Alexander Albon, Red Bull, Hungaroring, 2020

Albon’s fifth place confirmed after Red Bull ‘grid drying’ investigation

2020 Hungarian Grand Prix

Posted on

| Written by and

Alexander Albon has kept his fifth place in the Hungarian Grand Prix after his Red Bull team were investigated for breaking the rules on the grid prior to the start of the race.

FIA technical director Jo Bauer observed the team using leaf blowers to dry the damp track surface around Albon’s car before the start of the race, which is a violation of the rules. This was reported to the race stewards.

However after reviewing video of the incident the stewards said they “came to the conclusion that the competitor did not attempt to alter the grip of the track surface.”

Prior to the start, F1 race director Michael Masi reminded teams in a bulletin they were “not permitted to use any means to artificially dry the track, including but not limited to grid boxes e.g: blowers, tyre blankets, etc…”

Albon rose from 13th on the grid to finish the race in fifth place. “It was a good race and I had a lot of fun with my elbows out,” he said.

“If you had told me we’d be fifth after yesterday I would have jumped at it. Today was never going to be easy starting from 13th but we had a good start and we made our way through the field.”

Don't miss anything new from RaceFans

Follow RaceFans on social media:

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2020 F1 season

Browse all 2020 F1 season articles

Author information

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...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

46 comments on “Albon’s fifth place confirmed after Red Bull ‘grid drying’ investigation”

  1. So, they were observed using leaf blowers to dry the track in front of his start point which is acknowledged as breaking the rules, but the stewards have decided that they didn’t do it to gain an advantage? Why did they think Red Bull were drying the track.

    Be interesting to see what the judgement is when a different team does the same thing.

    1. It seems Red Bull ‘proved’ that the blowers didn’t dry anything anyway by testing them in front of stewards on another (completely different) bit of wet tarmac.

      1. Oh. That F1 page no longer exists. Weirder and weirder.

        1. They reached an agreement with RBR

          1. Those leaf blowers have special IP assigned to them, and FIA cant conclusively prove that their primary purpose was to dry the tarmac… thats why it cant be revealed for this reason, they cant show why they didnt penalize RB…

          2. they signed an “NDA” with red bull…. similar to the ferrari one…..

      2. @david-br, there is a video here now.

        I saw some footage from Albon’s on-board—I think during Sky’s post-race coverage—that showed a steward telling them to move the blowers and stop doing what they were doing. The steward looked pretty upset and they RB guys responded immediately. Couldn’t tell from the video if the RB guys looked confused, guilty, or upset.

        1. Thanks! @jmwalley Just realized it was my browser failing to show the video on that page. TBH the Red Bull guys looked more annoyed and confused than guilty. It would seem bizarre to blatantly break the regulations like that.

    2. If the other team pays as much as red bull same thing will happen

  2. I wonder how they come to that conclusion.

    With the Stroll vs. Ricciardo call and not giving any penalty at all to Leclerc for crashing into another car at all in the second race in Austria and now the contrast between not taking serious the false start / almost false start by Bottas and this drying the grid space, but handing out penalties to the Haas drivers for being told to pit for slicks on the formation lap (also compare the quite intensive coaching of Norris in those epic last laps of both Austrian races), I think F1 is proving to have a serious issue with understandable, consistent and transparent stewarding again.

    1. Agreed on all points. You’d think with the amount of own-foot-shooting going on there wouldn’t be enough to stick in their mouths. Guess I was wrong then.

    2. Yep @bascb, (and baasbas, nice names :) while I can follow how the difference between the Norris, Bottas and Haas thing got there, and some reasoning for the incidents too, on the whole it just creates an intricate mess of special cases.

      1. I suppose we agree on the name as well :-P

        I was originally quite pleased with the race when the cars passed the finish line. Usually that means that the race is over. But no, this race is still going on! MAG just got overtaken by a great move by SAI while they were in the plane. We saw ALB successfully defending while stepping in the shower, robust move there. RAI made a move on GRO while raiding the mini bar. And all the while it is so exciting to maybe see the RP boys being overtaken.. but not just this race, last race as well! It’s great! Multiple races going on, day and night, for the coming weeks….

        ಠ_ಠ

      2. @bascb Or alternatively, there is no need to bundle this issue up with other issues and try to build some case against the stewards or F1 or it’s governance, because video simply showed that nobody was intentionally trying to dry the track in front of AA. Someone moaned that blowers set down and still on meant they were intentionally drying the track, so the stewards had no choice but to investigate, and when they did they saw no evidence of wrongdoing. The system has worked perfectly on this issue.

        1. @robbie there were some commenting that there did seem to be a visibly dryer patch of tarmac around Albon’s front tyres that did seem to correspond to where the blowers would have been pointing downwards towards the track.

          You also seem to be positioning your argument around the question of intent, but the way that the text of that section of the regulations is written does not specify that intent is required – it mentions that the teams cannot dry the surface, but does not state that it is an intentional act.

          If the mechanics had accidentally left the lead blowers pointing towards the track, and if that action had caused a noticeable drying of the surface, would you still be inclined to say “oh, it was only an accident” and let them off, even though it would have broken that regulation?

          1. @anon I would think intent is very much at the crux of it. It is why sometimes when there is a driver vs driver clash the stewards want to hear both drivers‘ sides of the incident. If the regs say a team cannot dry the track surface I think that presumes because on a wet day that would create an advantage. You can plug in your what if’s all you want, but I am confident that if in this specific case RBR was not seen to intentionally dry the track of any significance, then they should not have been penalized and indeed they weren’t. Bottom line is unlike most folks around here I don’t immediately jump to the conclusion that the stewards can’t possibly be right. My immediate assumption is that they are professional and have to support their decisions with many eyes watching them, and in this case they obviously saw nothing with which to penalize RBR. My immediate response is not that they are on the take or favouring RBR and I have to wonder if people think that’s how it works all the time, why they watch.

          2. @robbie your response would therefore seem to imply that you would accept a team accidentally drying the track then – indeed, so long as the FIA cannot unequivocally prove intent to do so, then the team would be allowed to act freely. There are other sections of the regulations where it is clear that even an accidental breach of the rule will automatically attract a penalty, so intent is not necessarily a requirement for a team to receive a penalty.

            Incidentally, you say that you believe “unlike most folks around here I don’t immediately jump to the conclusion that the stewards can’t possibly be right” – so, what do you then make of the situation with Haas being penalised over the radio calls to pit for slicks? Do you think that the stewards got that one right then and want to support that decision?

          1. Anon I do take your point about intention and how that cannot always be taken into account. Sometimes a breach is a breach even if a team breaches a rule accidentally.

            But in this case when I read “the competitor did not attempt to alter the grip of the track surface’ then I took that to mean there was no intent to dry the track surface to aid AA. There was no ‘accidental’ drying of the track nor do I think it likely that a team would ‘act freely’ as you suggest and direct blowers onto the track enough to dry it significantly and still be able to call that accidental. It would be blatantly obvious.

            As to the Haas radio calls, again yes I support the stewards decision because they extensively reviewed their actions vs what the regs say and could not justify their radio directives to be safety related. It is about article 27.1 and that they didn’t meet the exceptions a) through g) although I wasn’t able to locate exactly what a) to g) says it would seem they are related to safety.

            The stewards aren’t the rule makers and so have to go by what the rules say. It would seem pitting for dry tires was not a safety requirement but a strategic decision. If one doesn’t like this rule that is not the stewards concern. They are tasked with sorting whether or not breaches have occurred within the rules laid out before them and the teams and drivers.

          2. @robbie in which case, I think that I am just going to have to disagree with the decision in both instances, as I feel that the stewards poorly interpreted the regulations both in this instance and with regards to the decision made with Haas.

            In the former case, I still feel that whilst the intent might not necessarily have been there, it does appear that the track surface does become dryer in the areas where the leaf blowers were operating (and Leroy does raise a good point further down when he noted that the demonstration that Red Bull performed to try and defend themselves is questionable).

            As for the Haas case, I also disagree with the idea that telling the driver to pit for tyres is therefore a form of driver coaching and breaches that rule. We have seen other instances of drivers being ordered to pit on the formation lap for a tyre change when this rule was in place and where the stewards took no action – so the decision by the stewards here goes against previous precedent that it was acceptable for teams to call a driver into the pit to change tyres on the formation lap.

            To me, telling a driver to pit to change for tyres is not equivalent to the sort of driver coaching which the rule was introduced for and the stewards here were exceeding their role by reinterpreting the regulation to cover activities which were never intended to come under that rule and going against previous precedent.

    3. @bascb there was no “false start” for Bottas. Hamilton has had plenty of “false starts” and even reversed on the grid, as has Kimi once or twice, over the years, and no penalties were assessed.

      That part of the rule book is murky and annoying, because it only is addressed once in awhile, and then people seem to forget after awhile.

    4. I have an opinion
      20th July 2020, 0:07

      Are the race stewards in attendance at the track? Or are they all on conference calls? Does this affect what data they have access to? And do you actually need to look someone in the face to tell if they are lying (with respect to people appearing before the stewards to give evidence)? So many questions, so many doubts.

    5. @bosyber
      @bascb

      If they can see and overlook Red Bull drying the track then why can’t they see an overlook Kimmy reichen is completely meaningless grid position mistake?

      I mean one is a deliberate attempt to cheat The other is a mistake based on cards in front of him being out of position.

      Hard for me to let go of this when it just such BS.

      1. That’s exactly what @bascb was talking about @slotopen, because in fact this case is ‘easy’ for the rules – there is a hard rule that wrong grid slot == penalty, just like car measurements wrong == DSQ, or grid-sensor measures movement before lights out = penalty (but the sensor has a window of accuracy, Bottas got lucky of sorts) – for the ‘novel’ way of drying/incidental drying/not drying, it is not formulated that way, and thus the stewards can judge the evidence.

        That’s what I meant with being able to follow where it comes from. But you are certainly right that, as a whole it is messy and confusing. Were Haas wrong, or were the stewards non-lenient in their judgement (same with last races’ Stroll move, and even comparing Hamilton on Albon in Austrian GP if you sort of compare it to judgements from last year) – the explanations usually are explaining what the stewards thought, but not at all why it wasn’t the same as another situation. In that sense the DAS ruling was nicely factual and clear, would be good to see more stuff like that. I suspect in the RP break-duct case, we might.

        Of course, having to make a decision with limited time. This year, judging from things like the stewards needing a day and Red Bull protest to realise Hamilton clearly speeded through yellows, and stewards believing Albon had no space on outside (that wasn’t the case if you review the feed!), it seems that getting all the video/data also takes more time, probably because of less people and more procedure to move it around. The stewards are clearly trying to do the job with integrity and as much consistency as they can, but clear (and logical!) rules are a must for that.

  3. kevin citron
    19th July 2020, 19:28

    i guess everyone can now dry the surface in front of their box at the next grand prix. stewards just said it was ok.

    1. No, no, no! Your interpretation of the ruling completely wrong. It’s only okay NOW. Right before the start of the next race they’ll backtrack again and say it’s not okay anymore. Obviously.

  4. So there was just a huge pile of invisible leaves around Albon’s car? Makes sense to me.

    1. RocketTankski
      19th July 2020, 21:10

      *Jedi wave* “these are not the leaf blowers you’re looking for”

    1. Hi @dieterrencken I found the page looking for a video of the incident on google. You can see the formula1.com address it was at on the link I posted, seems to have been taken down shortly after I visited it (just a few minutes before I posted the comment). It just showed Red Bull staff in a side area demonstrating the blowers on wet asphalt, part of some TV coverage (not sure which).

        1. I think they deleted the page. If you look on your linked page, there’s a broken link (“Stewards take a look at Red Bull’s blowers amid grid drying investigation”. Google that precise phrase as I’ve just done and you’ll get the original page pop up on the search result. But click on it and the page has gone. It’s a minor incident really but kind of fun watching how this stuff goes on.

        2. Was that Stoffel vanDoorne doing the commentary?

      1. It was in Will Buxton’s F1 post race show. It looked like they were trying to show that when you put the back pack blower down while its running, the stewards were checking if some air coming out the machine. It wasn’t officially covered, just something the happened while the show was being recorded.

        1. Thanks, I didn’t imagine it then :)
          Google “Stewards take a look at Red Bull’s blowers amid grid drying investigation” and the link to the now absent video still pops.

    1. Agreed! Nice to see Albon catch a break.

  5. *facepalm*

    Looks like another “agreement”

  6. My armchair summation then is that all they did was leave their blowers on, presumably inadvertently, and set them down on the tarmac, and someone on the grid moaned that they were trying to dry the track, yet the video the stewards saw could not support that they were intentionally trying to dry the track. They merely set blowers down that were still on. Blowers that would likely not have dried the track significantly anyway. And my question would be how dry they would have even expected it to stay once all the cars ahead of and behind AA would have been running their wet intermediates over that ‘dry’ spot during the formation lap. Hardly anything RBR would consider doing let alone worth the risk if caught.

    Next

    1. During transmission, the on-circuit reporter on Brazilian TV reported they had indeed blatantly dried the grid spot in everyone’s view, after receiving the memo it was forbidden to do so. I doubt that was the case.

      Chalk it up to another case of “stewards pulling decisions from where the sun doesn’t shine,” perhaps aided by the ridiculous demonstration RBR did after the race.

      1. Postreader I’m confused. In your first paragraph you say you doubt they blatantly dried the track. In your second you are slamming the stewards for a wrong decision based on a weak demonstration from RBR?

        I must be missing something because if you doubt they did anything blatant then weren’t the stewards right in their decision in your opinion?

  7. I’ve got mixed feelings on this one. On one hand I’m glad Albon got a good result. He really needed it to take some of the pressure that had been building in the press and from Red Bull the last few weeks off. I also think Red Bull did an incredible job getting Max fixed before the race and deserve some special recognition for that.

    But… if this video really shows how the stewards came to the conclusion that the blowers didn’t dry the area in front of Albon’s car, where they were using a completely different surface, with different levels of wetness and a different time of the day, rather than actually looking at direct evidence of the grid box that showed dry spots in front of Albon’s car, that is really poor work. Regardless of what Red Bull may have showed during their “demonstration” to the stewards, convective evaporation is absolutely a thing. Running any air over a surface will cause the hotter, moist air to rise resulting in cooler, dryer air to replace it which will cause the track to dry. This is basic physics. It’s why you blow on things to either cool them or dry them. Your moist, hot breath is not actually doing the cooling or drying, it is the movement of air that causes the cooler dryer air to rush in and cool and dry things.

  8. hmmm ok…

    I tried to kill that person, but it didn’t work so no harm no foul.

    1. Yeah, but all those guilty feelings.

  9. I’m guessing the argument will have been that they weren’t drying the track but blowing any debris or rubber clear which wouldn’t “alter the grip of the track surface” as the debris would sit on top of that.

    Come to think of it with consensus on wet weather being that track rubber is slippery, would there be any advantage trying to clear any rubber on the track surface ahead of a wet start? This might not just mean using leaf blowers but scraping it off with your shoes etc, which would cause rubber debris which could be blown away with a leaf blower.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments are moderated. See the Comment Policy and FAQ for more.
If the person you're replying to is a registered user you can notify them of your reply using '@username'.