Frederic Vasseur, Guenther Steiner, Christian Horner, Cyril Abiteboul, Zak Brown, Singapore, 2019

“It would be even worse”: Ballast penalty plan fails to impress teams

2020 F1 season

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A proposal to introduce ballast penalties as a replacement for grid penalties when drivers use too many engine components has failed to impress team bosses.

Formula 1 is considering giving drivers ballast penalties instead of grid penalties if they exceed the maximum limit on the number of engine components they can use.

However Alfa Romeo team principal Frederic Vasseur said he is “not a big fan at all of the ballast” penalty idea.

“I think it would be even worse for the race. At least when you have the penalty you start from the back it could spice a little bit the race but if you have the ballast penalty it would be even worse.”

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, whose drivers have had to start from the back of the grid twice this year due to power unit penalties, said the idea has proved unsuccessful outside F1.

“We’ve seen in other categories that it doesn’t work,” he said. “It screws your whole weekend, not just the qualifying.

“The only shame about what we have at the moment is that it potentially robs the fans on a Saturday of seeing drivers going for a qualifying position. If we look at Monza, Max [Verstappen] taking part for a couple of laps in Q1, not wanting to progress past Q2.

“I think if we could find a more balanced penalty than just straight to the back of the grid we should consider it, so that you are still encouraging drivers on a Saturday to be going for a qualifying position.”

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The difficulty of explaining the ballast penalty to spectators was also highlighted as a problem with the plan by Haas team principal Guenther Steiner. Renault’s Cyril Abiteboul suggested the alternative of giving drivers time penalties for power unit parts changes.

“We are suggesting a time penalty by position to grid penalty. A time penalty you could serve under your pit stop or that would be added at the end of the race and that would just encourage better racing without altering the starting position, without altering also qualifying.

“Frankly I don’t understand why, I don’t understand the unintended consequences, I don’t understand why it’s not more commonly supported, but there must be a good reason.”

Drivers were given time penalties for engine change penalties in the 2015 season if they were penalised more grid places than they could serve. This regulation was later dropped.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown, whose drivers have received more grid penalties for engine parts changes than any other team, backed his engine supplier’s stance.

“A time penalty is pretty clean to understand,” he said. “It doesn’t mix up the grid, you serve it at your pit stop.

“Strategy comes into play – when do you pit, tyres etc – so that I think would be the simplest, least disruption, the easiest to understand and would add some excitement to the race.”

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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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  • 21 comments on ““It would be even worse”: Ballast penalty plan fails to impress teams”

    1. Glad the teams don’t like this too – interesting idea but…..

    2. Sounds like a good idea to me.

    3. Great!
      Hope this atrocity doesn’t pass.

    4. Failed to impress the F1 fans, too, in the survey…

    5. Here’s an idea, why don’t you just impose a maximum price per power unit that customers teams can pay, and just increase engine components allowed per season. The customers are happy, the manufacturers might not be, but they can quite simply allocate a lower budget towards the power unit if they don’t want to incur losses. But if they want to continue spending for the sake of their works teams, they can carry the burden. Problem is that the manufacturers hold all the power in F1, so there is no way this would pass.

      Or there is the simple solution of actually simply increasing engine components. I mean, the fact that teams have to make do with only two components (for some of the parts) for the whole season is pathetic to say the least.

      1. Don frika del prima
        20th September 2019, 19:50

        Toto already said this two years ago: On the other side we have found an agreement with the FIA to reduce the prices to all engine customers over the next years to levels that are the lowest ever in F1.

    6. Make all the cars into 2 seaters (in-line) and make them carry pundits like Crofty. Heavier passenger is for a penalty.
      Car sharing – its better for the environment. Every 7 laps pull over for a quick interview. Put led lights on everything. Because moar lights. Replace the engine noise with a theme tune for each driver.

      1. Here’s a question for everyone: What would be each drivers personal theme tunes?

        1. For Maldonado, Grosjean, Pique Jr, etc… this

    7. Just have ballast for the drivers in the best cars and we can still appreciate the better cars as they’ll be near the front carrying the handicap.
      Or the sport dies.

    8. Glad some common sense prevailed.
      Rather than imposing a random number for gearboxes and power units, perhaps the FIA could analyse the data from the last few years and adjust the numbers accordingly. A quick look at the Racefans penalties index, showed that in 2017 there were 21 Gearbox Change penalties and 43 Power Unit penalties. In 2018 there were 15 Gearbox Change penalties and 28 Power Unit penalties. As the changes are not always down to component reliability, I’m thinking the allotment should be increased a little to at least account for crashes which may not always be the drivers fault.

    9. They look more like gangsters than team principals.

    10. The problem with adding ballast is that it could have significant and unpredictable effects on the balance and aero of the car. While adding a level of unpredictability could be entertaining for the fans , it’s not really fair to the teams and I doubt that they would agree to it.

      1. Not really. Couple or couple of tens of kilos of extra weight on the simply makes the car slower and nothing more.

    11. Absolutely mad idea, the balast. I am really surprised at Brawn that he didn’t kill this idea immediately upon hearing about it.

    12. I like the time penalty idea, not the ballast.

    13. Instead of grid penalties, give huge fines, with the monies going to each of the other teams, to be added to their allowed maximum budget (once the budget cap comes in) & distributed inversely in proportion to the team’s points in the constructors’ championship at the time.

      1. If other teams benefit financially when power unit components, etc. don’t last as long as the rules dictate, that should be a huge incentive for the teams & suppliers to improve reliability.

      2. Makes no sense to penalize the team when their engine manufacturer makes a mistake.

        1. …..which is why I’ve suggested what I have – it won’t make any difference to the race which is current at the time.

    14. Point penalities for constructors championship only. No ballast please.

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