How AlphaTauri ensured Kvyat didn’t get penalised as Haas’s drivers did

2020 Hungarian Grand Prix

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Haas drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen both received 10-second penalties in the Hungarian Grand Prix after discussing their pit stop plans with the team during the formation lap.

The formation lap began in damp conditions with the whole field on intermediate tyres apart from Magnussen, who opted for full wets. Several drivers, like the Haas pair, indicated the track was almost ready for slicks.

One of those who was heard asking his team to make a pit stop was Daniil Kvyat. But although he escaped a penalty, it was not because he did not join the Haas drivers in pitting.

The heart of the matter was that teams are forbidden from giving instructions to their drivers during the formation lap, as F1 race director Michael Masi explained:

“There was a technical directive that came out, I think in 2017, clarifying what communications the team can make to the drivers on the formation lap, which relates to article 27.1 of the sporting regulations, which is that the driver must drive the car alone and unaided.

“The essence and the core part of that summons is that both drivers were called in by their engineers to change tyres on the formation lap which is not permitted within that technical directive that was issued at the time.”

Kevin Magnussen, Haas, Hungaroring, 2020
Magnussen’s penalty dropped him to 10th
The Haas drivers were caught out not because they talked to their team, but because their teams talked back. In Grosjean’s case, he came very close to avoiding a penalty – his team only told him to pit at the last moment.

Kvyat’s team were apparently aware they couldn’t talk to him on the formation lap, though he appears not to have been. He repeatedly asked the team whether he could pit, but was met with silence. He took the start on his intermediates, and on lap one urged his team to let him pit. Finally they replied, and in he came.

It is an unusual quirk of F1’s rules that teams can tell drivers to pit once the start lights go out, but not before – a detail Haas unfortunately overlooked.

“In essential terms the only communication that can be made with a driver during the formation lap, from the pit wall to the driver, is to do with safety matters,” said Masi. “So if it’s an issue of imminent safety, then that communication can take place.”

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Quotes: Dieter Rencken

Magnussen, Grosjean and Kvyat’s formation lap radio messages

Magnussen and Grosjean were both told to pit on the formation lap:

Magnussen:Ah, we’ve done the wrong thing. It’s already a dry line.
To Magnussen:Understood, Kevin, understood. What do you want to do?
To Magnussen:So we’ll do the start and then we’ll figure it out, Kevin.
Magnussen:Copy that.
To Magnussen:OK Kevin I think we’ll box now. Box now.
Magnussen:Yeah I agree. Box now, box now.
Magnussen:For dry, yeah? For dry?
Magnussen:Box now for dry.
To Magnussen:Yeah we’re boxing for dry.
Magnussen:Box. Box for dry.
Grosjean:Track is drying a lot already.
Grosjean:I’m almost tempted to box and put slicks.
To Grosjean:Box, Romain, box.
To Grosjean:Box, Romain, box.

Kvyat had no response from AlphaTauri when he asked them on the formation lap if he could pit:

Kvyat:Can I box for slicks before the start? Confirm, please?
Kvyat:Please confirm if I can box now.
Kvyat:Magnussen boxed.

But he did get a response from them once the race had started:

Kvyat:Box.
Kvyat:If you want we can stay out. But I think we can make a big decision here.
To Kvyat:I’ll let you know.
To Kvyat:Confirm we box.

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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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57 comments on “How AlphaTauri ensured Kvyat didn’t get penalised as Haas’s drivers did”

  1. Silly rule.

    I am sure within Sunday evening, all teams have devised code words for use if a situation like Hungary (rapidly drying track) were to repeat again. “K1” to stay out, “K2” to come in.

    1. Not really. “In essential terms the only communication that can be made with a driver during the formation lap, from the pit wall to the driver, is to do with safety matters,” as Masi explained.
      That’s why the Alpha Tauri team could not even tell Kvyat to make his own decision, otherwise they would have done that.

      Anyway, this rule is now firm in the minds of drivers and teams. Next time a situation like this happens the drivers at the back of the field will just inform their teams they will pit for slicks.

    2. Beware, it is slippery in turn 4 = box
      Beware, it is slippery in turn 11 = stay out

      Nobody would have thought anything about such a warning given either by driver or team.

      1. I would say that’s still coaching and not safety related.

    3. It’s not just silly, but it’s also have been completely misread by Masi.
      27.1 says “The driver must drive the car alone and unaided.”. Calling to pit is not talking control over a car and it is not an aid to control either. Driver still driving the car himself. So there was no any legal grounds to penalise Haas drivers. Haas should sue FIA for total misuse of power.

      1. @regs I would have to agree with you that Masi seem to have taken the decision to reinterpret and stretch the definition of that rule far beyond what it was meant to cover with a very dubious interpretation of what it means to drive the car “alone and unaided”.

        We have seen radio messages on the formation lap where you might then be inclined to ask why Masi didn’t classify those as “driver coaching”. In previous races where this rule was in place, we have seen examples of the team telling the drivers about the rate at which the track was drying or advising the driver where to position their car within the starting box to get the best start, or even cases where drivers have been advised on whether or not to pit on the formation lap in the event of a wet start – and that was all considered to be acceptable behaviour and not “driver coaching”. At this point, how far will the idea of “alone and unaided” be taken? Will telling the driver about weather conditions be considered a breach because it might impact how they prepare the car on the formation lap?

        I really do feel that Masi has exceeded his authority by choosing to reinterpret a regulation against prior precedent to impose a penalty on Haas for something which was never intended to come under this regulation – he’s effectively rewritten that regulation by his actions.

  2. So, had he pitted and gotten that penalty, forgive me, but given he was likely a bit quicker than the Haas guys, and ahead of them on the grid, so earlier into the pits, first out of the pits then too, wouldn’t he have likely ended up ahead of Magnussen, ie. with a point, even taking that penalty into account?

    So, have to agree with others, like Sumedh that the rule is silly, and also have to think his team missed a trick.

    1. If Kyvat had pitted without the team talking to him – there wouldn’t have been a penalty.

      So in future cases – the driver needs to make the decision and inform the team if he will pit or not and what tyres he wants. The team can only listen.

      If you start at the back under these conditions – a pit lane start could still be very favourable as the pitstop can be made with minimal time loss.

      1. Actually there is nothing in the rules forbidding trans to speak to their drivers. Masi is making it up.

  3. Piotr (@piotrzukowski)
    22nd July 2020, 7:45

    But couldn’t they have told him: “sorry, we can’t answer that, it’s your call” and then prepared the pit crew for a stop?
    I’m sure he would have pitted and there would be no coaching involved.

    1. No, they could not. “In essential terms the only communication that can be made with a driver during the formation lap, from the pit wall to the driver, is to do with safety matters,” as Masi said.

      1. So Kvyat saying:

        I’m pitting for dry tyres

        with no response from the team is within the rules if I understand correctly.

        Good on AlphaTauri for knowing the rules

      2. Again, Masi is making it all up. There is nothing in rules.

  4. I think the rule was created for the start procedure (bite points for the clutch). But given the poor writing of the rule, they have to apply it for everything.

    1. It is to prevent teams from using any kind of hidden meanings and code words. Even something like “good luck” could be a code word to change clutch setting for start.

  5. I just don’t fathom and wrap my head around some of the rules and regs of F1! How does advising a driver to pit for tyres going to disadvantage others who have not thought of that?

    1. @lems The rule is to prevent coaching drivers for the start. So just don’t speak to the driver before the start unless it’s a safety issue. It shouldn’t be that hard to do really. Alpha Tauri managed.

      1. @f1osaurus , that should do. Thank you

    2. The problem could then arise that ALL cars pit to change tyres on the formation lap and consequently they ALL start from the pit lane. That would be just ridiculous.

      1. @chrisr1718 sure it would. Monza 2019 Q3 comes to mind, not really comparable but for debacle it was.

      2. @chrisr1718
        I saw very close to that at a F3 race at Donnington once. Can’t remember the year off the top of my head, but I think it was the year Nasr won the championship. Its started absolutely hammering it down literally as they pulled away for the formation lap. I was sodden and my camera died from getting so wet.
        I remember someone at the back of the grid managed to pull straight into the pits without even taking the formation lap. Then everyone except I think 5 cars dived into the pit, leaving the weirdest grid I’ve ever seen and they were all plum last by the time they made it back around. Was a great time!

  6. Well, if the racing isn’t exciting enough, we can depend on some of the inane rules to cause enough confusion and drama.

  7. José Lopes da Silva
    22nd July 2020, 9:59

    Comments sections are fascinating and we constantly learn how scarcely they reflect the general opinion.
    A mainstream comment section opinion says that drivers receive too much help from their team and that Hamilton is not as great as champions of the past because drivers are now “teleguided” and so on. It’s an opinion that ignores the huge complexity of modern F1 cars.
    But here, most opinions say that drivers being forced to make the most basic and driver-related decision on their own (if they change tyres, something that they can easily rely in themselves to do) is a silly rule.

    1. The thing is, Kvyat was ready to make the call alone, but the team couldn’t even answer ‘copy’. So instead of Kvyat being up there in the beginning of the race, he was nowhere to be seen on the TV screens

      1. Yep, that’s also the ‘problem’ I see here @paeschli

        As others say, yes I also understand that when the FIA open up the simple no talk from pits, it immediately becomes open to abuse too. I suppose next time teams will tell their drivers in a similar situation to decide and then say they are coming in (or that they will not do it).

      2. Jose Lopes da Silva
        22nd July 2020, 17:44

        I generally agree with you both. Radio has been around for 35 years and it’s part of the game. That was not my point, it was about the nature of comment sections; they can’t be trusted to monitor opinion. Where did all the “teleguidance” critics go? They didn’t show up, apparently.

  8. So will we get to see the Formation Lap transcripts from all the other teams?

  9. I would have thought Haas could argue being on the wrong tyres is a safety issue. The rules are bonkers anyway, why make a car race when on the wrong rubber when it could easily be on the right one? All they’re doing is pulling out of the start.

    1. I feel like that would make more sense if it was changing from slicks to wets. Being on slicks in extremely slippery conditions is much much more dangerous than being on wets in the dry (is it dangerous? Maybe over-heating and fire risks?)

  10. What about Verstappen’s mechanics telling him not to pit but go to the grid? Surely that’s not safety-related either?

    1. He was missing a front wing – so could easily be argued that it was a safety related message, I think.

      1. IMO If this would have been on the formation lap then I think it still would have been “coaching” since the instructions were to go to the grid rather than to box. Telling him to go to the grid in that state was unusual/unexpected and strategy related. Telling him he had damage or to pit would have been the normal safety related communication.

    2. This was not on the formation lap.

    3. That wasn’t on the formation lap!!

    4. That was BEFORE the warmup lap though, when they were driving the cars to the grid @discodave, @muzza. With the application of the rule that was used at the Hungaroring – the DRIVERS asked to be allowed to pit, the team “made the mistake” of telling them it was ok.

      So it is pretty likely that if this had happened in the warmup lap, they would probably have been investigated for something similar. Off course there would have hardly been any need to tell Verstappen not to pit though, since it was clear he wouldn’t be able to start from the grid in that state!

      1. Ah right – I missed that on the F1 app then, my bad!

      2. so within the rules…..
        -team to driver – “it’s against the rules for us to tell you to come in or not, but if you choose to do so we’re standing by with dry tires”

  11. I hope this rule is tweaked. What Haas did has long been a part of F1. Anyone else remember Raikkonen pitting for slicks in Melbourne 2003 on the formation lap? I’m sure there are lots of other examples I’ve forgotten too. The strategy and taking a gamble is what I love about F1. Rules shouldn’t inhibit it.

    1. The rule didn’t come in until 2017, so Raikkonen in 2003 is irrelevant. What the Hass driver should’ve done is to say, “pitting for dry tyres”, then the team could be ready for them without any further communication.

      1. @chrisr1718 the problem there is that Masi has changed the interpretation of that regulation, as there are examples of drivers being ordered to pit on the formation lap to change tyres from inters to slicks – exactly what Haas did – and not being penalised, or even any sort of investigation taking place after the introduction of that regulation (e.g. Palmer in the 2017 Chinese GP).

        That same rule was in force at the time, so that race set a precedent that calling a driver into the pits to do what Haas did was a legal move – by imposing a penalty, Masi is therefore going against the previous precedent of other stewards.

  12. F1 is a team sport, yet “driver must drive the car alone and unaided.” This is a paradox. Although I do understand the clutch bite point adjustment argument for the starts and agree w that portion.

    1. Football is a team sport but the player still has to react and adjust to any given situation.

      1. The Dolphins
        22nd July 2020, 13:57

        That analogy does not apply because in football the player has teammates and coaches communicating with them constantly.

    2. Bridge is another team sport (although one can argue it is a team game) where you cannot give instructions to your partner…

  13. Adam (@rocketpanda)
    22nd July 2020, 12:28

    Thanks to Keith’s explanation (thanks!) on a different post I get there’s a difference between the rules on the formation lap and the race. But to be honest it’s a ridiculously silly rule that doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. Aiding a driver on their starts I can understand isn’t acceptable, but changing a strategy or making a gamble in that sense should absolutely be allowed. Given the rarity those occasions would happen it’s an unrequired rule.

  14. Either ban radio after the formation lap or let it be as it is. Shady policing makes F1 worse.

  15. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    22nd July 2020, 12:42

    I’m a little confused… Could the Haas drivers had made the decision right before the formation lap with the team and then boxed? Would that have been a penalty?

    I think ALL teams should be allowed to decide if they should box to change tires. If it had started raining on the formation lap, would the drivers had been allowed to talk to the team to come in for intermediates or full wets? Isn’t that a matter of safety?

    Would Masi allow them to break the rules there? If someone’s team doesn’t reply, do they win the race? :-)

    If there is one thing they should be able to talk about it’s tire choices. In the case of Alpha Tauri, it seems the team decided to be silent but obviously Kvyat didn’t know about this rule. These rules that are unknown to everyone except the stewards at a particular day and time of interpretation are just wrong…

  16. If it had started raining on the formation lap, enough for them to use full wets, the race wouldn’t have been started but delayed on the grid so that all teams could change tyres. It’s happened before.
    The drivers can talk to the team, just not visa versa. So the Haas drivers could’ve said, “pitting for dry tyres”, then the team could be ready for them without any further communication.

  17. I think a lot of these rules are silly, I kind of get why they introduced them but I don’t really think they are needed. I mean since they banned this formation lap coaching has there really been any difference in terms of starts?

    I mean what’s the difference between teams giving drivers setting advice on the formation lap or them doing so after practice starts during practice or before the initial out lap to the grid? They are looking at the same data & giving drivers the same instructions so in the end them been able to do it then but not on the formation lap makes very little (If any) real difference.

    It’s like all the other similar rules they brought in the past decade or so. They didn’t really work & had unforeseen consequences that led to silly situations & silly penalties that did nothing but make F1 as a sport look dumb.

  18. Same rule that stopped Mercedes telling Ham Sunday it wasn’t going to be a problem when he reported his engine was looking like it might stall on the formation lap.

    1. Right, that’s relevant @riptide ; but it also shows how bad the effect of the rule can be, just imagine h had decided to come into the pits, when nothing was wrong with the car, that would have been ridiculous

      1. Yes, it was put in place as Rosbergs coaching was getting out of hand, even in the formation lap. Coached from when he left pits with speed, how to warm up tyres, how many burn outs to do and when, what revs. Basically everything. The argument being surely a driver should know how to warm up the tyres and know how to launch the thing. Of course, by the time they brought it in Rosberg had gone! Certainly needs to be reviewed and refined.

  19. It’s a stupid rule, because it’s based, not on the sporting regulations, which simply says “A driver must drive his car unaided”– a regulation breached by every driver and every team every weekend– but rather on a closely guarded non-public document called “Technical Directive 011-17”.

    No technical directive should be allowed to have force beyond the season it was published in– if it’s going to continue to remain a rule, it needs to be part of the publicly available regulations.

    It’s ridiculous that I can have a copy of both the 2020 F1 Sporting Regulations and the 2020 F1 Technical Regulations, and still have no idea whether Haas violated a rule or not– because I don’t have access to a document published in 2017.

  20. I repeat what I commented under an other article:
    Surely AlphaTauri could have replied that they were ready for Kvyat, without getting this penalty?

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