Kevin Magnussen, Haas, Hungaroring, 2020

“We would do the same again”: Steiner defends Haas pit call which led to penalties

2020 Hungarian Grand Prix

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Haas team principal Guenther Steiner defended the team’s decision to call its drivers into the pits on the formation lap during the Hungarian Grand Prix, which led to both cars receiving penalties.

Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean were given 10-second penalties after the stewards ruled the team had violated a rule prohibiting driver aids by issuing an instruction on the formation lap.

Both drivers were told to pit before the race started in order to fit slick tyres. The decision paid off, as the pair rose from the back of the field into the top five, and Magnussen finished the race in ninth place. The penalty dropped him to 10th in the final classification, but he still earned the team its first point of 2020.

Steiner said the decision to pit both cars was justified despite the penalty.

“For sure we would do the same thing again,” he said. “The 10 second penalty was a little bit ambiguous. Unfortunately, we cannot appeal it because it’s a time penalty – you’re not allowed to appeal those ones.

“It was never done before, and it looks like if it’s never been done before and there’s no clear regulation, you get a penalty.

How AlphaTauri ensured Kvyat didn’t get penalised as Haas’s drivers did
“We need to move on from this, but for sure it spiced the race up for everybody. I don’t think we should stop doing these things in racing, otherwise accountants can race in Formula 1.”

Haas is not planning to bring any upgrades for its VF-20 this year. Steiner said the team will have to make the best out of what it has.

“We’ve had a lot of inconsistency but I think we know pretty well where we’re at,” he said. “We’re not the fastest midfield car this year and we just need to deal with that one.

“We’re always trying to get the best out of the package. We’ve not planned any development for this year, so we have to focus on getting the best out of what we’ve got this season and look to next year to try to do something better for that season. It will not be an easy year but we’re here to stay.”

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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 ““We would do the same again”: Steiner defends Haas pit call which led to penalties”

  1. And right they are for doing so. This was an inspired choice.

    And while I get how the penalty was applied as by the rules, it rather shows how much those rules were another one of those knee jerk moments in F1 where it was hyped as a big problem by one TV station at first (yes, Crofty, Brundle, you guys) then picked up the attention of other stations as well as the likes of Horner and Ecclestone, and whoops, this construed rule was introduced.

    1. @bascb I’m pretty indifferent wrt the penalty towards Haas. I’ll entrust F1 to deal with that, like I have a choice lol. But I just wanted to say I don’t think this was a knee jerk rule made because of Sky TV and other stations etc. I’m sure fans had a say in it too. It was much about coaching drivers and the debate about how much help drivers get nowadays compared to the past. How much it is an engineer’s race as much if not more than a driver’s race. To me it is an important issue, and it highlights one of the biggest reasons I am stoked about the new chapter. They want F1 to head back more towards being a driver vs driver series rather than bank of engineers vs bank of engineers in satellite rooms telling drivers what to do to maximize their chances.

      What it also highlights for me is when it comes to the debate about who is the goat, which will never have a final answer, I just can’t compare the ‘feats’ the engineers help the drivers achieve these days to the feats the greats of the past achieved much more on their own out there on the track in much more dangerous settings.

      So for me the less radio com the better and I’m all for it being more about the driver figuring things out more for themselves, not that the new chapter is going to go all that far towards that wrt radio comm that I am aware of, but I’m thrilled that at least the cars will be able to race closely and that should separate the men from the boys in spite of the up-to-the-second coaching.

      1. I am not so convinced that fans really had a say @robbie.

        After a barrage of hearing week in week out how tedious it is, and how unfair to hear drivers being helped too much by their engineers, how “independant” is the view of the fan who was served this team constantly?

        It is comparable to saying that the people in Venezuela were (or Hungary, or Russia or Poland most recently, or to an exctent the USA) voting freely to their best knowledge, when the knowledge they based their views on is overwhelmingly one sided.

        As for the endless debate of comparing drivers over eras, that is a hard one. On the one side, these cars with all their adjustable bells and whistles make it easier to get the most out of them. Certainly compared with an era when the hearing of the driver was what recognized a valve starting to fail somewhere and the best drivers were able to cope.
        Then again, these endless ways to improve the cars, also makes it harder to drive them to the best of their abilities because one has to understand and work with all those options to optimize the races.

        I do agree that having a computer control too many things (height adjustments, brake bias, traction control, gear ratios, regeneration levels, and what more) automatically or even remotely should be a clear line.

        But let us not forget that apart from the higher complexity, another reason for getting more of these messages was that teams were newly forced to actually hand their radio calls over to the broadcasters, something they did not have to do in the times of Senna or Prost, or even Häkkinen en Schumacher.

        To be it is absurd that a driver who tells their team they want to come in for slicks cannot have his team say OK to that. That is just plain stupid. Even if we want to limit the amount of things that can be done to coach a driver from the pitlane (some of those Massa laps from years ago, but maybe also those last laps from Norris in Austria were a bit over the top), it should make sense.

        1. @bascb Ah you see for me I don’t recall being inundated nor offended by a ‘barrage’ of speak week in week out by Sky over this issue. Did they highlight it, sure, but I suppose it is because I agree there is an aspect to the concept of over coaching and the need to diminish their addiction to expensive satellite banks of engineers, that I don’t recall a barrage. By ‘fans having a say’ I merely considered that F1 and Sky no doubt get inundated with opinions on all topics F1 via social media. Overwhelmingly I’m just trying to be grateful to have F1, grateful to have the complete coverage we get, and I have no doubt that a Sky replacement would come with it’s own set of critics over their take on what they think is the way to go wrt coverage or the show.

          As to several comments here, I really have little issue with Sky’s work. I don’t sense some agenda of their’s to shape F1 as they see fit for maximum viewership, and I trust Brawn and Liberty that they want to preserve F1 in a worthy way. If Sky for example is so set on reverse grid races, well, all it took was for two teams (seemingly joined at the hip) to vote nay, and that was that. Haven’t heard a peep of lament or frustration whatsoever from the Sky folk since. What else are they allegedly trying to ram down our throats?

          As to today’s cars and their bells and whistles…I really don’t see them as hardships for the drivers but rather aids. To me today’s drivers are coddled compared to the past. Not saying that’s their fault, but just saying that amongst all the inevitable bells and whistles that today’s technology brings I’m sure glad Liberty, with the teams’ agreement, has them heading back towards far far less clean air dependent cars so that at least the drivers will be challenged more…just as they themselves have asked/wished to have it. To me that says tons…the drivers themselves are sick of these tires and this harmful dirty air effect. Good on them for that.

    2. @bascb That rule needs to die in a fire. It was ridiculous then, and I thought we got rid of all of it as soon as they realised how boring everything got with dead radios. Even most of those moaning about the radio “coaching” here shut up quickly. But that little rediculous formation lap part is evidently a leftover of the stupid days.

      @robbie pure driver vs driver is for spec series. F1 is a team and engineering sport foremost, and IMO should stay that way. Rules diminishing it should be nuked from orbit, unless they have a very good reason to stay.

      1. @losd I didn’t say anything about a ‘pure’ driver vs driver series, just one that in the new chapter will be more driver vs driver than it has been, as cars will not nearly be so negatively affected in dirty air. Of course F1 is a team and an engineering formula as well and should always stay that way and will do so imho, and that doesn’t mean it can’t also be more of a driver series. But hey, if you prefer processions from the current style of aero dependent cars then so be it, but that’s about to change in 2022. There likely will be no need for free fake passing from drs either.

        1. @robbie fair enough. And no, I certainly don’t prefer processions (or DRS for that matter, though I think I hate it less than most). But limiting strategy or development for the sake of “driver vs driver” seems silly to me. That doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t put restrictions on aero or allow everything (quite the opposite, without restrictions there is less need for clever solutions), or neglect problems with cars following each other.

    3. Good thinking on their part … and to do it again. No pain, no gain … or whatever homily fits.

    4. @bascb @robbie I do think that Sky & Croft in particular have a tendency to help create certain narratives that end up becoming a bigger issue than they previously were.

      It’s by far my biggest criticism of Sky’s coverage & David Croft as lead commentator is the way they report on F1. Murray Walker for instance used to commentate by simply looking at what he could see & communicating that to the viewers without inserting his own opinions outside of very rare occasions.

      Croft will often start pushing his own opinions rather than simply talking about what he can see & at times he gets so blinded by his own opinions that anyone saying anything different will send him into a mini rant.
      Drivers changing helmet designs for instance, He made that a far bigger deal than it was because he would rant about it during every session of every weekend, He saw it as something he disliked so he pushed it as something that needed to be banned. There was a practice session last year where Ant, Di Resta & a majority of those posting on twitter disagreed with him on that which sent him into a rant that ended with him only reading tweets from those that agreed with him. He did the same when talking about reverse grids as did Sky in general actually.

      1. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
        27th July 2020, 18:58

        @stefmeister

        The other problem with crofty is that he too often starts talking about pies and curries. He is especially bad at staying on topic in practice sessions. The good thing is, Channel 4 are doing all the sessions live next weekend, so for UK viewers, we can have a different line up of commentators. I personally think DC, webber and Ben Edwards do a much better job than Sky do in terms of commentary. Chandhok is excellent, and I actually think he was slightly better when he was on Channel 4. A lot of what he says on sky feels a little bit forced and I don’t think his role there is quite as suited as what he did on Channel 4. Baku then I felt he had more freedom to express his knowledge.

        Crofty has also basically been told to shut up one time when he suggested a strategy for Red Bull to Christian horner during practice live one time. Half way though his suggestion, Horner just said you just still you commentating or something along those lines. You can tell that Horner and many others regret having to speak to Crofty. He is a pain to them and many of us that watch Sky coverage.

        1. I agree with you on the Channel 4 team doing a better job at things @thegianthogweed

        2. Agreed @thegianthogweed . I find it rather refreshing now watch the F2 and F3 practice etc sessions where Alex Jaques actually talks about what is going on on track rather than the BS we hear from Crofty. It would be brilliant if Jaques were to do the F1 also.

      2. And with Sky becoming even more dominant in F1 as they take over more of the contracts to broadcast to more countries, the more influential they are becoming in shaping the opinions of the fans and manipulating the sport to their desires.

        The idea of reverse races is one example, as it seems Sky decided that they wanted it and Liberty Media have been obediently pushing for it. It does create concerns when a broadcaster can have such influence, as it seems to be distorting the sport to their desires.

    5. The way I see it the rule has a good reason to exist to make the starts more driver focused. If you allow free communication on formation lap the team can basically tell the driver the optimal clutch settings which takes away some of the driver skill. And even if you allow communication but ban clutch advice the teams will just use code words. Disabling or making it illegal to adjust the clutch during formation lap doesn’t fix it either because then the driver can not change it based on his feel even if he wanted to. Which would mean even less driver skill involved in starting.

      Only alternative solution to this I can imagine is that the driver can not change the clutch settings once there is communication between the driver and the team during formation lap. So the driver starts his formation lap by doing his practice start, has a feeling and then turns his clutch settings to 3 and 7. Then the he tells to the team he is ready and they can talk about strategy. Maybe that could work. There is still room for foul play as code words could be used for how to start or to try to tell the driver whether he went under or over the optimum or whatever. But it could work and would be better than what we have. Fia can check afterwards whether there was talk before clutch settings change and give penalties.

  2. Martin Elliott
    27th July 2020, 14:27

    “There was a technical directive that came out in 2017 …. 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,”

    If memory serves, the 2017 TD came about because ‘some people’ felt the instructions being passed back/forth between driver/perch/engineers to set up the start was ‘over the top’ in adding the drivers with the complex programming of the systems.

    So again a specific intention of a TD catches quite normal instructions.

    The file of TDs & Notes for SR-A27.1 must be thicker than complete SR !!

  3. The rule needs to be thrown in the bin. It’s stupid.

  4. Of course they would, even with the penalty they benefited from the decision. It’s a bit weird when you can gain an advantage from breaking the rules, even when you get caught and penalised for it (no matter how silly the rule might be). The real loser from the rule was the ones who followed it, i.e. Kvyat and AlphaTauri. Is that really the way is should be?

    But hey, this is far from the only way to gain from being caught breaking the rules in F1. Cut the chikane to overtake when overtaking on track is too difficult, then simply pull away more than 5 seconds before your pitstop… or how about the time Hamilton overtook the safety car in Valencia 2010, got a drive through much later yet kept P2 thanks to the free pitstop, compared to Alonso who stayed behind the safety car, got stuck in traffic and finished well down in 8th.

    1. @oel-f1 Exactly. You hear it from the drivers too. “I will just take the 5s penalty if it gets me past the guy and hope that I pull a 5s gap afterwards. Or that I talk my way out of the penalty.”

      Maybe not that blatant, but Stroll also indicated that he didn’t fear the penalty and just went for the ludicrous overtake on Ricciardo. And … he got away with it.

      In a way it’s surprising that drivers still try to make the chicane when instead they could just cut it, overtake a car ahead and take the 5s penalty.

  5. The fact they would do it again just confirms that the punishment wasn’t close to the benefit they got. A 10sec penalty for what was at least a 30sec gain is madness.

  6. First, the rule needs to be published. As far as I know, the rules for what communications are allowed, and when (ie, the exemptions to 27.1 “The Driver must drive the car alone and unaided”, something no driver currently does) are only available in a technical document, rather than the actual sporting regulations.

    That’s absurd.

    So’s the rule that you can’t talk to the driver during the formation lap unless the car is on fire.

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