Daniel Ricciardo, Renault, Singapore, 2019

Relaxing disqualifications for technical infringements would be “dangerous territory”

2019 Singapore Grand Prix

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FIA race director Michael Masi will not relax the rules on disqualifying drivers for technical infringements following Daniel Ricciardo’s anger over his penalty in Singapore.

The Renault driver was very unhappy after he was thrown out of qualifying for a technical infringement which occurred on his MGU-K. Renault admitted the MGU-K had delivered more power than the rules permit, but pointed out it only happened once, on Ricciardo’s second-fastest lap in Q1, and therefore did not affect his qualifying position.

In disqualifying Ricciardo, the stewards noted “longstanding precedents regarding technical infringements and the penalty which has been consistently applied is disqualification”. Earlier this year Pierre Gasly and Kimi Raikkonen were disqualified from qualifying in Azerbaijan for technical infringements.

Masi said this principle is widely understood. “When it comes to technical infringements, I think Martin Brundle put it best when I bumped into him downstairs on the grid: ‘You’re either pregnant or you’re not’ was his words.

“It’s one of those, I think everyone knows when it comes to technical infringements of that nature what the outcome is. You either are or you aren’t.”

Ricciardo called the penalty “harsh” and argued a more reasonable punishment would have been to delete the lap time when the infringement occured. However Masi said the rule on technical violations must be enforced consistently.

“When it comes to technical infringements, it’s a technical infringement, end of story. Whilst I can feel for Daniel, it was an error and, sadly, it is what it is.”

“I think we’re treading on dangerous territory, personally, when we’re starting to, with technical infringements in particular, build in margins in upon margins upon margins,” he added.

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36 comments on “Relaxing disqualifications for technical infringements would be “dangerous territory””

  1. +1 if your car is illegal you should be disqualified

    1. +1 Plain and simple.
      And there should be no discussions.

    2. Like Mercedes was for sending out their car with cooled fuel? … also a technical infringement BTW

      1. The penalty they were handed (of a fine) was more severe than their disqualification from a practice session would have been.

        I am quite sure that if the same charge was proven in a competitive session a DQ would have resulted.

      2. If you’re not qualifying for something you can’t be disqualified imho.

      3. Dale, the fine which was given to Mercedes is exactly the same penalty which was imposed on the Alfa Romeo team during the practise sessions for the Austrian GP earlier this year, as they were also fined for using fuel that was too cold relative to the ambient temperature (as reported here https://www.racefans.net/2019/06/28/alfa-romeo-fined-over-fuel-error-on-giovinazzis-car/ ).

        As others have noted, if it had been for a qualifying session or the race, then it would have probably resulted in a disqualification. Unless you want to claim that the FIA favour Alfa Romeo – because, after all, they imposed the same penalty on them less than three months ago – then it seems that the FIA has been rather consistent on that front.

        1. Its also worth noting every single team will cool their fuel. I believe the regulation is in comparison to the ambient temperature rather than a specific minimum temperature and hence why the mistake can happen. Had Mercedes sent their cars out in qualifying with fuel that was too cold or in the race then they would have been disqualified from either. Sounds a bit of a strawman argument Dale.

  2. Good. I’m with Masi on this. If anything, the enforcement of the sporting regs could do with a bit more of a stricter approach, especially when it is a single car that is involved (e.g. track limits). The absolutist enforcement of the technical regs is perfectly fine, even if it hits beloved drivers, or threatens the outcome of a race.

    I think Martin Brundle put it best when I bumped into him downstairs on the grid: ‘You’re either pregnant or you’re not’ was his words.

    LOL :)

    1. In same sense of being strict what about: crowding drivers off the track, unsafe release from pit stop, going off the track and keeping the advantage, hanging in middle of track and making late defensive move, weaving on straights trying to break tow, moving under braking, etc… Masi feels like he has something wrong in his brain when it comes to applying rules as a race director. Unfortunately he is no Whiting.

    2. @phylyp

      Would you disqualify a driver/car if he looses the line and goes wide on a turn, gaining an unfair advantage? No, you delete his lap. Ricciardo gained an unfair advantage (although negligible) only in that context. FIA has all the data to understand why that happened.

      The car was pregnant, in the context of that lap. It wasn’t in all the other contexts.

      Moreover, electronics are more than a gray area than mechanics. A sudden spike of power may happen from electronics, not from mechanics. One thing is to put in an irregular wing, another is to have an electronic component goes bizarre.

      1. One of the bridges in Singapore is magnetised and there is a need to shield sensors and other electronic components which can go haywire when F1 cars cross it during the weekend.

  3. Totally support!

    I would even increase punishment – totally disqualify the car from a race weekend.
    Will immediately teach all teams to keep cars compliant.

    1. It wouldn’t, it would push teams to work even further inside the guidelines than they already are. This wasn’t a re-occurring issue, it was a one off event caused by the car being thrown into the air by a kerb. If the teams had to take these events into account they would build in huge amounts of tolerance and inevitably be slower/less edgy than they are now.

  4. Feels like I may be in the minority here, but I agree with Ricciardo. The lap time should absolutely be deleted, but anything over and above that seems harsh – the car wasnt illegal in any future laps, after all.

    If he had cut a corner, would he be excluded? Of course not. I dont see why this would be any different.

    1. @minnis Sporting regulations allow for more leeway than technical regs.

    2. @minnis The problem I see with allowing any leeway with technical regs is that teams will start testing what they can get away with, in free practice and potentially during non-crucial qualifying runs to see if anything gets missed by the FIA. If they find anything that provides an advantage then they can implement it in competitive sessions, and will probably get away with it until another rival finds out and either copies it or brings it to the attention of the FIA.

  5. ‘You’re either pregnant or you’re not’

    The trouble is you read the Stewards report and it says something like “violation of rule 5.2.2”, so then we have to hunt for the rule book and find that there’s three ways of violating rule 5.2.2, and the Stewards haven’t said which aspect of rule 5.2.2 was violated. Obviously they know which aspect was violated, but they don’t believe we need to know. Is this violation a trade secret? If it was then not saying so is understandable, but as far as I can tell disclosing the actual violation won’t betray any trade secrets.
    Then we discover that this violation happened for 1 microsecond out of the entire 1 hour of the Qualifying session. So this isn’t the case where there’s 100% certainty for 100% of the time about an infringement, e.g. a wing being 1 millimetre longer than permitted, where the 1 millimetre longer is there for the entire session, this is a case where (3600 – 1mmS)/3600 x 100% the car was compliant with the rules.
    In addition, often data is compressed using complex algorithms, e.g. as used in JPEG and MP3, so how do we know this 1 instance in the entire session wasn’t the result of a fluke miscalculation during the compressing and decompressing of data?
    At the very least, when there’s different aspects to a rule, then which aspect of the rule was infringed upon should be stated.

    1. @drycrust nothing is ever certain. you must trust your tools. also the fia doesn’t want to tell anyone the extent of their knowledge and capacity to keep the teams in check, being vague is good for them otherwise teams start to play with tolerances.
      ex: Bottas in austria, that was a false start but apparently it was within the fia tolerance, obviously they are not going to tell you what is the tolerance or else everyone is false starting on purpose.

      1. The false start rule is silly imo, if you anticipate the start and go early but are still not moving before the green it should be fine. Setting an artificial limit after the green is bonkers.

      2. Maybe there is reason for them being vague. Renault changed the electronic control unit on Riccardo’s car after the infringement. Presumably they felt it may have contributed to the micro second (not millisecond) spike. The problem for the stewards is that the control unit is a mandated FIA unit that all cars run and is manufactured by Mclaren. Nothing to do with Renault trying to gain an advantage.

        1. The hardware is, but the software is not. Within the software, they choose the parameters in how much of a safety buffer there is before crossing the line. If the parameter is too close and the jostling of the curb causes the MGU-K to go beyond that line, even for a microsecond, they’ve cut it too fine in setting the parameters. Crossing the line was certainly not intentional, but setting the parameters as close as possible is done in the pursuit of performance. That is totally within the control of the team, and it is their responsibility to get it right.

          1. I wonder if a microsecond burst while a car is stationary in the pits would be enough to disqualify a championship contender in the last race of the year, technically it would, but I doubt it would be carried out.

  6. Masi is correct. fireworks! Makes sense.
    I thought being open to the press would backfire. I guess I’m wrong he ingratiates himself with the press and teams and perhaps they’ll make his life easier. hard to criticize your mates.

  7. But running others off the track in a braking zone or pits isn’t dangerous?

  8. There has to be a hard limit on technical infractions because if there isn’t you just create a situation where everyone is going to be pushing marginally beyond the limits & arguing that it’s not an advantage. In Ricciardo’s situation it may have only been 1 millisecond, But what if next time somebody is over for 2 milliseconds, Then 3-4 etc…. At what point over do you start handing out penalties?

    You have to have a hard limit & you have to be strict in order to let teams know that it’s not worth the risk to try & cheat the system as they regularly used to in the past.

    It’s also different to the sporting regulations because with on-track incidents not only are no 2 incidents ever exactly the same (Even if they may look similar) but you also don’t want to be too prescriptive in terms of how drivers should be able to race.

  9. Well, it is not really a disqualification if you are allowed to start the race…just demotion to back of grid or pitlane. Last time someone was really disqualified for rule infringement in qualifying was Nick Heidfeld in EU 2000.

  10. I’d say the frustration of many, myself included, is the inconsistency between a very minor technical breech, one which as many have already mentioned could have been dealt with via a lap time deletion, and sporting reg breeches such as track limits. I’d argue the benefit of the power spike would have been less than Vettel’s exceeding track limits in Monza quali. It’s not as though the wing was bigger on Ricciardos car, not as if his power unit was exceeding limits at any other time – it was a tiny one-off spike which the driver had zero control over (according to every report I have read). The difference in penalty is however draconian. For the FIA to argue ‘rules are rules’ is fine, but then apply them consistently. Track limits – apply the rules on every corner of every track in every race. Driving infringements – can’t remember the last time I saw a black and white flag used prior to Monza. Not that it’s a bad thing, but consistency? As a clerk of course myself, obviously not at anywhere like F1 level, common sense I would have thought would have been to have said “ok, that lap with your spike is deleted, and if it happens a second time you’re out of quali”. That would have been in line with the black and white flag the race before, it would have made Renault aware that the FIA knew of the spike, and it would have matched the severity of the technical breech with an appropriate response. But what do I know…

    1. There is a limit and his car exceeded it, there is no ambiguity in the penalty nor should there be.

      Track limits is indeed an issue but entirely different in there is no clear regulation that states leaving the track is a penalty. Often the problem is not that cars go off track to cut corners or distance but to maintain speed they would otherwise have shed. As such we have the weird regulation of gaining an advantage when it is simply impossible to gauge if it was to their advantage or not at times.

      One solution is to give a 5s penalty for anyone where all 4 wheels cross the line (will need more technology to govern). What happens though if someone loses control and has to leave the track and then rejoin do you penalise them twice. The issue is how the regulations are written and subsequently governed. I think the current method of identifying the areas of the track prone to abuse and then adding detection loops to judge if someone has exceeded the limit and deleting the time is probably the only fair method. I would like to see 5s penalties instantly in the race for those corners too.

  11. Whilst I do tend to agree with rules being rules, I still think this one needs to be tweaked a little.The average blink of an eye is .3 of a second “3 tenths”, so it must be pretty hard to measure 1 micro second .000001 (or is it just an average calculation for a certain period.) Questions on the measuring of the infringement should have merit / leeway too. @homerlovesbeer

    The Electronic Control unit is a McLaren unit to FIA spec so what’s to say it wasn’t an FIA part that caused it? Also do you appreciate just what length of time a millisecond is? It was immeasurable not long ago.

    While I appreciate @gt-racer

    It’s something thats been in place since the 80s when guys like Charlie Whiting & others who had been at teams in the 70s/80s when they would regular game the technical regs & therefore knew exactly how to word things & what penalties to have in place to stop teams doing so.

    You would have to think that back when this ruling was introduced to prevent these unfair advantages,that these advantages were possibly in the hundredths of seconds, not micro seconds.

    1. Agree. The rules should include a tolerance for the limit or if the existing limit in the rule book already includes a tolerance it should note it. As someone posted above, you’re either pregnant or not, a limit is the limit. We could have a maddening discussion on the measurement tolerances. A crafty person could reprogram the unit to send 10,000 RPM when it is turning at 10,500 RPM quite easily. Fortunately Volkswagen isn’t supplying engines.

      1. I suspect that some of them do have tolerances within the margin of error of the tools, mostly expressed in the magnitude of the unit of measure. The impressive thing is, the tools have become so outrageously precise that a microsecond is a reliably detectable unit of time in engineering.

        I work with networking gear that works at this level, though I rarely have to inspect it that closely. What I can say about that in relation to these regulations is that if a timeout value for a network connection, for example, is exceeded by a microsecond, that connection gets reset. Every. Time. It either is or it isn’t.

  12. John Ballantyne
    24th September 2019, 1:56

    These stewards seem to have no regard for the business they are in, i.e. the entertainment business, at least that is the opinion of the owners. The shareholders seek a TV audience and advertisers and nothing else. Technology (and the resulting complexity) is getting in the way of business, this can only have one outcome.

    1. On the other hand, it be claimed that this didn’t create some drama that has people talking and commenting and debating about the regulations? We’re proof that it did.

      Of all the things to address as problems in F1, the technical regulations and how they are measured are really at the bottom of the priority list. At least in this one area, the rules are precise, enforced uniformly, and penalized harshly enough that it only happens when mistakes are made because there’s no benefit in trying to game them. In other words, they do exactly what they were intended to do in preventing cheating, and they do them just about better than anything else in F1.

  13. Masi is just picking and choosing which regulations he wants to enforce.

    Where was this “cut and dry” “black and white” mentality when Seb clearly left the track in the parabolica in monza, on his q3 lap that set his grid position, the regulations say in black and white he left the track but he was “given the benefit of the doubt” because there was a poorly worded technical directive that contradicted the rules, that same directive never superseded the rules.
    But then you exclude a driver for an unintentional infringement that he didn’t benefit from at all because that lap didn’t contribute to his qualifying position because rules are rules.
    Are they, then why are only some enforced then?

    If rules are rules then enforce them all equally, if we can take circumstances into account then that should be granted equally too.

    1. Technical rules are not the same as rules for drivers. Technical rules are measured and objective. If you go over the set limit its end game.
      Driver rules are interpretation of…

  14. I have no problem with a DQ for a breach of technical regulations, but I’m wondering why tolerances are down to microseconds. Surely a microsecond or even a hundredth in this case would not have an impact on lap time.

    If it does, then I’m fine with it. If it doesn’t, then the regulation and tolerance needs to be redefined.

    I am at a bit of a loss though as I’d expect the designers of these things to have an absolute hard limit that would prevent just exactly what happened. Possibly the engineers need to be a little more careful with calibration.

    In the end it’s a “one off” that’s unlikely to happen again so Masi did exactly the right thing and applied the right penalty.

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