular engine grid penalties likely to stay”

    1. I think he’s interpreted the fans dislike incorrectly here….

      The penalty itself isn’t the problem, it’s the fact that the number of components allowed is insufficient to complete a full season in all but the most perfect scenarios.

      We don’t want to see teams taking engine penalties 1/2 way through the season.

      When 14-16 of the cars end up with penalties, it shows the allowances are insufficient.

      Give them all 6 engines and you’d end the penalty problem.

      1. If 14-16 cars are getting engine penalties, it doesnt show that theres a problem with the allowances, it shows that 14-16 of the cars aren’t doing a good enough job.

        They all have the ability to get through the entire season on just one engine if they were turned down enough.

        Imagine if, one year, all exam results plummeted. Would your response be “something has happened, we need to investigate and sort it out” or would you say “just make the exams easier, then more would pass?”

        1. The turning down of engines damages many aspects of the sport / spectacle. We should have less of this not more.

          1. Er… What’s the alternative? Are you suggesting it would be better to have less power if that let the drivers use 100% of it all the time?

            If you look back at old race reports from decades ago, there was no rev limiter apart from the driver – who had to keep the revs low enough to make the engine last the full race distance. If they had to, the drivers would push the peak revs higher and take a risk, but if they were comfortable they’d keep it well under the limit. Today we have a more technical version of that, but the effect is just the same.

          2. Speed is relative. I didn’t realize that last week’s fastest timings were roughly a second slower than 2018 until someone showed the data.

            So yeah, let the fastest of the slow cars win.

      2. Exactly. i was going to elaborate but it’s really not needed. Nail. Head. Hit.

    2. Docking championship points is impractical as the value of a single point to each team varies enormously

      Percentage of points? In a 20-race season, each race is equivalent to 5% of the total points tally… So penalize them by half that for any engine penalty? i. e. Take a new engine, lose 2.5% of your final points tally.

      1. @phylyp whilst your suggestion is actually the fairest I’ve seen, and one that in a perfect world would probably be the best, I fear that it would be rejected as it’ll be more complicated for the fans.

    3. Just tighten the budget cap more and remove the engine component limit for customer teams. They will have a natural limit on how many engines they can use because they can only afford so many PUs. That way we’d have significantly less engine penalties, given as they rarely affect works teams outside of Red Bull and Renault.

    4. The system is fine. It gives us the occasional mixed grid. No other system will work. It is fine. Just give them a few more parts for the season.

    5. PU Limits and standard parts are two of stories this weekend. From memory these were introduced to reduce costs.

      Given the 2021 cost cap, why haven’t these been scraped. it seems that FOM has missed an opportunity to simplify the regulations and stop these terrible race weekend penalties.

    6. Every now and then this discussion starts again but every time it starts from the premise that the penalty system is disliked by fans. I’m not convinced.

    7. thank god. the proposed idea was far worse. f1 keeps creating problems for itself.

    8. If a cost cap is going to be introduced in 2021, all of the current cost cutting measures should be abandoned as the cap should be enough. If a team could then decide to build a car on the cheap and use the savings to run a fresh engine at every race so be it.

    9. They need to give the penalty in terms of team points, leave the drivers alone, its not their fault if parts of the PU break or wear out. (normally nowadays)
      So drivers keep their points, the drivers points still get added to form team championship points, but if a new part is used then deduct championship points from the team. Driver’s championship unaffected. But I would use driver point penalties for driver rule infringements.

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