Kevin Magnussen, Haas, Hungaroring, 2020

F1 fans are right to question Haas and Stroll penalty decisions


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Two incidents in the last two races highlighted how Formula 1 can be the most maddeningly impenetrable of sports.

One team discussed with their drivers whether to make a pit stop. Stewards’ decision: 10-second penalty for both its cars.

One driver barged a rival off the track, going off the circuit with him, yet kept the position he gained. Stewards’ decision: No foul.

On the face of it, both of these calls were hard to fathom, and prompted a lot of questions from RaceFans readers. The explanations for both are very different.

The stewards eventually admitted Lance Stroll should not have been allowed to keep the position he gained with his wild lunge at Daniel Ricciardo which resulted in both of them going off the track on the penultimate lap of the Styrian Grand Prix.

F1 race director Michael Masi discussed with the stewards the decision they made not to penalise Stroll. “After some discussion and reviewing it, and I communicated this to the drivers at the drivers meeting, with the benefit of hindsight in that situation with Lance and Daniel, a swap of positions would have been the best and correct outcome in the circumstances,” he said in response to a question from RaceFans.

Daniel Ricciardo, Renault, Red Bull Ring, 2020
Stroll’s wild move on Ricciardo was a clear violation
They’ve owned up to the error, and deserve credit for that. But why wasn’t this incident noted for investigation at the time – as Max Verstappen’s move on Charles Leclerc at the same corner was last year? And why not retroactively give Ricciardo his place and points back?

Just as importantly, why was the wrong call made in the first place? The Stroll-Ricciardo move was not a complicated matter, it concerned a basic question of the rules of racing. Are you allowed to pass a rival by running them and yourself off the track? Of course not, as we have seen many times before. If that was routinely permitted, races would be carnage.

The decision to penalise both Haas drivers 10 seconds for discussing their pit stop plans with the team on the formation lap is a different matter. Haas clearly broke the rules as they are currently understood. But these rules are ill-conceived, clearly inconsistent and, to those of us who just want to sit down and enjoy a good race, infuriatingly opaque.

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Why inconsistent? Had Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean been told to pit on any other lap of the race, they would not have been penalised. Because it happened on the formation lap, they were.

Kevin Magnussen, Haas, Hungaroring, 2020
Haas;s radio calls broke ‘driver aid’ rules
How so? Officially, they broke the rule concerning “driver aids”. More head-scratching: How is a radio call a “driver aid”?

In this instance, because a technical directive was issued four years ago preventing teams from giving instructions to their drivers on the formation lap. The intention was to make it harder for teams to help drivers optimise their launch settings and make near-perfect starts every time. The sweeping ban on all team-to-driver radio instructions during this time created the unintended side-effect of making pit calls illegal at this point of the race.

Don’t go looking for that technical directive in the rule book, however, as those often vital details are not made available publicly.

Haas’s pre-start gamble on slick tyres proved an inspired move. It deserved to be rewarded by Magnussen’s original two points for ninth place, not penalised for breaking a rule which was never intended to prevent teams making these kind of gutsy calls. If unchanged, the rule will discourage teams from making similar gambles in the future. Is that really what F1 wants?

It’s illogical to ban teams from calling their drivers into the pits on one lap of the race, but not the rest of the time. And F1 fans should be able to expect the regulations issued by the sport are full and complete, and are not missing hidden directives without knowledge of which they cannot hope to understand the nuances of a complex competition.

It is not unreasonable for a fan of any sport to expect to be able have a basic grasp of the rules of fair play. When they see teams being penalised for making pit stops, or drivers get away with blatantly illegal moves, it isn’t good enough to let a foul go unpunished, or point to some secret area of the rule book.

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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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39 comments on “F1 fans are right to question Haas and Stroll penalty decisions”

  1. The Stewarding has been so inconsistent in the last few years it truly baffles me.

    1. As for Stroll versus Ricciardo, the stewarding was quite consistent.
      In the Austin GP of 2017 Alonso took a deep dive to Massa’s inside and forced both of them off. No penalty.

      Then the radio communication.
      The teams cannot talk to the drivers on the warm-up lap unless there is a safety issue.
      Hamilton asked the team whether his engine was OK, he was clearly worried. The team kept silent.
      Kvyat wondered whether he should pit for slicks. The team kept silent.
      Grosjean and Magnussen were told to pit… Maybe the rule is stupid, but they were breaching it and if they weren’t penalized that would be inconsistent.

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        24th July 2020, 15:52

        Bart, almost all of your comments always have many really good points. I myself don’t get why so many compare such different occurrences at times. Based on the article we had the other day, it did make total sense based on the rules that the two Haas drivers got penalised and Kvyat didn’t. Kvyat could actually have got away with it if he simply confirmed to box by himself without any info from the team.

        Looking back at the overtake Alonso did on Massa, I think both that and Stroll on Ricciardo should have been penalised. But regarding this formation lap stuff, I don’t get the level of confusion some people seem to be getting over it.

        1. @thegianthogweed the thing is, didn’t Renault call Palmer into the pits to switch from inters to slicks on the formation lap of the 2017 Chinese GP?

          This rule was in place during that race, but the stewards took no action against Renault for their radio call. You can therefore argue that the stewards set a precedent in that race by deciding that calling the drivers into the pit on the formation lap to change the tyres was legal and did not breach that article.

      2. Given that the tyres are so bad these days (ridiculous tyre pressures back this up), I’d argue that any talk of tyres could be considered a safety issue!

      3. The teams cannot talk to the drivers on the warm-up lap unless there is a safety issue.

        The way you explained it makes complete sense, unfortunately that simplicity was lost on the Stewards. They could have said the reason for Haas’s penalty was because the instruction wasn’t related to a safety issue and therefore deserved a penalty. Instead we had all sorts of “giving driver assistance” reasons.

        1. Because the stewards are obligated to use the rules as they are written. They don’t get to say well this is how we interpret it colloquially, this is the rule and the violation as written. It’s pretty easy to understand.

          And the rule says the teams may not provide aid to the driver during the formation lap. Not driver aids. The word choice was specific to block clutch bite point and traction calls based on launch from the grid for formation lap. The driver can decide to pit and say all they want on the radio to the team.

      4. The Stig Indonesian Cousin
        26th July 2020, 16:30

        Hmmm…going offtrack and keeping advantage that’s illegal right?….VER-RAI 2017 AUSTIN,VET-HAM Canada 2019,Albon 2nd chicane Monza 2019,RAI-VER 2018 Japan,ALBON-NORIS Japan 2019 both at the last chicane….”confused consistency noises”

    2. @mobiusclean we’re at the point where all the recent past inconsistency have formed a solid reference for every near future decision: since they deliberated everything and its contrary, it’s now sure that every decision can be backed by a previous one and we don’t have the option anymore to say if it’s right or wrong.

  2. So well put Keith! Absolutely hit the nail on the head.

    1. Seconded!

  3. Jose Lopes da Silva
    24th July 2020, 13:59

    I’m deeply disilusioned as I understand that most F1 community disregards the concept of meritocracy, which should be a synonym of sport and cherished collectively as a main social value.

    People are always interested in news about Mick Schumacher potential coming to F1, just because of who he is. It’s abundantly clear he has less talent than several of his rivals. Marko’s call on Shwartzmann is just the latest. F2 champion De Vries disappeared in history and no one cares.

    At the same time, no one complains or sees that the presence of Stroll in the grid is a shame. Even more now that he is the 2nd best car. Everyone says: “if it was my kid I would do the same”. Well, shame on everyone who says this. I’m a father too. I would never buy F1 teams for my kids to race. I’d rather do as Jos Verstappen: teach them a hard work ethic and a full commitment to work, develop and progress until reaching the top.

    We are now entering a new shady ground: apparently, you can’t penalise the son of Racing Point’s owner. Hopefully, it was a one-time mistake.

    Many people hate Max Verstappen for his atitude and demeanour, while disregarding that he is clearly a talent for a generation. And although he is a son of an F1 driver, no one was interested in his arriving in F1 in 2015, like they are in Mick Schumacher’s.

    Hamilton, Verstappen, Ocon and most others, fortunately, are still great stories of talent, hard work, dedication and commitment. However, step by step, this sport is finding a way to make Lance Stroll a grand prix winner and then an F1 champion with Aston Martin. All we need is a super-dominant car and to place Mahaveer Raghunathan in the sister car. Or Mick Schumacher.

    1. ” I’d rather do as Jos Verstappen: teach them a hard work ethic and a full commitment to work, develop and progress until reaching the top.”

      Actually Stroll worked more to get to Formula One, than Verstappen. Verstappen needed much less races to make it to Formula One.

      You could say, that Verstappen’s results in the lower formulas were better, than Stroll’s. In their first year in Formula 3, Verstappen was 3rd and Stroll 5th. At the Macau GP Verstappen was 7th, Stroll 8th. Stroll won the Formula 3 championship in his second year. Verstappen did not win any championship before entering Formula One, Stroll won three championships.

      Looking at those results I would find it hard to say that Verstappen is suited for Formula One and Stroll is not.

    2. “No one”? “Everyone”?

    3. I feel the same about Mick Schumacher. Might as well call him Mick Skywalker.

      But I think Lance Stroll is heavily downrated by fans. Even positive coverage seems grudgingly given. I don’t like him much, but I try to be fair. He certainly has worked hard. That said, money does buy access to karts, cars, coaches, tutors and training. It buys freedom from having to work a traditional education or occupation, which means all that effort goes directly into racing.

      Jos Verstappen is wealthy, too.

      Dodgy stewardship, for sure. Not so much favoring Stroll because of his name, though.

      1. Jose Lopes da Silva
        25th July 2020, 23:58

        Money can buy F3 teams, F3 teammates getting out of the way and F1 rookie practice sessions in a dozen of circuits. I never heard that Jos Verstappen was buying teams after teams.

        It’s a whole new dystopian level. I can understand the people in the business turning a blind eye because they have to. (Ocon sharing pics with the guy who bought his seat, for example, or Perez complying that he would do the same with his son).

        We are just fans. We don’t have any reason to swallow this. I agree that Stroll is working, but to me his success is a nightmare. It means sport is dead. You just need 10.000 hours of practice and a couple of billion dollars.

        Again and again, F1 people are asked about Schumacher and have to shrug shoulders and reply “still not ready, still not ready”. And they are asked because journalists know that people at home are anxious about Mick Schumacher and don’t give a *** for Nick de Vries. They shouldn’t.

        Is football plagued with the hooligan mentality? Maybe. But at least there is full meritocracy.

  4. Also highly illogical how a call for pitstop before race starts is driver coaching, but, during a race, calls to change engine modes for perfomance, tyre temperature discussions, information about delta times, being told about how one driver is catching another, etc. is not coaching. ridiculous.

    1. It is not at all illogical, because different rules apply. Have you not read any articles explaining this? May I ask why not?

      Both circumstances are driver coaching, in the race it is allowed, in the formation lap it isn’t. These rules are in place to make the sport better for the fans. It is in your interest as a fan that the drivers manage the start procedure on their own and not as remote-controlled marionettes. Formula One for a while tried to also restrict driver coaching in the race. This didn’t work out and added little to the sport. So they reversed the rule.

      1. i have read the rules completely. and i’m saying that my opinion is that those rules are illogical. if you listen to the radio calls during a race now, its like the drivers hand is being held by the engineers from start to finish. personally, highly annoying and literally makes them to be the engineer’s puppets you speak of.

        1. It’s not illogical, the rules clearly states WHEN you can coach. You may not agree but that doesn’t make it illogical at all. The rule was added to stop the clutch bite point and traction settings being called by the teams in the formation lap. As soon at the lights go out they could call the drivers in and change to slicks or have said it before the formation. But from formation rollout to lights out, they can’t talk.

  5. I disagree on the rule concerning the formation lap. The only reason this rule is in place is because of the fans. It is in place to make starts more unpredictable.

    Do fans have to know about this rule? No, they don’t.

    I watch every session live, I read a lot about Formula One. But like the Haas team, I forgot that this rule was still in place. Alpha Tauri did not forget, or else they would have pitted Kvyat.

    If I can’t remember this rule, how can we expect casual viewers to know about it? Even if it were clearly stated in the rule book, nothing would change. Even I hardly ever read the rules.

    Following a few motorsport forums I get the impression that a lot of fans are not interesting in the rules. Even if the rules are explained to them, they will still ignore them. In part that may be, because these rules are too complicated, in part this may be, because rules are boring.

    What to do?

    You could dumb down the sport and make the rules simpler, so that everybody can understand them. But since a lot of these complicated rules are in place to make the sport better, the sport could get worse.

    Better educate the fans? Will lead to nothing, because a lot of people are not interested in being educated.

    The Stroll/Ricciardo incident is not even worth discussing. Stewards or referees making mistakes happens in all sports I follow and probably also in all sports I don’t follow. There is no way to change that. Well, in theory you could retroactively go through the race and punish every offence with a time penalty, so that we would know the final results days after the race. But that would be terrible and I can’t see anybody in favor of that.

    1. This isn’t about knowledge for the rule. Its about the rule being in place for something entirely different and then counting against something that opens up the race in a good way with more strategic options.
      Personally I don’t see it as aiding, as all three drivers in question wanted to switch themselves, but of course needed the garage to confirm it.

      1. In conditions like Hungary the teams could have prepared the tires for a change in the formation lap. The driver could have decided during his outlap, the team would have been ready. Easy to do and in line with the rules.

        Of course the team telling the driver to switch tires is a driver aid. If teams were allowed to do that we would have teams telling the drivers not to switch to wet weather tires in the desert of Abu Dhabi. Because that would be code to aid the driver in switching to a different setting.

        Keep the rule simple, with no exceptions.

        1. ^ @uzsjgb get’s it

          You can’t have it both ways.

          That said, if it were up to me, I’d lift the formation lap aid ban. I don’t mind the teams helping the drivers do clutch starts, if anything all these botched starts make F1 look amateuresque if you ask me.

          1. No, having to have Mommy tell you how to set up your car makes you as the driver look amateur. You can set all that and should feel what you need. If you can’t, tough luck and your start will suffer. Be a professional driver and as good as F1 claims you are.

      2. Kenn Hanberg
        25th July 2020, 9:57

        Exactly. Very well said

  6. Let’s face it, corner overtakes that lead to collisions are always judgement calls on a spectrum of obvious to opaque. I don’t mind stewards making a call and getting it wrong, but it’s part of F1’s makeup for these to be almost endlessly open to debate.
    On the other issue though, formation lap radio instruction, it would be good if the regulations had a meta-regulation, stating that if a racing situation arises that isn’t explicit in the rules, seems permissible (like ‘smart thinking’) but would be technically ruled out by a blanket rule, then stewards are free to let the situation pass without penalty and ask for a subsequent rule clarification. Having to apply a rule because the rules say so when it’s evidently not what the rules intended just seems dumb.

    1. “Having to apply a rule because the rules say so when it’s evidently not what the rules intended just seems dumb.”

      The other way around you could then disqualify a car, which is legal by the rules, but not by what the rules intended.

  7. These seem typical F1 silly rules issues.

    It’s Bottas and Vettel’s bloomin obvious “but the data seems fine” jump-starts that I want addressed.

    1. These have been addressed. What is it you really want? A change to the rules? How would you formulate rule 36.13? Or would you change how the transponder works? If so, how would you do that?

      1. @uzsjgb other circuit racing series that are regulated by the FIA state that the stewards are allowed to also use video evidence to judge whether a driver has made a false start, alongside the use of evidence from the onboard transponders. It seems to only be F1, F2 and F3 that restrict the stewards to only using the data from the transponder to judge whether a driver has made a false start.

        One simple option would be to bring that regulation in line with other circuit racing series by stating that the stewards may also use video evidence in addition to the data from the transponder, rather than just relying solely on the transponder.

        1. Exactly – can’t the teams just break their transponder? It would be a blunt cheat but potentially create an undetectable advantage.

  8. About the Haas penalty, in a way, it’s a good thing they penalised them AFTER the race. If I had seen the penalty during the race, I’d not have understood anything…

    1. In the case of Vettel, their explanation last year was that it’s allowed as long as the car is not moving when the lights go out and the pre move distance was within certain threshold (which I suspect is where the transponder distance comes in).

      I haven’t read the Bottas explanation in the article but did hear something about the distance while glancing something else. I suspect this is why Bottas stopped, cos he knew that it would be fine if the first movement was below the threshold and he wasnt moving during lights out. And this turned out to be correct.

      Both rulings seem to be consistent to me. I DO think communication and clarifications needed to be done better though.

  9. The Stroll pass was clearly an error and deserves criticism and fair play for at least admitting it.

    Haas penalty makes sense, if its against the rules. It wouldn’t be fair to the other teams that didnt make the call. Some of them would have e been aware of it and decoded not to make the call.

    We call the move “inspired” because they were the only ones to do it but I guerentee you some of the other teams (though not all probabaly) thought of the same and decided not to because they actually read the rulebook and technical directives.

    1. Well yes @yaru, as the article earlier this week, mentioned here again, says: Kvyat for one asked to pit but the team knew that would be against the rule so didn’t confirm.

      But as I argued there, he most likely would have ended up ahead of Magnussen had they gone through with it, instead of out of the points, so there too, not following the rule would have been the smarter choice,and arguably inspired.

  10. Hear hear

    Admitting fault is a good step (would never have happened before), but things need to change. It’s no good realizing the rules are unclear or lacking on the day. They need to be checked thoroughly and altered. There needs to be a fixed group who do the stewarding, and there should be procedures to ensure they are good enough (scrutinized).

  11. The penalties for Haas for telling their drivers to pit for a tire change has seriously impacted my motivation for watching the rest of this season. It’s such a baffling foot-shot bit of idiocy.

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