Penalty points analysis: Who has the most in 2021 and why Mazepin’s F2 rap sheet doesn’t matter

2021 F1 season

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Penalty points remained a controversial subject throughout last season as drivers complained they were issued too frequently and Lewis Hamilton briefly collected enough to be at serious risk of a race ban.

Heading into the 2021 F1 season, Hamilton is one of two drivers who will start the new championship with six penalty points left over from the previous season. That’s halfway towards the 12 which would trigger an automatic one-race ban. However his situation is better than it might be: He was issued two penalty points in Sochi last year which were subsequently rescinded after he spoke to the stewards.

The only other driver in a position as risky as Hamilton’s is the driver most likely to take his place if he did have to miss a race – George Russell, who substituted for the world champion when he was struck by Covid-19 ahead of last year’s Sakhir Grand Prix.

Alexander Albon, Kevin Magnussen, Silverstone, 2020
Albon ended 2020 with the most penalty points
Only one driver ended the last season with more points than these two. Alexander Albon ended the year on seven, though he lost his Red Bull seat during the off-season.

The other three drivers who have left the grid all amassed significant penalty points tallies during their time in the sport. Daniil Kvyat racked up a total of 27 and got closer to a ban than anyone in the sport’s history, reaching a total of 10 during 2017. Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen totalled 23 and 22 respectively.

Penalty points remain on a driver’s licence for 12 months. As Hamilton incurred four of his points at the first race weekend of last season, he will drop them at the earliest available opportunity this year. However because last year’s season started so late, that won’t happen until the ninth round of the season in July.

Russell will have to wait a little longer, until August, before deducting any of his points. Unusually, he accrued all of his through a pair of three-point infractions last year, both for failing to slow sufficiently for yellow flags.

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Three penalty points is the maximum which has ever been issued for a single incident in Formula 1. However one driver who is joining the grid this year was given more than that for causing a crash in Formula 2.

Mazepin lost Spa win to Tsunoda following penalty
In 2019 Nikita Mazepin was given four penalty points (and a 15-place grid penalty) after being held responsible for a major crash at the start of a race in Sochi. Haas’s new driver continued to attract the attention of the stewards last year: One penalty cost him victory at Spa, and by the end of the season he had accumulated 11 superlicence points, one shy of an automatic one-race ban.

Luckily for him F2 superlicence points are not transferred to F1, so he starts the year on zero.

“The Formula 2 and Formula 3 regulations are structured in such a way that the penalty points [accumulate] over the championship rather than over a 12-month period like Formula 1 does,” explained F1 race director Michael Masi.

“We’re quite fortunate with the abundance of talent that’s joining us from FIA Formula 2 championship into Formula 1 next year. But it was always seen as a way to track within the respective category itself, and that’s, from my understanding, the way that it was designed.”

Fellow F2 graduates Mick Schumacher and Yuki Tsunoda also start the year with clean sheets. The same goes for returning two-times world champion Fernando Alonso. He had six points when he left the sport in 2018, three of which he collected in the final race after repeatedly cutting the chicanes at Yas Marina. These have all expired during his two-year absence.

Among the other drivers who go into 2021 with a clean sheet are Nicholas Latifi – who stayed out of trouble in his rookie campaign – Valtteri Bottas and Pierre Gasly. Two drivers who’ve been no strangers to the stewards in recent seasons, Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel, have also successfully reset their totals.

Last year several drivers complained stewards issued penalty points too often, and for incidents which were too minor to deserve them. In fact the 50 penalties which were issued last year amounted to the lowest figure since 2015. Even accounting for the shorter calendar, this was still less than three per race, lower than in 2016, 2017 or 2018.

A key area of concern for drivers was the issuing of penalty points for track limits violations. Masi indicated that practice will be reviewed ahead of the new season.

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

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28 comments on “Penalty points analysis: Who has the most in 2021 and why Mazepin’s F2 rap sheet doesn’t matter”

  1. Latifi’s money and his several F2 campaign made me think twice at same time last year. But he had a very good and clean season in 2020. I now think he’s a decent F1 driver.

    1. He also wasn’t too far off from his highly rated teammate, even when ignoring that he was still a rookie.

      1. I rated his teammate highly, two years ago.

    2. Putting F1 2020’s driver rating growth aside, let’s see how he improves.

    3. @jeff1s
      Latifi is basically the new Ericsson

      An invisible backmarker and inoffensive personality that no one minds on the grid but no one would miss either.

  2. If everybody repeatedly cut the chicanes at Yas Marina, we might even get a decent race there!

  3. Seems a little (but only a little) unfair that Lewis will have to carry 4 points for 25 races given that they are time based and not race based.

    I say a little unfair since if last year’s calendar ran to plan then it wouldn’t be that many fewer races but just a quirk in the rules that could be ironed out I would have thought.

    1. But that was a little (maybe more than a little) offset by his 2019 penalty points only being carried for significantly less races ;)
      I guess his 2019 Austrian Penalty point didn’t even make it until the first 2020 race, and he could only ‘enjoy’ them for 12 races. And just a few races more for his Brazilian points.

      Swings and roundabouts, @chimaera2003

      1. @coldfly Didn’t think of the possible upside for Lewis, swings and roundabouts as you say and it isn’t a big deal anyway.

        Just kind of surprised me that F1 didn’t make an adjustment to the rules to equalise it and as seems like something they would do.

        Maybe Lewis got lucky with no changes since if they really went to town they would have reduced the threshold to have an equivalent points for fewer races and that would have been very political if the Russia points weren’t rescinded.

  4. I have to admit, it is kinda weird that Vettel and Verstappen both have no penalty points, when in the past they were for so long pretty much the mainstay front runners in these lists.

    1. Indeed. In Verstappen’s case, I think he has so less points because he has been driving on his own in 2020 season with 2 cars too far ahead and other 17 too far behind.

      In Vettels’s case it is probably because of lack of trying on his end. He was simply drifting through the season with no effort I feel.

      1. What’s Hamilton’s excuse his only competition is Bottas?

        1. What’s Hamilton’s excuse his only competition is Bottas?

          He probably just wanted to trigger some comments by his haters on social media.

      2. I think Max Verstappen just got beter after 2018 also his contacts with the stewards gave him lots to think over. Funny Max was the one defending Lewis in Sochi about this 2 point penaulty for something Lewis couldn’t do about after getting permission from the team. It was a penaulty to harsh for the mistake.

        But Lewis was collecting penaulties of it was nothing last year.

    2. In the past, yes. Lewis need to step up his game like Max did

  5. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mazepin became the first F1 driver to reach twelve penalty points.
    Re track limits: I don’t care if drivers get penalty points for track limit violations. I only wish Masi brought back his 2019 level of enforcement as the level last year was unnecessarily excessive. Alternatively, start using physical deterrents, such as that in Bahrain or sausage curbs, speed bumps, whatever, at the exits of ‘slow-speed’ corners instead of invalidating lap times. The high-speed stuff would be riskier, so I don’t suggest those, although Yas Marina’s penultimate corner has the sausage one.

    1. @jerejj

      I wouldn’t be surprised if Mazepin became the first F1 driver to reach twelve penalty points.

      Me neither. They’re going to go after him big time. All ‘objectively given penalties’ of course..

    2. That’s assuming he’s there long enough

  6. Something I’ve never known – if a driver is near a ban and collects enough points in, let’s say, Friday practice to take him over the threshold, then does he then get replaced for the rest of the weekend, or does it only apply to the following race weekend?

    1. FIA F1 sporting regulation – chapter 4 LICENSES (bold mine).

      4) LICENCES
      4.2 () If a driver accrues 12 penalty points his licence will be suspended for the following Event, following which 12 points will be removed from the licence.

      It will be for the following event, @tflb.

      1. I intended to put “following Event” in bold.

  7. I do hope they stop handing penalty points out like smarties this year, it’s getting a joke when they’re attached to every little infringement

    1. And to know they didn’t gave a lot of penaulties this year gives you something to think over….

  8. Goody goody boys Max and Seb!! There’s a turn up. My impression was they would come pretty high up the list, but no.

    1. If you’re susceptible to the sentiment on this site you might still thinks so yes. Max has already moved on, quite some while ago actually..

  9. The fact that no driver have reached 12 points yet means the system is too lenient in my opinion. Someone should have had a one race ban by now. Sure, license points should not be handed out for everything, but it should be harder on dangerous behaviors on track. I also don’t think that the points should be removed when you are banned, they should always just stay 12 months and as long as you have 12 you are not allowed to race. F1 should only be for world class drivers that can race cleanly and safely with respect for each other.

    1. You mean this year? because Grosjean was banned for 1 race when he had to many penaulty points.

      I agree dangerous situations should be harder punished while administration penaulties much less. I say Situations instead of behaviors because most behaviors are filtered out in the earlier series.

      If you are banned for 1 race you should get a reduction of 2 points instead of wipping the sheer clean. A whole year you get that for really serious stuff like crashing into your teammate on purpose behind a safetycar for example.

      1. @macleod The penalty point system didn’t exist in 2012 yet as it’s been in place since 2014. Otherwise, I agree with your post in principle.

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