F1 proposes replacing engine grid penalties with ballast penalties

2019 F1 season

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Formula 1 is considering whether to introduce a new system of ballast penalties for drivers who exceed the maximum number of power unit components.

Drivers who use too many power unit parts currently receive grid penalties. However the system is unpopular as it forces drivers to start races from the back of the grid.

A proposal has now been put forward to replace the grid penalties with a ballast penalty. The plan was outlined on official F1 Fan Voice website.

Success ballast “could be graduated depending on the seriousness of the offence (for example 5kg for a turbocharger change and 15kg for an engine change). The exact numbers would be calculated to give a similar end of race effect to the current grid penalties.”

The plan has some potential benefits and drawbacks, they noted. “The advantages of this is that it is simple, and cars start in the position that they qualify in.

“The disadvantage could be that unless the commentators make mention of the ballast penalty during the race (as they do in[the British Touring Car Championship] for example), it may leave spectators wondering why a driver is slow. It may also show a driver as being slower than his team mate when this is not necessarily the case.”

Fans are being asked to give their views on whether ballast penalties should be introduced or the existing grid penalties retained.

The advantage of leaving things unchanged “are probably that, after some seasons, it is understood and also, from time to time, we may see a battle as a front racing car claws its way from the back of the grid.

“Among the disadvantages is that once a penalty has been applied and the car is at the back of the grid, or a car is at the back of the grid for other reasons then there is an attraction to make further strategic changes which is outside the spirit of the regulations.”

So far this year 27 penalties have been issued for drivers exceeding the maximum number of power unit elements. Max Verstappen was one of the most recent recipients at Monza (pictured).

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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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  • 86 comments on “F1 proposes replacing engine grid penalties with ballast penalties”

    1. I never thought it would be possible to think something worse tban grid penalties

    2. Oh. My. God.

      They really have no idea whatsoever…

      1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
        20th September 2019, 12:46


        It’s caused by the F1 rule makers being bullied by the manufacturers into creating engine regulations which are not fit for purpose. They ARE amazing engines technologically, but are a poor solution in a sporting environment.

        It is possible to produce engines with equal power (but not efficiency) at one tenth of the cost or less. That would mean may 40 or 50 engines for one season for the same cost. Then we would have none of this silliness.

      2. I said it before, I’m so disappointed in Brawn and his team. They should know better, when they were announced it was like “these are the guys that know what to look for”

        But all they’ve been saying so far is: bonus points, sprint races, ballast penalties…. The same proposals under the Bernie regime.

        They are inches away from proposing sprinklers and medals systems…

        I rather have engine penalties and let them race properly from a bad position. You want to see a driver trying to get a better position, not trying not to.lose them

        1. +100500
          ditch engine limitations, ditch fuel usage limitations, ditch transmission limitations, ditch expensive engine parts. bring back races.

        2. Couldn’t agree more. In this case even Ross and his team though might have been blindsided by the people that run the Fan Voice part which I can only assume would be “marketing”

          Fan Voice seems to be designed specifically for marketing to capture skewed information for ridiculous things by asking unanswerable questions that are designed to support what they want to hear or suggest.

      3. Where’s the Steve Carrell “no” .GIF when you need it?

    3. Awful idea

      1. You present such compelling evidence to back up your position.

        1. Unsuccessballast. that outta fix it.

    4. Why not time penalties instead? Add one (or two) second(s) to a drivers quali lap for each new component, and end it there. At least then the drivers start where they qualify, and we won’t see top teams wasting places in Q2 because they’re starting last anyway.

      I’m pretty sure they did this in Hungary ’06, and it made for quite interesting viewing with Fernando and Schumi trying to get as high up the grid as possible with their time ballast…

      1. Your post gave me a thought – what about a time penalty at the end of the race.

        The driver going in knows they will start as they qualified and at the end of the race they will have x seconds added to their time. They have the entire race to make the best of it and get as far in front as possible.

        Racing is about pushing, give the drivers incentive to push.

        1. So if there is a SC in the end, you are screwed, yet in other instances nothing happens

          1. Yep – just like everyone else int he field could be screwed because a cushion they built is now gone and the guy behind them has a much better chance of passing than before the SC.

            Can’t control every possible outcome :)

        2. Yes, with all those staticians working in the simulation rooms, it appears the working group has never sat down with them to come up with fair solutions to the problems we already have.

    5. Another stupid idea… Honestly what is IQ of the FIA?

      1. What is your IQ?

        Do you even understand the concept of limiting resources … or you just a loud mouth?

        1. 130… scaled down for an evening at the pub but I typed very slowly so that you could read it. Do you understand the law of diminishing relative value?

          1. 😴 If you had an IQ of 130 you wouldn’t have responded as you did. Nobody with a high IQ and a sense of self decency would reveal such a thing to an obvious WUM. Still… You crack on.

          2. Now that’s a very funny response

      2. A very stupid idea I must admit, but knowing the FIA they might find a way to push it through in which case I’ll suggest any ballast be made out of bricks.

    6. I like it … especially if the car taking the extra components has to run with the ballast for all the remaining races of the season.

      1. This would be funny, imagine the cars weighing 2 tonnes as they head to Abu Dhabi and being lapped by a Vauxhall Corsa.

    7. The only reason I do not get any satisfaction from watching BTCC (or other TCC’s) is because they penalise success. The antithesis of any competition.

      Ballast in F1 – regardless of the rationale, is a death sentence.

      1. @psynrg

        The only reason I do not get any satisfaction from watching BTCC (or other TCC’s) is because they penalise success. The antithesis of any competition.

        I have to say I agree. I hardly ever watch the BTCC any more for this reason. Otherwise it’s a cracking series.

      2. Not saying I agree with the idea, but this ballast would be penalising failure… so a very different rationale to the BTCC

      3. F1 doesn’t do this and yet fans complain about the the teams being too far off.

        When you dont penalize success, you create positive feedback loops that repeat a lot.

    8. I quite like it as a basic idea actually, it is probably the first idea other than the existing grid penalty system (that I have heard discussed so far) that is fair and where there are few opportunities for the teams to game the system. As long as that ballast is carried every time the component is used, so they are tied together effectively.

      1. Maybe they could use a “half life” system, where the ballast is halved each race (obviously stopping when the weight is below a threshold, e.g. 1 kg).

    9. Make the regulation fuel tank size larger and penalise engine components with a fuel ballast; cars get slowed down but they have more fuel to play with as part of their race strategy…

      1. You seem to like it gimmicky, don’t you?

    10. I prefer the grid-drop penalty system over this ballast-penalty system used in some other categories. I, in general, have never had an enormous problem with handing grid-penalties for exceeding PU-element allocations in the first place, so just leave it as it is since there isn’t really any viable alternative.

    11. First idea that might possibly turn out better than what we have now.

      On an unrelated note, I love the header picture. Anyone else think it looks just like Verstappen decided to pull a WRX-style joker lap?

    12. Lots of comments already dismissing the idea without stating why…

      Personally, I like it. Since we must have penalties for these sorts of things, I’d prefer ballast to be added than dropping a car down the order. It means someone who took pole, but needs a new gearbox, still has a reasonable chance of winning the race, for example.

      This shouldn’t be labelled success ballast (as some people have stated already) – it’s the opposite: penalty ballast. That’s the fundamental reason this cannot be compared directly to BTCC.

      1. It can be broken. For instance in Monaco where you can’t overtake anyway, just take as many engines/gearboxes as you can, fill up the pool and then still win the race.

        1. @robinsonf1
          Erm, win the race? In Monaco? With additional ballast? You really sure you thought this through? Like, how do you qualify ahead of anyone? How do you make your tyres last as long as everyone else’s? What do you do if the pack you’re holding up just decides to under- or overcut you?

          1. Fair play, forgot about the qualifying part. Assumed it was just applied in the race.

    13. Don’t really like this, the only upside of the current rule is you can see the faster cars coming through the field, this would be like the opposite as the faster cars hold up the rest of the field as they are 50 kgs overweight etc.

      1. @davidjwest – yep, good point

    14. Now we get fun charges from the back. With ballast, I can only see it being worse.

    15. Maybe could be combined with the existing penalties?

      So, driver error, grid penalty, car failure etc, ballast penalty?

    16. I really can’t understand how people don’t get the current system. It is not difficult and the alternatives are ideas like this that would probably be more ‘complicated’ to explain. Maybe it’s just Sky…

      1. @robinsonf1 – yeah, I’d have to agree. Ask Crofty to explain 1+1=2 and he’d likely make a meal of it.

        In fact, I preferred the earlier system that meted out grid drops proportional to the components changed, instead of this system that stops once a car is in P20.

        Maybe Liberty could just invest in some snazzy graphics to show how the grid drops work, they’re in love with that :)

    17. I would go for time penalties to be served during pit stop(s). As teams would know about the penalty before the race start we wouldn’t get the situation where the time penalty is added to the race time at the end, which I always fine dissatisfying.

      An alternative I have always thought about was that rather than time penalties as such you have a “slow lane” (probably would become known as the “bus lane”…) on a straight section of each track where the driver is restricted on speed for the length of the lane. This could be worked out to lose the driver say 5 seconds. Much like a drive-through penalty but more consistent as the penalty doesn’t vary depending on the length of the pit lane. So if you wanted to impose a 15 second penalty the driver would have to drive through the “slow lane” three times before the end of the race. I’m sure there’s some reason or other it wouldn’t work but I like it!

    18. Not a fan. Not at all.

      I like grid penalties, it usually makes the idea of a race (which can be quite boring nowadays…) quite interesting if you know a fast car is starting near the back. Component penalties, which most often aren’t even a drivers fault, can also be mitigated by safety cars or an unconventional strategy… Something we’re all crying out for in this era of “optimal stints”.

      Ballast will just make a fast car slow, so we’ll spend the whole race watching weighted down cars get passed lap after lap.

    19. I don’t like the idea of penalty because of a component change in general. And yes, I find quite ridiculous when a driver receives 765 penalty points. Because of that the grids are reviewed, with sometime quite a lot of them starting at the back.

      But… at least, once the green light is on, it’s a “straight fight”. A driver start at the back and when the race start, up to him to go for it, or play it strategy.

      With this rules, the “impact of the penalty” is less visible (no revised grid), but some driver will have to suffer for the whole GP with the extra weight. In my mind, it means: not a straight fight anymore.

      Terrible idea, in my opinion.

    20. This seems designed to benefit the top teams, who’ll lose a lot less time starting with ballast than at the back of the grid. Plus what happens to the driver who qualifies 20th then recieves a penalty before the race starts, they have to start last and with extra ballast.

    21. How about: if someone has had a component change ahead of qualifying then limit them to only one run in each Q session. Maybe for massive changes then ban them from any Q3 run.
      If the change occurs between qualifying and the race then pitlane start.

    22. I’d prefer championship points penalties as that doesn’t effect the racing at all and seems fair for exceeding the parts limits.

      1. Sorry but its not fair. 50pts off Mercedes total means bugger all. 50pts off McLarens total means everything.

        1. @aussierod – changing a component loses 2% of a team and driver’s end of year points, changing a PU 8%. Better?

    23. Here’s a better solution to the proposal replacing engine grid penalties with ballast penalties, penalise the team constructers points instead. For example 1 point per component. Means every race starts with all the drivers where they qualified and with the fastest cars possible.

      1. See above :)

      2. This.

        It seems silly constantly compromising the drivers and the actual sporting event for the sake of trying to enforce the constructors to save money.

        Viewers don’t give a toss about the WCC, so deduct points from that and leave the WDC alone.

        1. @emu55 This sounds perfect, I wonder why the they didn’t think of something like that? … wait, aren’t the team’s fees now determined by constructors points? ;)

      3. That would penalise the teams at the lower end with little money more then the big teams. For williams it would mean the difference between millions of dollars and nothing, while mercedes could get new parts every race and would hardly feel it.

    24. No
      They could extend the grid penalties to the next race though

      1. Not that again. That was a real mess, up to drivers having stop&go’s to get penalized for ‘residual’ grid penalties.

        1. I don’t quite get what was happening…

          Just anything but this ballast idea.

    25. “Success ballast”. Really it should be called “Failure ballast”

      1. @mobiusclean: Indeed. However, FIA/Liberty are not permitted to use the F-word in any gimmick tweak to the rules.

    26. Seriously?! Success ballast and/or qualifying races or reverse grid races will have me on the phone to Sky cancelling the F1 channel and ill walk from the sport I’ve been watching since 1997. It’s moving too far away from what it should be. Its not the BTCC!

      1. Whats next will there be a top 10 reverse grid race with the driver number drawn out of a bowl to promote them to pole?! Well thats what BTCC do and its laughable!

        1. drawn out of a bowl

          I don’t know, man, some of these ideas seem to be drawn out of bowels ;)

    27. The only problem with the current system is the component allowances. Increase this back to something more reasonable (eg 6) and penalties will only occur in the very last few races. It will also mean engines could be run in higher power modes for longer, increasing race performance.

      The current system is fine. Qualifying is fine. The race weekend format is fine. Stop tinkering with the bits that aren’t broken and fix the real issues. An more equitable payment structure, less aero / less turbulence, better tires, no drs, tracks that punish mistakes and more than 5 drivers who stand a chance of standing on the podium.


      1. I agree @aussierod with all of that.

    28. My response on F1 site

      The car with ballast becomes a blocker trying to keep everyone behind, there is no chance of pushing hard and gaining places. It would make for a more boring race.

      1. @blueruck
        Two arguments against that:
        – DRS is still a thing. It very nearly works between cars that weigh the same, so it should get easier when the car ahead is overweight and loses traction more quickly.
        – Pit stops are a thing, too. If the car ahead is blocking you on the track, just go for the opposite strategy and pit earlier or later.

        Also, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with a penalised car finishing ahead of an un-penalised one. If one of those overweight cars should manage to keep its main rivals behind, kudos to them. It’s not like overtaking is entirely impossible, so even if a penalised car were to win a race every now and then, the penalty system might still be working as intended.

    29. I voted against this system, despite me not particularly liking the current one I recognise it’s importance and think it’s superior to the ballast system.

      My gripe is that this system hurts both team and driver badly. The team are rightly penalised with grid penalties, and subsequent lower finishing positions, but at least a driver is still able to showcase their ability. More so perhaps when starting further back and having to fight through the field.

      With ballast a driver is going to struggle to show how well they’re fighting when a viewer at home (and perhaps even the boffins on the pitwall) has no idea of how much affect 5kg of ballast is having.

      I realise it’s a team sport and you win and lose together. But I think this crosses a certain line towards punishing a driver too badly for a manufacturer’s failure.

    30. Well, it is not a success ballast, rather a failure ballast. It sounds like one of those positive/negative loops: take a penalty, and you have to work harder to overcome it, stressing your power unit more, and then it will fail more likely again, leading you to more penalties.

    31. Already encountered this horror on the Fan Voice website a day or two ago, expressed a preference for grid penalties.

      I’d much rather watch a quick car recovering from the back than watch a driver pootling round in an overweight car for a couple of hours.

    32. Well let’s just hope this proposal is flushed down the toilet where it belongs

    33. I think they should hit the teams where it hurts for power unit components… constructors points.

      Any race where a team uses an an additional component, beyond the rules, they should not be allowed to score constructors points with the car in question. Not only that, but the constructors points should be reassigned so they don’t take them out of commission for teams that are within the rules as well.

      For example, this season all the cars with their driver highlighted in bold below would not be entitled to score constructors points for the rest of the season:

      N° Car Driver ICE TC MGU-H MGU-K ES CE
      44 Mercedes Lewis Hamilton 3 3 3 2 2 2
      77 Mercedes Valtteri Bottas 3 3 3 2 2 2
      05 Ferrari Sebastian Vettel 3 3 3 2 2 3
      16 Ferrari Charles Leclerc 3 3 3 2 2 2
      33 RBR Honda Max Verstappen 4 4 4 3 3 3
      23 RBR Honda Alexander Albon 4 4 4 3 3 3
      03 Renault Daniel Ricciardo 5 4 4 3 3 3
      27 Renault Nico Hülkenberg 6 4 4 3 2 3
      08 Haas Ferrari Romain Grosjean 3 3 3 2 2 2
      20 Haas Ferrari Kevin Magnussen 3 3 3 2 2 3
      55 McLaren Renault Carlos Sainz 5 4 4 4 4 3
      04 McLaren Renault Lando Norris 4 4 4 4 4 4
      11 Racing Point Mercedes Sergio Perez 4 4 4 3 1 1
      18 Racing Point Mercedes Lance Stroll 4 4 4 2 1 1
      07 Alfa Romeo Ferrari Kimi Räikkönen 4 3 3 2 2 3
      99 Alfa Romeo Ferrari Antonio Giovinazzi 4 4 4 2 2 4
      26 Toro Rosso Honda Daniil Kvyat 5 5 5 4 3 3
      10 Toro Rosso Honda Pierre Gasly 6 5 5 5 3 3
      63 Williams Mercedes George Russell 3 3 3 2 3 3
      88 Williams Mercedes Robert Kubica 3 3 3 2 1 1

      Most drivers have exceeded some components this season, the others scoring the constructors in their place would soon make them err more on the side of caution in terms of PU component reliability. In turn, this puts more pressure on the manufacturers from their customers.

    34. Grid penalties are ridiculous and ballast penalties would be even more so. The only penalty for this sort of offense should be start from the pitlane, regardless which or how many components were changed. This obsession with pro-rating everything is absurd, especially since they (FIA & F1) keep saying that their aim is to make it understandable to the casual observer.

    35. Here’s my idea I just came up with. I hate these penalties because to me it should have nothing to do with the driver, the fact their engine provided to them is not up to par and needs changed. Why should the driver bear the brunt of the penalty? It never feels fair and it takes away from the fans getting a great spectacle having some of the best drivers not involved in the heat of the action up front in a race.

      My idea.. How about you punish the team and team alone. No constructors championship points can be earned if the engine is changed, but drivers championship points remain unaffected. Or some version of this, maybe half constructors points are lost if an engine is changed. Or just a big fat dirty fine (and to make this fairer the fine should be a percentage of the teams operating budget rather than a set amount).

      Racing would be unaffected and the team gets punished not the driver. Boom!

      1. Why should the driver bear the brunt of the penalty?

        Because he’s part of the team.

        How about you punish the team and team alone.

        But then what if you have a situation where a component needs to be changed because of something the driver did.

        For example Alfa Romeo had to change Raikkonen’s gearbox at Monza because Kimi damaged it when he crashed in qualifying.

        Also consider that for a lot of the grid they are buying engines, gearbox’s etc… from a supplier. Is it fair to take constructors points away from McLaren for an engine failure that is outside of the teams control given how it’s something they are buying/been supplied with.

        If penalizing the driver for an engine failure that is nothing to do with him is seen as been unfair then why is it any better to penalize a team for something they are been supplied with failing. And additionally any sort of points penalty is going to hurt the small teams far more than the bigger one’s. You could dock Mercedes 100 points or prevent them from scoring for a race & they would still be leading the championship, But if you take a few points off teams in the mid-field or prevent them scoring for a race & they could drop 1-2 places & lost millions in prize money (Which is based on constructors standings) at years end.

      2. Does the driver change the tires during pitstop?
        Does he also design the car himself?
        Does he also run data analytics while racing and coming out with the best strategy?

        If you put Lewis Hamilton or Leclerc in a 2019 Williams car, will they be World Champions? I mean the “team” and the “car” doesn’t matter right? Its all about the drivers man!

    36. Stop with this nonsense

      Stop dividing up engine parts into many things. Why not just PU change = back of grid.
      OTOH, the system should be 3-5 instead of 5-10 with such a small grid. Or you could even measure out the penalty, letting drivers start 10m/grid penalty further behind. :P

    37. I don’t like it. I want the fastest possible car at the start and i want them to fight other fast cars. The parts penalty is a though one to get right though.

    38. When I read this I first thought HORSE RACING. As in 1 HP vs what these cars have. This could possibly lead to F1 ‘handicap’ races where all faster cars have handicap penalties so on the grid all cars and drivers have theoretical equal chance of winning. Plus you’d need an ultra wide section of track to start the race on so they all start in one horizontal line.
      Please note I said “could possibly lead to” NOT I have even 1% interest in actually happening.

    39. *expletive* NO!

    40. Next season: 22 races on three engines.

      Why not let the teams have enough engines and components per season. So exceeding that number (whatever it may be… 5, 6, 7, 152) is a rare occurrence and if they do, then they are sent to the back of the grid.

    41. Hell NO!!!

    42. I like it, actually. Better than the grid penalties, at least. But I like the idea of time penalties to be taken at the first pit stop the best.

      Btw it’s disingenious to call it success balast as it’s actually penalty balast.

    43. As I stated on a previous post. If there is to be a budget cap why is anything like this needed. If a team can use a new or rebuilt engine in every race, have success and still come in under budget then good for them. The budget cap on its own should regulate how parts are used and who gets penalized for exceeding the rules.
      Until the budget cap is imposed, either leave the penalties as they are or eliminate them all together. Why spend time and money trying to change something that should go away due to other rules coming into play.

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