Pierre Gasly, Alpine, Yas Marina, 2022

The case for changing F1’s penalty points system as Gasly nears ban

2022 F1 season

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The possibility a Formula 1 driver could reach 12 penalty points and collect an automatic race ban has prompted calls for the rules to be changed. Inevitably, the loudest calls came from those who stand to lose the most.

Foremost among those is Pierre Gasly, who reached 10 penalty points at the Mexican Grand Prix, leaving him just two shy of a ban.

“I really hope we can have a review of the whole system over winter, because I do believe I’m not going to be the only one in trouble if we keep it that way,” he said. “It will be a shame to see four or five racing drivers banned for a race and having a championship with some guys missing out on a race.”

Gasly’s situation is serious because he racked up his 10 penalty points so quickly. Only two drivers before him have come this close to getting an automatic ban: Sebastian Vettel and Daniil Kvyat. Lewis Hamilton temporarily reached 10 points in 2020, though his last two were rescinded within hours of being issued after the stewards reconsidered their decision.

Analysis: Why did F1’s stewards cancel Hamilton’s two penalty points?
Penalty points expire 12 months after they are given to driver. Vettel and Kvyat did not have to wait long before they were able to deduct penalty points from their licences.

But Gasly will not lose any until May 22nd next year. He will therefore start his first six races as an Alpine driver next year knowing he is at serious risk of a ban (it was seven races until the Chinese Grand Prix was dropped from the 2023 F1 calendar).

No doubt Gasly is anxious to avoid becoming the first F1 driver ever to reach 12 penalty points and collect an automatic ban. He’s already had several scares since reaching 10 after the Mexican Grand Prix. He avoided collecting more points on two occasions in Brazil and Sergio Perez suspects he only dodged a penalty for delaying him in Abu Dhabi because it was the last race of the season.

However Gasly isn’t the only driver saying it would be wrong for him to collect an automatic ban if he collects two more penalty points over the opening six race weekends of 2023. Grand Prix Drivers Association director George Russell came down on his side in Brazil and said he expects the FIA to reconsider the system.

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“Conversations have been had and I think the FIA will definitely review the points system this year,” said the Mercedes racer, who believes Gasly’s points have largely been accrued for incidents which didn’t put others at risk and therefore don’t merit a penalty as severe as a ban.

Drivers, Interlagos, 2022
Report: F1 drivers expect changes to penalty points system as Gasly faces ban threat
“I think if any driver were to receive a race ban, it needs to be for something pretty damn serious and I definitely don’t put Pierre in the category of a dangerous or reckless driver,” said Russell. “A number of his penalty points have been through non-dangerous driving, as such.

“It would be a shame to see him take a race ban. Even if he were to get those 12 points, I think they need to reconsider it.”

Russell makes a persuasive case that drivers shouldn’t collect penalty points which can add up to bans for track limits offences which arguably endanger no one. Drivers have been arguing this point for years.

Earlier this year Olli Caldwell was banned for a round in Formula 2, which uses the same penalty points system to F1, after accruing 12 penalty points on his licence. The majority of those points were recieved for track limits infringements. When asked by RaceFans, F2 CEO Bruno Michel agreed the ban was “too harsh” and “obviously there’s something wrong with that”.

Aside from the specific issue of track limits, there is a further argument for revising the penalty points rules. When they were introduced to F1 in 2014 the calendar featured 19 grands prix. Next year’s calendar has 23, may yet return to 24, and has a further six sprint races.

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The scope for drivers to collect penalty points is therefore considerably greater. Not only are there more opportunities for drivers to rack up 12 points, the addition of sprint races means there is a higher proportion of competitive sessions in which drivers are more likely to be involved in incidents and collect points.

Report: Bans for drivers over track limits are “too harsh”, Formula 2 CEO admits
The counterpoint to all these arguments is that drivers should be aware of the rules and avoid breaking them, and that’s reasonable. But as the FIA has established an arbitrary threshold for the number of points a driver may collect over a season, it would be fair to increase as the calendar grows. For example, increasing the threshold to 15 points would arguably be justifiable.

However doing so at this stage would invite the interpretation that the FIA softened its rules only to avoid an F1 driver getting a race ban. That would jar with the ‘rules are rules’ stance it has taken over recent past decisions, such as its refusal to lower its no-less-arbitrary superlicence points threshold to allow IndyCar’s Colton Herta to race in F1.

The FIA’s World Motor Sport Council is due to meet in Bologna today, but is not expected to agree significant changes to how either of these points-based systems affect F1.

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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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42 comments on “The case for changing F1’s penalty points system as Gasly nears ban”

  1. There are only 2 sentences in this whole entire article which concede the basic fact that to avoid getting a ban, drivers need only obey the rules.

    1. BTW, none of the arguments put forward change my opinion on this at all.
      More points for more races is just silly. 12 points are too many already for professional, ‘elite,’ racing drivers.
      And not getting points for repeated track limits breaches? Repeatedly breaking regulations (which amount to safety rules in themselves) should absolutely attract licence points penalties. If not for the safety aspect, then certainly for the disrespect shown for the rules and people who apply them.

      And while we are here, how about Gasly’s flying through the double-waved-yellows at Suzuka incident?
      That should have been an automatic ban, regardless of the number of points he had.

      1. And while we are here, how about Gasly’s flying through the double-waved-yellows at Suzuka incident?
        That should have been an automatic ban, regardless of the number of points he had.

        That was indeed a very bad thing Gasly did problem is you get only 3 points for that i think 5 points or raceban should be beter.

        1. It doesn’t matter how many points you need for a raceban: if you commit an offense that would make you reach enough penalty points to get banned, they will turn a blind eye, with 5 or with 12, as they did this season.

        2. Ah, misread, 5 probably makes sense for that, as long as they actually hand them out when a driver risks a ban ofc.

      2. And while we are here, how about Gasly’s flying through the double-waved-yellows at Suzuka incident?
        That should have been an automatic ban, regardless of the number of points he had.

        This raises a related point, which is that the penalty point system seems to have done away with more severe penalties being applied for isolated incidents. It seems that the only way you can get a race ban these days is by racking up enough penalty points.

        Grosjean got a race ban for causing a first-corner shunt at Spa in 2012. But Bottas, who caused a similar amount of damage at the Hungaroring last year (including hitting a championship contender, which was cited as an aggravating factor in the Grosjean incident) just got a grid penalty and two penalty points – the same penalty you get for, say, ignoring yellow flags in qualifying.

        On balance I think the points system is a good thing, but the stewards shouldn’t be afraid to also hand out harsher penalties when it is warranted.

        1. @red-andy It was Grosjean’s situation who prompted the creation of the penalty points system in the first place. If it had been a one-off incident i don’t think he would have been banned despite the carnage he caused, but because he had consistently been crashing on first laps for over a year at that point, the FIA obviously decided enough was enough and gave him the race ban. The penalty points system is intended to be a more consistent and less subjective method of applying the same logic as in Grosjean’s case where consistently dangerous driving leads to a race ban. I would argue it doesn’t really achieve that since a lot of penalties are handed out for things that aren’t dangerous, but that’s a different issue.

        2. Maybe the HIA considered that the Bottas bowling game at Hungaroring hit the right drivers

        3. Bottas ran in to Norris who was decelerating more than expected. He should have borne much of the blame.

        4. As a related point to the related point (haha) we can also add general penalties to this list of things being much more lenient these days than before. I still remember alonso vs kubica at the 2010 British GP. Kubica forced alonso off track at club and alonso cut the corner and stayed ahead and then refused to give the place back. Kubica either retired or pitted or got overtaken (can’t remember but the point is he was no longer the next car behind alonso). Alonso got a drive through and finished 15. Nowadays it would be a 5 second slap on the wrist and off you go. The 5 second penalty needs to be ditched

        5. In one sense I agree, but for me the problem lies in the Super-license points system itself. I believe that points on your SL should only be applied when you do something dangerous to other drivers, regardless of whether there is anyone else around you at the time, such as Gasly going full tilt through Double Waved Yellows !

          I think track violations should be marked for that race only, and the “third warning” system seems to work really well in that area. So there should be no points on your SL for things that do not add to any danger, BUT should the track limits overstep that boundary into a Dangerous situation to any other driver then the offence is back into superlicense territory.

          That still leaves the Driver and Car liable to disqualification in any one race should you do it too many times, which hurts the team and the driver equally, but does not penalise the driver for a possible Car defect (causing the handling being so bad that even at reduced speeds it still needs a set of rails to get around the Corners).

          I know there are a lot of arguments about teams being responsible enough to manufacture a car that should be able to take anything a driver asks of it, but we do have to live in a Real World where even the Ambient Temperature can change a Championship Winner from Qually Day, into a total heap of useless parts on race day.

          That’s why I believe it should be a two tier system …… Dangerous Driving v Lower Order Rule Breaks.

      3. So Max should have been handed a one race ban in Qatar last year?

  2. I wonder if the driver’s name was Lance Stroll, with the exact same infractions, if this author would be saying the same things.

    ‘Rules are rules’. As if that’s a bad thing. It’s the same for every driver!

    1. I agree, if they change these rules so Gasly does not get a ban they may as well get rid of the penalty points structure altogether. The rules were applied correctly and Gasly is now near a ban, the fact that none of his infringements are seen to be worthy of a ban is beside the point.

    2. But much like the superlicense points, the license points system is a bit flawed.

      Six of his points, I agree, were for dangerous actions– two instances of causing a collision, and one of speeding under red flag. But track limits (1 point)? Failure to stay within 10 car lengths under a safety car (2 points)?

      I’m a bit conflicted about the point for forcing a driver off the track– on the one hand, that’s bad, on the other hand, I’m not a fan of the rules as they are right now that virtually require the driver being overtaken to avoid a crash. And further, it was Stroll.

  3. Ben Rowe (@thegianthogweed)
    7th December 2022, 8:58

    Plenty of Gasly’s incidents involved other drivers, and the safety of them. He crashed into Zhou in one of the sprints and took him out. Had a really stupid collision with Norris in Miami and then also went FAR too fast through Red flags in Japan. Most of Gasly’s penalty points in my opinion were related to things he’s done that were at least somewhat dangerous. And he does deserve a race ban if he keeps getting more.

    1. @thegianthogweed Couldn’t agree more.

      If the breaches involved other driver’s bor just himself in state of the art “safe” F1 cars that is bad enough.

      But speeding under double waved yellows, red or in pit lane potentially puts at risk others who may be on or beside the track protected only by their clothing.

      I don’t want to be hit by anything going 10km/h let alone anything up to 300 km/h !

  4. I imagine the same would be said about an “ordinary” driver’s license. If I (or anyone else) collect enough negative points and may get my license suspended, the law should be changed and limit increased to allow for my offences. Honestly (like Vettel would start any sentence), I would suspend Gasly for three races now, for trying to influence the “judges”, and because this constant whining instead of simply following the rules becomes so, so annoying and unbecoming for a racing driver.

    1. i think you are exaggerating. Gasly is welcome to lobby for the rules to change (as is anyone, including the fans). he didn’t bribe the stewards or anything…

      what i find it amusing though is how the stewards apparently refused to give him penalty points for speeding in the pitlane in Brazil so that he doesn’t get the ban before switching over to Alpine. maybe they were onto him?

      1. Yes, it’s happened other seasons too, they will do anything to not make a driver reach 12 points.

  5. The only one of Gasly’s penalty points which seems unfair to me was being more than ten car lengths behind another car under safety car. However, I think he deserved more for speeding under double waved yellows. So I have little objections to his situation.

  6. The only change I would make is for a ban to take place it has to be a 3 point plus penalty. That way you still put yourself at risk by getting minor penalties but don’t get a ban for a minor infringement.

    1. So what happens if they only ever get two-point penalties?
      They can just keep doing them eternally without any consequences or punishment at all?

      How is that a deterrent for everyone else?

    2. That is nonsense @glynh – the exactl reason for introducing a points system, is to have some kind of way to punish drivers who keep making dodgy moves, speeding incidents etc. that all of their own should not warrant a penalty as harsh as a ban but do mean that the driver has been constantly running into the rules.

  7. I must admit I’m not very sympathetic to Pierre’s predicament. This isn’t a case where he was “ambushed” and suddenly ended up with nearly 12 penalty points for no reason. He accrued his demerit points at a high enough rate to put himself into this position. He could have changed, but he didn’t. Now say the threshold was shifted a bit higher, say it was 15 points, why should Pierre change his driving style? Then maybe he’ll end up on 13 or 14 points and want the goal posts moved again, so now it’s 18 points, and he still hasn’t changed his driving style, and then he’s on 16 points, so again we tolerate his driving style. Notice the rules had to change, not his driving style, and notice also how everyone else’s driving style has deteriorated too.
    Everyone saw how Olli was driving. It sounds like he had a laissez faire attitude towards the track limits. I suspect he is now a better and more disciplined driver.
    Now consider another scenario: Say the FIA don’t do anything, say the rules stay exactly as they are. Pierre will have to change his driving style. Every driver makes choices when they are on the track or the road, and one of those choices is their approach to discipline and self control when driving.

    1. I see it much the same way @drycrust – sure, I would be open to the argument that we pack more races into a season and maybe that should mean raising the limit (then again, having more races as such already gives more occasions for incidents that could hurt someone, so it evens out). But that would only mean running into the same issue (with the stewards having already shied away from giving Gasly some 2-3 points he should have gotten) a few events down the line.

      The real solution is to get the driver to take responsibility.

  8. Self-discipline is the greatest freedom of all

    For those who lack it there are penalties and bans.

  9. I think that like most here I find the case for change rather underwhelming.

  10. If I’m not miistaken, Gasly’s points come from these incidents:

    -2 points for causing a collision with Stroll at the Spanish GP.
    -2 points for causing a collision with Vettel at the Austrian GP.
    -1 point for exceding track limits at the Austrian GP.
    -2 points for speeding under red flags at the Japanese GP.
    -2 points for failing to stay within 10 lengths of the car in front under Safety Car conditions in the US GP.
    -1 point for driving Stroll off track in the Mexican GP.

    The idea that he’s gathered most of his points from innocuous incidents is weird. 7 of his points involve actions where he either hampered another driver’s race or put people at risk. 1 of those incidents could have earnt him a race ban by itself. Another 2 points come from failing to comply with Safety Car protocols. And just 1 from track limits.

    In fact, from the whole 2022 grid, there’s only 6 drivers who have penalty points from exceding track limits repeatedly: Gasly (1), Schumacher (1), Norris (1), Albon (1), Zhou (1), and Vettel (1). So it seems drivers are pretty good at staying within track limits.

    1. Thank you @casjo for summing up the incidents. Put like that, i would say that the premise of the article (and what Russel states about it) is wrong.

      Gasly just did too much dangerous driving as frustration at the car and probably at team internal stuff (maybe not being sure of his drive next year?).

    2. @casjo, very useful summary. For most of those, I’d agree with them but I would ask they were applied much more consistently and the points penalties were much more prescribed and less open to the whims of stewards, e.g. if you are the primary cause of a collision which ends another driver’s race, it is a three point penalty every time. The one penalty I disagree with is for exceeding track limits because that is already so hard to police and inconsistently policed, and it is not, in itself, a safety issue. It is a technical error more comparable to, say, a jump start, not getting off the racing line when blue flagged, or overtaking a car a few inches ahead of the restart line at the end of the SC period. Those sorts of situations would be better dealt with by immediate drive through penalties, not license points.

      1. e.g. if you are the primary cause of a collision which ends another driver’s race, it is a three point penalty every time.

        Regardless of whether the other driver can continue or how much damage they sustained, it doesn’t actually change what the offending driver did wrong (which rule/s they have breached). What you are arguing for would be a penalty based on the consequence, not the action.
        Which I disagree with.

        The one penalty I disagree with is for exceeding track limits because that is already so hard to police and inconsistently policed, and it is not, in itself, a safety issue.

        It is inconsistently policed, but it isn’t hard. And it can most certainly be a safety issue, which is why it’s taken seriously.

        Your examples could (and arguably should) all be dealt with by licence penalty points (in addition to sporting penalties) for the simple reason that while no one of them may individually be of a magnitude that should lead to a ban, repeated or consistent abuse of those regulations is definitely worthy of a ban. That’s the primary reason for the licence points system, after all.

        Also remember – drivers aren’t bound to compliance solely with F1’s Sporting Regulations, but also with the FIA sporting code too.

        1. “What you are arguing for would be a penalty based on the consequence, not the action”

          No, I wasn’t arguing either way. I was giving an example of something that could be a rule, where you would say that for a specific type of incident, it is a specific number of penalty points, something and not dependent upon the whims of the stewards on the day. Whether consequences should be taken into account etc is a seperate argument, and if that concludes that all collisions merit a penalty, fair enough, but then specify what that is.

          I think you have to keep in mind though that if two cars touch tyre wall to tyre wall, that might technically be a collision, so I do think that to some extent you need to consider consequences.

          Regarding exceeding track limits where you said “And it can most certainly be a safety issue, which is why it’s taken seriously”, I disagree. Most times it is nothing to do with safety issues, and all about drivers gaining advantage, and I cannot recall any time recently where drivers have been warned not to exceed the track limits for safety reasons. If a driver is recklessly cutting a corner and in doing so creating a genuine safety hazard to other cars, by all means treat that as an issue worthy of points on the license, but if a car is trying to pinch a couple of inches more than they should, or running wide on an exit, penalise it immediately in the race.

          I think if you are handing out license points for every transgression you quickly diminish the meaning of them, which was to address true safety issues and reckless driving.

          1. I think if you are handing out license points for every transgression you quickly diminish the meaning of them, which was to address true safety issues and reckless driving.

            I think the opposite.
            Gasly does too – he’s quite scared of reaching 12 points and being banned. I’m betting he’ll start to respect the rules a bit more now, and that will be reflected in his approach to racing.

            You’d certainly have a great point if all transgressions were awarded the same number of licence points – but that isn’t the case. The more severe an action is judged to be, the more points it attracts.
            As there is a maximum headroom of 12 points, everyone is given ample opportunity to manage their behaviour before there are any consequences.
            The point is that for repeated rule-breaking, there needs to be consequences that are an order higher than mere sporting penalties, as sporting penalties alone clearly don’t provide enough incentive to stop repeating them.
            Right, Gasly? Right, Grosjean? Right, Nissany, Cordeel and Caldwell?

            In case you haven’t noticed, I disagree that this system was only put in place to prevent truly dangerous or reckless behaviour.
            The system includes track limits, both as a sporting breach and as a safety risk.
            If you’ve never seen a definite safety concern occur (not limited to, but including crashes) that involved or directly resulted from a breach of track limits, then you haven’t been watching motorsport for very long.

  11. “points have largely been accrued for incidents which didn’t put others at risk and therefore don’t merit a penalty as severe as a ban”
    But that’s the whole purpose of having a penalty point system. Each incident taken individually may not be serious, but over time doing something repeatedly wrong will get you in more serious trouble – as with anything (think speeding fines in the real world, you can get multiple ones within a certain time frame before receiving a ban due to accruing too many points).
    If you’re consistently not following the rules, regardless of how minor the rules may appear, then you must eventually suffer the consequences for disobedience.
    The penalty points system would have been explained to all participating parties when it was introduced, so if they continue to disobey what’s in place they should be punished for it. It’s redundant to introduce this system only to change it once someone comes close to receiving a punishment for violating it.

  12. I agree with most posters above that rules shouldn’t get changed/limits increased only to favor a single individual.
    Gasly received his penalty points justifiably.

  13. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
    7th December 2022, 11:56

    The possibility a Formula 1 driver could reach 12 penalty points and collect an automatic race ban has prompted calls for the rules to be changed.

    The most pathetic comment of anything I have read in and about F1.

    Brundle tells us week in week out these are the elite drivers in motorsport not young children just starting out.

    I am with S at the top. Maybe they should actually add an extra point to each penalty such that it takes fewer incidents to get a ban.

    1. And it’s not like the sport will die if ONE driver gets ONE ban for ONE race in a whole decade because of reaching 12 points…

      (grosjean was different, they gave him a ban for a dangerous action, not because he accumulated 12 points)

  14. The whole point is of this is that drivers/teams would ignore minor rules because the penalties are insignificant. On one wants to see a guy get banned or anything for something small, but when it’s the same guy over and over always doing little things it eventually needs to sting for the rules to matter. That’s exactly what the penalty point system does

  15. In any sport the players ask for consistency from the referee. It’s not as if Pierre was the only one complaining about decision making.

    Replace the FIA (with competency) and many issues would be resolved.

    1. If they were to be consistent, Gasly would already have received a ban.

      And really, when don’t the participants in sport complain about the refereeing? Normally only when the decision goes their way….

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