Daniil Kvyat, AlphaTauri, Sochi Autodrom, 2020

“It’s not a taxi park”: Drivers say penalty points should only be given for dangerous incidents

2020 F1 season

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Formula 1 drivers have urged race director Michael Masi to ensure penalty points are only issued in response to potentially dangerous driving incidents.

The subject of penalty points became a focus of attention after Lewis Hamilton briefly reached a total of 10 following the Russian Grand Prix, leaving him two away from a one-race ban. In an unprecedented step, the stewards later withdrew the points which had been issued along with a pair of five-second time penalties.

Nonetheless several drivers expressed concerns that points are being issued for minor incidents. No F1 driver has ever reached the 12 which would trigger an automatic ban, but Romain Grosjean and Daniil Kvyat have come closer than any of their rivals, racking up 10 points earlier in their careers.

Grosjean admitted the threat of a ban forced him to concentrate on avoiding further penalties. However he questioned whether points were being given for incidents which were too lenient to merit them.

“I got points for blocking – I don’t know who – in qualifying in Bahrain early in the season in 2018, I remember that example. Twice on the radio I wasn’t specifically told anyone was coming. It’s not like I did it on purpose and you get a point for that.

Grosjean previously reached 10 superlicence points
“So when you’re close to 12, you’re being careful with everything: Obviously blocking someone in qualifying, or even missing the pit entry speed limit and going too fast in the pit lane, or ignoring – without wanting to ignore – a yellow flag, that’s two points. So it gets [high] very quickly. Also a collision in the race can happen.

“So, yes, when you’re on a lot of points on your licence, you’re just being careful. And it’s not quite the same to be driving with that pressure on your head.”

Kvyat said “it was very uncomfortable” to reach 10 points on his superlicence, which he did in 2017. He was replaced at the team shortly afterwards.

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“I was like one little infringement from a race ban,” he recalled. “I wasn’t feeling great at the time, to be honest.”

The AlphaTauri driver also has misgivings over the reasons some penalties are issued.

Daniil Kvyat, AlphaTauri, Sochi Autodrom, 2020
Kvyat thought Hamilton was at fault over practice start
“I think some of those points are very justified. When you do some dangerous driving, you put other drivers at risk. But some others are not really justified. So I think that system needs to be reviewed, to be honest.”

“I don’t know exactly what happened there in Sochi with Lewis and how they justify some drivers they keep the penalty points, then some drivers they take it back,” he added.

“Because also [with] me in Spain, I felt like with the blue flags, it’s not really an infringement that puts another car in danger, in the risk of something. And you still get penalty points. I can also say, ‘you know what guys, I want my penalty points back’.”

Hamilton was penalised for performing two practice starts at the end of the pit lane exit in Sochi. Kvyat, who passed Hamilton’s stationary car, said he was surprised the Mercedes driver chose that location because he knew it wasn’t permitted.

“You go very fast there, first of all, already like 250kph, so it wasn’t a good place to be sure,” said Kvyat. “I was surprised. I knew you couldn’t really do that.”

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Kvyat raised the issue of superlicence penalty points at the drivers’ briefing. “I think this thing needs to be a bit reviewed,” he said.

“If you get the penalty points [because] you cause a dangerous collision with someone, or a very dangerous manoeuvre and it’s clearly someone’s fault, then OK it’s justified. But blue flag infringements, like all this sort of bullshit, I don’t think you really need any licence points. It’s not a taxi park. We need to be able to always push on the limit.”

Lando Norris, McLaren, Silverstone, 2020
Norris said the penalty points situation has been clarified
McLaren’s Lando Norris said a conversation between the drivers and F1 race director Michael Masi had clarified the situation.

“We have a better understanding and I think hopefully the stewards and everyone has a better understanding of what deserves penalty points and what doesn’t,” said Norris.

“There are some rules where a driver gets penalty points when they shouldn’t. It should only be for things that really are dangerous for people or cause serious crashes or things really to do with safety. Not so much for some things every now and then that you can get done for.

“So I think it’s been cleared up slightly, but we’ll see in the future when people get them again.”

Masi declined to comment on what he had discussed with the drivers. “Discussions that are in the drivers briefing between the drivers and myself and the team managers,” he said.

“We’ll continue to have any discussions, good, bad or otherwise within that environment and for me, it’s that environment and not to comment upon.”

2020 F1 season

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50 comments on ““It’s not a taxi park”: Drivers say penalty points should only be given for dangerous incidents”

  1. Reading what they are saying I can only think the penalty points are working fine then?
    Also, not one of them was actually banned…

  2. Grosjean pulls a really seriously dangerous late block at top speed, just gets a warning flag, a few laps later does the same thing again or even a bit worse and gets nothing whatsoever. Someone else harmlessly crosses a white line and gets penalties. Someone else weaves to keep a place and gets nothing or 5s, and can stay in front. The stewarding is poor.

    And no surprise Masi doesn’t want to talk about it, as he’s basically a stooge and daren’t be accountable to anyone apart from his owners.

    1. +1 100% Correct.
      Charlie Whiting was never owned or obliged to anyone, ever.
      This fellow Masi just a puppet. We all know who the puppet masters are.

      1. Half of the things the drivers listed/whinged about above were under Charlie.
        Charlie was embedded at the heart of the behemoth and trusted by all by dint of his tenure.
        Masi doesn’t have those luxuries (trust and inertia) so is both being second guessed and moving a little under stress. That will happen to anyone put in that position (unless Kimi wants a change).
        He’s from Charlie’s team and probably applies the same general philosophy to race meets.
        So yes, he’s missed a trick here and there and is too careful (giving us 2 celebrated and memorable results by the way) so I’m happy to give him a chance.

  3. In the past they would sometimes ban drivers with repeated (major) incidents. Like Grosjean, Maldonado and Hakkinen.

    The new penalty points system is clearly not working calling drivers like that out though. We’ve seen Grosjean still create major havoc (like in Spain where he pulled a donut on lap 1 in the middle of traffic) and Vettel has just kept on crashing into other cars for years.

    1. You clearly haven’t seen the interviews and analysis of why he pulled that donut…

      Coz he was facing oncoming traffic, if anyone would have hit him with the speed they were on, he would have been dead! That’s why he donutted the car, so he wouldn’t die in case of a crash.

      1. Yeah and the stewards dismissed this nonsense

    2. @f1osaurus I suppose this is what you’re referring to with Maldonado as he never received a ban in F1: https://www.motorsport.com/f1/news/banned-for-life-maldonado-lucky-to-be-in-monaco/420703/
      As for Hakkinen: An incident with Barrichello in the 1994 British GP

      1. 2005 Maldonado was an insane millésime ! Zolder comes to my mind but I rebuff the thought.

      2. @jerejj Yes Maldonado received a ban prior to F1. He should have been banned for ramming Hamilton on purpose in Spa and many other incidents.

        Hakkinen got the ban for taking out a lot of cars at a start incident, but yes he only got that ban because he was already on probation.

        Seeing that incident with Hakkinen and Barrichello in the 1994 British GP, you can only wonder how much the times have changed.

      3. @jerejj Häkkinen only got a suspended ban from the Barrichello collision. It only went into effect after the German Grand Prix start crash

  4. Current penalty point system is too lenient when it comes to really serious incidents. I’m talking about deliberate collisions like Vettel in Baku or Perez against Sirotkin in Singapore. Or just big brainfades like Hülkenberg at Spa start. At the moment it needs four incidents like those to be banned. Alternatively it’s six regular collisions like those between Hamilton and Albon twice.

    1. The second Hamilton/Albon collision was a perfect example of bad stewarding. Alex was behind on entry, then so fast round the outside he was ahead and taking air off Lewis’ front wing on exit. Plus there was room on his left with tyre marks showing he was quite tight and how other cars had gone wider. Lewis had chosen his entry speed while he was ahead and kept full lock on the whole time, not trying to push him out. It was just a racing incident, with if anything Alex being a bit naive.

      The stewards never got their heads round it, they reacted emotionally to young Alex being spun out of that podium. And of course it was gonna be good for the show. It was poor.

      1. I agree with the fact Albon had more space and it shouldn’t have been a penalty, but this full lock argument is so false. If a car carries more speed, there will be understeer and the car will not turn as much despite the full lock, this is in control of the driver! Hamilton can always go a bit slower and thus turn the car more on ‘full lock’. Anyway, point over.

        1. The full lock argument @john-h is that once the entry speed was committed that was Lewis’ most cooperative line set in stone, and at that point in time Alex was not ahead he was behind. It’s not as if Lewis opened the steering to push him wide. And also as I said Alex accidentally at the end increased Lewis’ understeer by taking some air from his front wing.

          1. Lewis knew exactly what he was doing there (speaking as a Hamilton fan). Perhaps he was expecting Albon to take a wider line, like Bottas at Eiffel, but anyway this full lock thing… he’s not even ‘full lock’ anyway, the steering wheel rotates further than that, have a look at the hairpin for example. Anyway, there you go, I think Hamilton knew what he was doing there.

          2. Lewis knew what line he was setting up @john-h and it was a line that gave Alex enough space to be behind! That’s just normal. What he couldn’t know at the start was where Alex was going to be on exit, so far ahead and not as wide as he could have been. And full lock means the most the wheels will take, as there’s a point where more angle just gives more slip and actually less turning force.

        2. @john-h well Hamilton was even/ahead going into the corner having picked his braking point at which point once you have your braking point you can’t brake any harder as they’re at racing speeds and already on the limit of braking. As soon as the wheel was turned by Hamilton the braking phase ends as you cannot brake with wheels turned or you’ll lose traction and understeer wide.

          As such there was nothing Hamilton could do at that point other than ensure on power he left sufficient space outside which there was right up until Albon swept across his front and wiped himself out (not too dissimilar to what he did to Kvyat recently). Hamilton did no outbreak himself and there was always space around the outside, Albon just got greedy trying to squeeze Hamilton to stop him fighting back when on power. It is one of the most ridiculous stewarding decisions I’ve ever seen.

          The Brazil penalty was fair enough although you could even argue in that incident Albon left the door open then slammed it due to poor awareness. Of course Hamilton should really have also had better judgement to not go near what was likely to be a closing wedge with a unproven wheel to wheel racer.

          1. that feels like a valid description @slowmo, I certainly won’t say Hamilton’s actions didn’t contribute to the two of them getting into the incident in Austria (and yeah, Brazil though that was clearly him making a mistake), but as has become clearer with time and more incidents, Albon really should rethink how he does overtakes on track, making sure he takes into account space for the other car(s) while doing so, especially with likely mounting pressure on him to show Red Bull that he makes progress.

            As to the original comment in this thread, I think @blue has it right that really bad incidents, which officially are what the penalty points were supposed to address, seem under-penalised by the stewards (fear of creating instant race bans?), while %one driver/other type incidents seem, depending on who is involved, to be much easier to give a rather harsh penalty (perhaps because it isn’t an instant ban, thus easier not to consider too much?). It certainly doesn’t quite work.

  5. I agree that it’s a slightly broken system but only in some regards. I’d like to see minor infringements (blue flags, incorrect practice starts(!) and the like) given 1 point, while incidents such as Vettel in Baku, Grosjean in Barcelona etc. would be given something like 6. The total of 12 for a ban feels about right. If you manage to get to 12, then your driving has been suitably poor over the course of a year and you deserve to sit one out and think about what you’ve done!

    1. I think Vettel playing bumper cars in Baku should be an immediate DQ for that race. Immediate action always works best and is clearest that such behaviour is not tolerated. Getting 6 points and then a few more which eventually culminate in a missed race, well, do you really feel the consequence of your action then? Action = reaction is what is required in such an extreme situation.

      The penalty point system is ok to put some extra weight on minor infringements where a race penalty wouldn’t do anything. For example: in a race where you are lapped and you have nothing to lose and even a stop and go penalty would not hurt you since you are out of the point anyway, but… you can ignore blue flags this race and perhaps block a rival from scoring points! Hey that’s one situation where penalties points that are carried over all season are a useful tool. You can do it once or twice still and get nothing but bad looks, but you can’t do it over and over.

      There’s a place for penalty points and there’s a place for outright penalties for the same race. Don’t get the two mixed up.

      1. You make a good point @sihrtogg to add to what @ben-n wrote, there may be a place for penalty points if the allowed penalty alone doesn’t address the advantage/the seriousness of the infraction. Though in that case, as you mention with your point about DQ being more appropriate for Vettel’s Baku stuff, why not look at whether penalties are appropriate then?

        I have trouble with penalties being too context dependent, and esp. dependent on the consequences, but some context surely should come into it, just like in most justice systems to ensure the right penalty for the incident.

  6. Stay within the rules and there won’t be a problem

    1. RocketTankski, however, a number of those offences attract lower penalties if they were to occur during practice, which highlights an element of inconsistency with the way that the same penalty can be applied at different stages of the race weekend.

      As one example, if a driver breaks the pit lane speed limit during a practice session, all the driver receives is a fine – yet, if the purpose of penalising the driver in the first place is because breaking the pit lane speed limit is dangerous to those working in the pit lane, then surely it does not matter whether it was in a practice session or the race itself.

  7. I don’t understand where the idea comes from that penalty points are only for dangerous behavior or that the system turns F1 into a taxi park. It seems to me that the idea is to be relatively lenient to occasional transgressions, while still discouraging undesired behavior. Non-dangerous driving can also be bad for racing.

    I think that it’s much better to give penalty points for most cases where drivers ignore blue flags than to give a 5 second penalty. Most lapped drivers try to wait to let a lapping driver past, until they get to a part of the track where they lose relatively little time by doing so. Giving a time penalty to a driver that overdoes this can have a serious impact on the race outcome and seems a bit unfair when that driver was merely a bit worse at it than others, who didn’t get a penalty. By giving penalty points, F1 can police relatively minor transgressions, without immediately having to give major time or grid penalties.

    1. Explain what a “taxi park” might be?

      1. @elchinero You should ask Kvyat…

  8. Agree a race ban for small infringements like blue flags doesn’t fit at all, but fine for consistent dangerous driving like blocking, weaving, crashing, pushing off, yellow flags, and even white line infringements.

    But as we know F1 stewards, it will not be consistent which I think is Kvyat’s other point.

  9. GtisBetter (@)
    20th October 2020, 10:55

    This is a bad idea. The way it works now is clear. You get a penalty and the some points that go with it. It also works, cause nobody has been banned. Changing it will result in endless discussions about what “dangerous” is.

    If they want to change something, change when a penalty is given.

    1. Not that clear though as there are obviously inconsistencies. For example LeClerc squeezing Hamilton wide in Roggia at Monza 2019, where he was show the black and white (after they’d blown the moths off it) and given a ‘reprimand’ rather than a penalty or indeed penalty points. It’s clear to one and all that this was done to avoid the potentially incendiary of Ferrari losing the race due to a penalty and the Tifosi burning down race control while Masi was still in there! Or indeed the example of Grojean weaving ridiculously to block Ricciardo at Silverstone having already been given the black and white for an earlier incident.

      Penalties for saftey…..not here.

      In many ways that’s fine, so long as there is consistency in application of rules. There is a genuine concern now that ‘spicing up the show’ is a check box on penalty considerations, and that some of them are now being decided on the basis of their impact on the race and the competition rather than on driver behaviour.

      1. You speak as if the impact on the show is a new consideration.

      2. GtisBetter (@)
        20th October 2020, 21:48

        That is a problem with giving the penalties, not the penalty point system.

        1. Yes, and I think that’s what the drivers are trying to address @passingisoverrated, but with Masi always ‘dismissing’ such concerns as overblown if not damaging to the sport (potential penalty threat?!), they are left with making this argument that given the current stewarding, the penalty points system doesn’t work, rather than that the stewarding/race director decisions at times seem not just inconsistent but potentially guided by other factors than sporting fairness and safety, without a solid redress for that.

          For example, having to/being able to be talking the stewards into dropping penalty points if you have enough clout certainly isn’t proper procedure to me, regardless of whether HAM deserved them. Had it been Haas with Grosjean, would they have gotten the same result (but also, same penalty? Leclerc’s Spa suggests maybe not).

  10. I think that just like the super-license point system it was a badly thought up knee-jerk reaction.

    If you feel somebody did something dangerous then fine them, Give them a warning & if they do it again then ban them if it feels necessary. That is how it worked in the past & for the most part that worked. Instead of introducing this penalty point system all the FIA needed to do was grow a spine & actually take hard action against drivers who were repeatedly doing dangerous things.

  11. The trouble is that FIA can’t seem to find a culture for judgement and/or safety that is consistent and transparent and fair!

    A few years back the complaint was that Stewards Decisions were inconsistent and not transparent. To reduce this the FIA modified the ‘rule book’ to make it far more ‘prescriptive for offences AND penalties. If you do this then the penalty IS 5 sec AND 2 penalty points.

    Unless FIA gets some real advice on how to frame rules and sentencing guidelines from some professionals, with a backup of trained and competent stewards (judges) it’s difficult to see the cyclic situation continuing.

  12. The whole purpose of the penalty point system is so that repeated minor offences eventually add up to something more serious. It’s the same reason that three reprimands get you a ten-place grid penalty – although the offences on their own might not warrant more serious punishment, there’s a pattern of behaviour which shows a disregard for the rules and needs to be corrected.

    I agree that penalty points are sometimes awarded (and rescinded) inconsistently, but that’s a separate issue. The general principle is right.

    1. Then you would get “Well, it wasn’t really THAT dangerous”. Keep as is, work on consistency of penalties.

  13. So we go back to the question of why Leclerc wasn’t penalized for a practice start beyond the demarcated zone at Spa this year? Because the stewards then clearly decided it was too minor to warrant a penalty. Whereas Hamilton doing the same at Sochi merited a time penalty, ruining his race, and initially double points on his license. And yet this ‘danger’ was not addressed immediately after he had done the first practice start, which, really, if it was dangerous, you would expect a competent race director and stewards to address immediately. Rather than the stewards advising the media, very-excitedly, that Lewis was going to get a time penalty and double license points.

    I hope some of the scorn with which that was written is appearing.

    1. @david-br that does raise another point – has there been any indication that the FIA have attempted to investigate who was leaking information from the stewards room to the Finnish commentators during the pre-race investigation in Russia, and whether any attempt has been made to prevent further security breaches?

      Whatever your position, I think many would agree that the stewards really shouldn’t be leaking information from investigations to the press or chatting to members of the media due to the potential for undue influence to be exerted on that steward. Whatever you might say about Whiting, I doubt he would have tolerated that sort of behaviour under his watch.

      1. @anon I think there are four points in retrospect. First, complete inconsistency in response to the Leclerc and Hamilton incidents. Second, leaking the investigation into the Hamilton penalty very quickly into the press, including details to Finnish reporters on the double points on his license, when the stewards should have been focused on their actual job. Three, why – if it was dangerous – the race director didn’t do as Whiting would have done (as you say) and simply radioed the team to tell them to tell Hamilton to stop. Instead he allowed a repeat. Call my cynical, but their interest doesn’t then seem to be safety but the ‘benefits’ of penalizing one particular driver. And fourth, was a race penalty even justified for something that happened before the race?

        1. Yes good points @david-br, and how the leak was done sounding like a celebration of the advantage to Bottas!

          It explains the double race penalty, and if we think someone is willing to leak, why would we believe the inevitable denial? Let’s see if Salo appears again, I think he might not.

          1. Good points all around @zann and @david-br, anon.

            I have to say though that with regards to that investigation into the leaking by a steward (and subsequently how he influenced the decision as to penalise, and the – need to – later rescind all penalty points), while for the sport it probably would be much better to have that done openly and transparently, that clearly is not how the FIA works when it is about what it sees as internal matters, so it might well be that he has already got a lifetime ban from ever being involved with FIA stuff, and we’d probably never hear about it.

  14. I Agree. The penalty points for blue flag are ridiculous. Stewards should just watch those slow racers. Once the blue flag is shown to the driver, and the same failed to comply in the 2nd or 3rd time is waved to him, ruin his race, since he is ruining the other driver race. Give them a stop and go, or add 5 or 10 seconds to his final time, or just black flag him.

  15. Penalty points should be for infringements that occur while interacting with other cars on the track – bad race driving, blocking in qualifying, things like that.

    Procedural errors – like failing to follow a run-off chicane, or stuff like Hamilton’s practice starts – should be point-free, dealt with by the standard penalties.

    1. Yes I agree @neilosjames, though I am not quite sure that was there original intent (and possible exception for things that clearly endanger the marshalls, ie. about interacting with others – maybe dangerous stuff by the driver in the pitlane, and/or when having to stop next to the track).

      Blue flags incidents, unless they become dangerous, should probably not warrant a penalty point either as @mauromori suggests, a time penalty there would be an effective and solid detractor.

  16. Every quote I see from Masi is defensive and negative.

  17. GtisBetter (@)
    21st October 2020, 9:36

    They don’t want a ban and as such they want to get as little amount of penalty points as possible, so they want to review a couple of penalties where they feel the points aren’t necessary, disregarding the system all together. However I think if you get a penalty, you did something wrong. Hence the penalty and the penalty points. Penalty points are there for repeat offenders to drive better and by the sounds of it, it seems to be working.

    One could argue an unsafe release or calling a driver into the pit lane as that is the team, but if you don’t move fast enough out of the way with a blue flag, you aren’t driving according to standards and you should get penalty points. The point, like i said, is if the penalty is justified, not the penalty points and they should argue that and not complain about the system of consequences.

    If you ask a F1 fan which drivers are most likely to get a ban due to penalty points, you get a couple of names that are pretty close to the truth. It’s not the system.

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