Why are Formula 2 drivers suddenly getting more penalty points – and even bans?

Formula 2

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For the second time this year, there will be an enforced change to the Formula 2 grid this weekend due to a driver accumulating enough penalty points to be handed a race ban.

The first time it was Van Amersfoort Racing’s Amaury Cordeel, who had to miss the Silverstone races due to clocking up 12 penalty points through a variety of offences. These included speeding under red flags conditions, speeding in the pit lane, track limits violations, failing to line up for a restart correctly, not entering the pit lane when required, and colliding with another driver.

Now it’s Campos Racing’s Olli Caldwell who is missing out on the action, sitting out of the Spa-Francorchamps weekend for a number of different track limits offences, a formation lap violation of his own, impeding other drivers during qualifying and nearly hitting a tyre trolley and a mechanic in the pitlane.

Cordeel has already been banned once and could be again
It’s not like these are the only ‘bad boys’ of F2 this year though. Race stewards have handed out penalty points 68 times and to 22 different drivers. The only two to have avoided their wrath so far is Charouz backmarker Cem Bolukbasi, who missed four races through injury, and Williams junior Logan Sargeant, the only driver to have kept a clean sheet despite starting ever race, and currently third in the points with Carlin.

The most frequent cause of ‘earning’ penalty points is exceeding track limits four or more times in a race. Four violations in one race equals one penalty point on a driver’s licence. But rather than that turning into two penalty points once you run wide at a corner for a fifth time, it instead adds two points to the one originally earned. And a sixth violation doesn’t mean an accumulated three penalty points, it actually means another two penalty points to the three already earned, plus an escalating severity of in-race penalties starting with time additions, then a drive-through penalty, a stop-go and eventually disqualification.

Running wide eight times in a race could bring a driver nine penalty points and multiple pit lane penalties they would have to serve, despite their track limits antics possibly not handing them any kind of advantage or putting any other driver at risk in the first place.

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In comparison, during the Imola round Cordeel was caught going at 99.2kph (61.6mph) through the pitlane when the speed limit is 60kph (37.2mph). He was handed a 10-second stop-go penalty and then a five-second penalty for speeding again, but he escaped without any penalty points despite the obvious risks posed by his actions.

Since his ban he has already racked up four more penalty points, a number 14 drivers have managed to not reach yet.

The stewarding in F2 has not always been consistent, for want of a better word, in issuing penalty points. This is at least partly because similar incidents can vary in severity.

During the first race of the year in Bahrain, Jake Hughes (VAR) and Clement Novalak (MP Motorsport) were handed 10-second penalties plus two penalty points for making contact with other drivers. Hughes had tapped the rear of Hitech’s Marcus Armstrong and spun him around, while Hughes was later hit out of the race by Novalak. In the next day’s race, Charouz’s Enzo Fittipaldi was found guilty of the same offence for spinning Trident driver Richard Verschoor at the first corner but his penalties were of half the severity of the previous day’s.

That weekend there was also two instances involving Cordeel where stewards specifically took note that he had committed offences “however no penalty points were awarded to the driver”, a remark which has not appeared in FIA documents since.

Novalak received a five-place grid penalty and three penalty points for impeding another car during qualifying at the next round in Jeddah, but ART Grand Prix’s Frederik Vesti did the same and it merited a three-place grid penalty and a single penalty point. Cordeel’s first penalty points of the year came in that session in the biggest individual haul seen so far as he was handed four at once, and given a 10-place grid penalty, for overtaking in a zone where double waved yellows were during a red flag period.

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Track limits violations are the single most frequent reason that stewards have put points on the licences of F2 drivers this year. There have been 20 such instances, leading collisions (16) and impeding in qualifying (six) as the top causes of penalty points. On four occasions the stewards have also penalised drivers for simply going off track in a race too many times (this is a separate issue to track limits policing as these instances do not lead to lap times being deleted), forcing a rival off-track or gaining an advantage with an off.

Nissany is just one point away from a ban
Some drivers can feel potentially aggrieved with some of the one-off offences that have resulted in a points handout. Mixed messaging meant Prema’s Dennis Hauger lost a potential win and then got penalised for entering a closed pit lane from the lead in the Jeddah sprint race, DAMS’ Roy Nissany turned on his engine with the hope of joining the feature race while he was being pushed off by marshals in Monaco following a stall on the formation lap grid and VAR’s Silverstone stand-in David Beckmann – rather unusually – was handed two penalty points in the feature race (plus a 10s stop-go penalty) for a car mechanic still being by his car when the 15s board was waved telling all team personnel to depart the grid.

The latter would usually be an offence that would lead to a fine for the team, but as the mechanic was determined to have been of active assistance on the car at the time the board was shown, “in such situations, the Sporting Regulations require the driver to start the race from the pit lane”. As that did not happen, the penalty was handed over to Beckmann.

There are four more rounds remaining of the 2022 F2 season, and the title-contending trio of Felipe Drugovich (MP), Theo Pourchaire (ART) and Sargeant can feel pretty confident they won’t have to worry about penalty points as between them they have collected just two points. Championship leader Drugovich was handed his only point and a three-place grid penalty ahead of the Barcelona sprint race for impeding during qualifying, which didn’t stop him jumping from fourth to first at the start and taking a convincing win, then Pourchaire got his penalty point and a Paul Ricard sprint race podium to a five-second penalty for forcing Armstrong off.

In a rather less secure position are DAMS duo Nissany and Ayumu Iwasa, one and four points away from a race ban respectively, and Novalak. The new gravel traps of Spa and the tight confines of Zandvoort may reduce track limits violations for the next two weekends, but Monza is straight after – a venue where impeding is a persistent problem during qualifying sessions. Those six races in three weeks will decide whether anyone else cops a ban before the year is over.

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Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...

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18 comments on “Why are Formula 2 drivers suddenly getting more penalty points – and even bans?”

  1. 61 mph in the pit lane? I can envision pit crewmen throwing speed handles at him …

  2. I’m surprised the pit lane speeds have their mph equivalents included in this post, while otherwise only kph in all articles.

  3. Given the number of penalties handed out for track limit violations, perhaps we should be asking “Why can’t Formula 2 drivers keep their cars on the track?”

    1. yeah, that was also my thought when reading about the sheer amount of penalty for this @red-andy.
      I guess they learnt constantly going off track is fine from watching F1 over the last couple of years

      1. @bascb I was going to comment that perhaps the drivers were modelling their driving on F1 standards but you beat me to it.

    2. Maybe it is the fact that a lot of people spent the last years asking: “Shouldnt FIA get more active before those F2 drivers kill each on the track?”

  4. As I understand it, the points were introduced to formalise punishments for persistent dangerous driving after Grosjean was criticised and suspended in F1 to make it transparent when a driver would be punished. Track limit violations, while not allowed, are not inherently dangerous, and shouldn’t mean any points are dished out. Crashing into others, blocking, ignoring flags, pitlane speeding etc., all makes sense, but this is like giving footballers yellow cards for giving away too many throw ins!

    1. Likewise, being penalised for what a mechanic has done also makes no sense. It is dangerous, but not dangerous driving.

    2. @f1hornet That is an incorrect, albeit popular, understanding of why penalty points were introduced. They were never intended to be restricted to “dangerous” incidents.

      The purpose of penalty points is to track repeated rule breaches that, considered in isolation, would not amount to any serious penalty, but taken together show that a driver is serially unwilling or unable to follow the rules of the sport. If a driver cannot keep their car on the track to the point where they rack up 12 penalty points, they are likely a danger to themselves and others anyway, and have no business racing in F1/F2/F3.

  5. Giving race bans based on track limits is absurd. So is giving penalty points. These violations already have penalties and it’s not a question of safety or compliance with official instructions.

    1. Agreed with the comments so far: no penalty points for track limits. Those can easily be handled in a race via time penalties, and in other sessions they don’t matter so long as the times get deleted in qualifying.

  6. I don’t think it would be unreasonable for things that are actually dangerous and/or unsafe to be penalised more harshly (pit lane rule violations, ignoring yellows/reds, careless crashes), and in return have no penalty points at all for silly things like track limits.

    A time penalty is more than enough.

  7. I must say Cordeel has been quite disappointing and his race ban was deserved. I’d be surprised if he was to get another shot next year unfortunately for him.

    1. Seems he sat in a racecar for the first time on a race track… Most of those are mistakes of not paying attention of his surroundings (was he a sim racer before?)

  8. Several complaints about track limits penalties…..

    Has nobody considered that deliberately and repeatedly breaching the track limits rules (just as with any other rules) shows a complete disregard and disrespect for the rules and the rule-enforcers – regardless of any perceived or real safety considerations?
    That, IMO, most certainly should be a suspendable offence.

    A couple of times can obviously be forgiven and settled with an appropriate minor punishment. Doing it repeatedly, however, shows incompetence and/or a lack of willingness to abide by the rules.
    And who wants someone like that on their sports arena?

    1. Well put S, in the end these are quite experienced track racers by the point they get to F2 who should know how to keep cars within the set limits.

    2. It doesn’t show a complete disregard for the rules. That’s like saying if a tennis player keeps hitting the ball out or a long jumper scratches she has a disregard for the rules. This is car racing. The fastest line is the maximum constant radius. Using all of the track to the last millimeter is the job. When you get it wrong by an extra millimeter, just like in tennis, you lose the the “point.” Indeed like in tennis and long jump if you never go over the line you are definitely not trying hard enough.

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