Nicholas Latifi, Williams, Baku City Circuit, 2021

Latifi given three penalty points for “dangerous” error after Verstappen crash

2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix

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Nicholas Latifi was handed a 10-second stop-go penalty for an infringement following Max Verstappen’s crash in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Drivers were instructed to pass through the pit lane to avoid the crash scene after Verstappen hit the barrier opposite the pit wall. However Latifi failed to heed the instruction, and continued along the pit straight.

“After [Verstappen’s] accident on the start-finish straight the race director ordered the cars to use the pit lane, as a tow truck and marshals were on the track to recover the damaged Red Bull car,” the stewards explained.” This was indicated by a light signal in good time before the pit lane entry.

“While all other cars followed the [Safety Car] into the pit lane, [Latifi] ignored the instruction, stayed on the straight and passed the scene of the recovery.

“During this process he overtook two other cars that drove properly through the pit lane. The stewards also found that all teams were informed in good time by radio and that his team asked [Latifi] to box.

“This is a clear breach of Article 39.11 that requires a mandatory drive-through penalty. In addition the overtaking of other cars (Article 39.8) and the dangerous passing of the scene on the track (Article 39.5) justify a 10-second-sanction in total and three penalty points.”

Latifi’s three licence points are the first of his F1 career.

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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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41 comments on “Latifi given three penalty points for “dangerous” error after Verstappen crash”

  1. Latifi didn’t actually serve the penalty during the race so 30 seconds was added to the time. He finished between Bottas and Schumacher, but the penalty put Haas drivers and Hamilton ahead of him.

    Remembering last year’s Italian GP where Hamilton and Giovinazzi were penalised for doing the opposite infraction I remember a lot of debate where the pit being closed signal should be. But it’s same lights used in both cases (pit lane being closed or pit lane must be used) so they have to be early enough so every driver can react and not reverse decision too late.

    1. True, he was running 13th, not the last one as mentioned in the article.

  2. I think this is a fair punishment. There is really no excuse for missing all the instructions from race control, and could have been very dangerous given that those working at the scene of the crash would not have expected a racing car to turn up.

    1. @red-andy but why the penalty points for a driver who was just following orders from his team?

      1. Because he should have seen the light signal and understand its meaning by himself.

        1. Latifi obviously knows what a red flag means and he would expect his team to understand it too.

          As a driver, if you were directly instructed to contravene one of the most basic protocols then you would presume it was for a good reason.

          Radio communications are usually light on detail and often take the form of instructions. Latifi was told by somebody who could see camera footage of exactly what was happening on track and who had direct communication with the FIA to stay out. He had no choice other than to stay out!

          1. Nit: this occurred under safety car, not red flag.

          2. PS his engineer should be the one getting the penalty points…

      2. Did he?

        The stewards also found that all teams were informed in good time by radio and that his team asked [Latifi] to box.

        1. That’s NOT correct!

          His engineer told him SIX times with what sounded like panic in his voice that he should stay out.

          1. Yes, that is my interpretation too: Nicholas was given specific instructions by his team to stay out on track and complied with the instruction. I suppose from the point of view of the Stewards Nicholas did fail to follow an instruction, but in actual fact it was the team that failed to convey the instruction correctly. There isn’t much he can do about the 3 penalty points on his Super Licence, but the fine should be paid by the team because someone gave a very specific wrong instruction. “STAY OUT” means … well, to not use the pit lane entrance. I don’t know what the reason was for George’s retirement, but maybe his retirement was related to that instruction.

          2. @drycrust @sonnycrockett yeah, you rely on your engineer, if any driver was told to “Stay Out”, of course they’d stay out, the engineer has far more information in front of them. It just seems his engineer has had a moment of panic, and said the complete opposite of what he meant. It’s harsh on Nicholas, why he personally deserves the penalty points is tough, but he drove past marshals and a truck who wouldn’t have been expecting him. Fining teams does little, but penalty points affect teams and drivers both and there needs to be a deterrent to these things happening.

            Williams might not care if Latifi misses the next round, but Merc would if Lewis had miss a round and the same rules and punishments for all.

          3. James Keane
            7th June 2021, 1:50

            Why does that even vaguely matter? Whilst the team obviously made a mistake, Masi’s instructions supersede the race engineers.

            He passed the panels giving a clear instruction to drivers to go into the pits from Masi. If a driver races through a double yellow because he was told to on the radio, it would be his fault, as at the end of the day it’s the drivers responsibility to race safely.

            Whilst I can understand why he confused his engineers instruction, when it comes down to it he DID disobey flag signal instructions. He DID add a large potential risk to intervention marshal’s life, who thankfully did wait for the train to pass before treating what should be a safe bit of track as ‘sterile’.

            Drivers cannot ignore flag signals or panels just because their engineer tells them to.

    2. I don’t think it was anyhow fair. There a proof it wasn’t his fault. If he was passing double yellow slow, then there should have been any personal penalty. Just a penalty for a team. And if they are legalists, then why didn’t they penalize everyone, who didn’t slow down enough under double yellow?

  3. This seems very unfair on Latifi because of an error from his team. He was clearly told to stay out and in that sort of situation he has to listen to his team.

  4. It was confusing instruction from the pit wall that lead him to go down the track. But he should have seen the light signal and understand its meaning by himself.

  5. This seems grossly unfair.

    Yes, like all drivers, Latifi knows the red flag protocols but he was specifically told to stay out by his team.

    For all he knew there might have been an accident in the pit lane or some other scenario that meant it was unsafe for him to pit. Regardless, he did not make the decision, the team did.

    Yes, penalise the team but giving Latifi penalty points is utterly ridiculous. It wasn’t his fault!

    1. Absolutely. This is 100% on the team, and I too think Latifi was most unfortunate to end up with penalty points for an error that he quite clearly didn’t cause. We’ve seen errors with flags (e.g. a chequered flag being shown on the wrong lap) before, and hearing that radio call any reasonable person would assume they did indeed need to stay out notwitstanding the digiflags. Surely has to be worth an appeal.

      1. The wording in the article includes the quote “his team asked [Latifi] to box”. That is contradicted by the radio that was played out where the team told him to “stay out”. Sounds like the stewards weren’t aware of the radio that we heard, which would be a good reason for them to change their mind on appeal.

        1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
          7th June 2021, 11:39

          @thelem good point, they should appeal to have the 3 points removed and a fine applied to the team for misleading the driver.

    2. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      7th June 2021, 11:38

      @sonnycrockett +1 it was unfair to give the driver penalty points. They should have fined the team.

  6. Fair punishment, horrible communication error by the team. I have no idea why they thought that “stay out” would mean to drive into the pitlane without stopping, instead of staying out on the track.

    1. @kaiie
      Don’t see how giving a driver penalty points is a “fair punishment” for what you describe as “horrible communication error by the team”.

      1. Because it’s a dangerous mistake and Latifi us in control of the car.

        Massive communication blunder by the team. You have to wonder what the engineer was thinking.

        1. Exactly… As you say: “Massive communication blunder by the team

          Latifi is in control of the car, but only ignorant armchair experts with 20/20 hindsight are going to say that Latifi should have gone against the team radio and gone into the pits.

          The team told him to stay out, so he did.
          There are many valid reasons why they could have said this to Latifi. It’s not his fault for not knowing it was a team miscommunication.
          Latifi did what was, from his perspective, the correct and safe thing to do.

          1. Still It was red flag so he MUST pit that is why Lando also got his penaulty. He drover through a crash spot with Marshalls on track. That is why…

          2. @macleod

            Utterly naive thing to say.

            Imagine there was a second accident, this time in the pit lane (which Latifi natuallly couldn’t have known about), and Latifi disobeyed the identical team orders he was given. He then drove into the pit lane and made the situation worse.

            People would be calling for his head in this instance, and rightfully so.

            Like you say, Latifi knows where the on-track incident was. He would surely take the correct precautions around that incident. He doesn’t know about the hypothetical problems in the pit lane that resulted in him being called to stay out, so couldn’t take the same informed precations.

  7. Listen to the radio call by his engineer:

    With what sounds like panic in his voice, he told Latifi to stay out SIX times. That’s SIX times!

    What would you do?

    With that radio message you’d have to be a fool to pit.

    1. @sonnycrockett

      For race control to state that it was Latifi’s dangerous error and give him penalty points for a terrible team error is equivalent to giving a driver penalty points for a pitlane unsafe release.

      The driver is just following the [flawed] instructions from the team.

    2. James Keane
      7th June 2021, 1:58

      It is absolutely his fault.

      He ignored flag panels because his team told him to.

      The race director is absolutely above your race engineer, and you race under licence and contract to follow the signals of the race director.

      NL could have seriously put at risk the life of an intervention marshal who prematurely treated that part of the track as sterile, because he ignored clear signals.

      Look at it this way, if you are pulling up to a red light, and the passenger says ‘go go go’, who would be at fault for going through it?

      1. For all he knew his team told him – with panic in the voice – to stay out six times because there was a pile-up or fire in the pit lane.

      2. James you say that like he heard the race director’s instructions directly.

        He didn’t.

  8. I have no access to the entire radio comms but the broadcast showed he was told repeatedly to stay out. Ergo, 3 penalty points feels a bad joke when he does not seem to be at fault.

  9. He could’ve said: ‘box, drive through on fast lane, follow the other cars’. Race engineers are paid for this, keeping a cool head and communicating properly.

  10. His team should be fined for being unable to say something simple like “drive through the pitlane” instead of him getting penalty points

    1. James Keane
      7th June 2021, 1:59

      They both should take the punishment, NL for ignoring marshalling signals, and the team for giving him incorrect instructions to ignore the marshalling signals.

  11. Not a surprising punishment, as all calls made from the race directors has been utterly shocking and misplaced all weekend.

  12. It was obvious he was getting penalized with penalty points, but not fining the team seems odd, since the message Latifi got was a clear instruction to stay out on track… sure the flags and lights said otherwise, but maybe something had happened in the pits while the cars in front where going through it. Imagine if someone had catched fire in the pitlane before Latifi got there.

    A fine for the team was a must.

  13. someone or something
    7th June 2021, 0:24

    Even at the time of the announcement, it made little sense to me why Lando Norris got a reduced penalty for the remarkable brainfreeze of taking the lane into the pits, but then deciding to continue his lap despite a red flag.
    But it goes beyond unexplainable when Latifi gets whacked with an unreduced penalty plus a lot of penalty points for basically the same infraction (failing to enter the pitlane when it was mandated by Race Control), while actually having a good reason for doing it, unlike Norris. As others have pointed out: When your race engineer almost yells while telling you to stay out, you don’t start trying to dig into semiotics and question whether that’s just a poor choice of words. No, you stay the hell out on the track.
    The Stewards have made an absolute mockery of consistency with those two incidents.

    1. someone or something
      7th June 2021, 0:31

      As an afterthought, I understand why a time penalty for Latifi was unavoidable. He was unambiguously in breach of the rules, after all, and seeing as it’s a safety-related rule, leniency would be out of place.
      But points on the driver’s licence for reacting like a sane person to a (seemingly) unambiguous warning that something even worse is waiting in the pitlane? That’s insane. Latifi did absolutely nothing to deserve this kind of punishment.

  14. Yes latifi’s engineer should be the one penalised….how?
    I was fuming that they did that call, Latifi stayed out and only got a 10 second drive through. Putting 10 S seconds on at end of race wasn’t even good enough or his 3 licence points.
    Not many hours ago everyone was banging on about how bad Norris was. Like he said he had seconds to see that red flashing light, confirm it with his engineer ( which was his only error.) he took his time to confirm it by then Lando had passed the Pit stop entry and to stop putting anyone in danger do another lap. He also said stewards should take these things into consideration – he got 3 instead of 5 penalty points on his licence.
    Now who deserved the 5 place back and 5 points.

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