George Russell, Mercedes, Monza, 2023

Modify Rettifilo chicane to punish mistakes more, says Russell after penalty

2023 Italian Grand Prix

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George Russell says he would like to see the Rettifilo chicane modified to help avoid drivers getting away with mistakes at the corner.

The Mercedes driver finished fifth in the Italian Grand Prix despite being given a five-second time penalty for missing the first chicane on his way out of the pit lane after his only stop of the race.

Russell had been battling Sergio Perez when he attempted to undercut the Red Bull driver in the pit lane. After pitting, he emerged on hard tyres on lap 20 in tenth place, just as Esteban Ocon pulled alongside him.

As Russell headed into the first chicane of Rettifilo on the inside with the Alpine to the outside, the Mercedes driver missed the second part of the chicane, cutting over the inside kerb and keeping ahead of Ocon in the process.

“He went off the track,” Ocon reported to race engineer Josh Peckett. Russell did not yield to the Alpine driver, continuing to push around his out lap in a bid to catch Perez ahead.

As Russell held his position over Ocon by missing the corner, he was investigated by the stewards for leaving the track and gaining an advantage before being handed a five-second time penalty by the stewards. Russell’s penalty was applied at the end of the race, but as he finished ahead of team mate Lewis Hamilton who was also penalised, it did not affect his result.

“I knew there had to be a maximised out-lap,” Russell explained to media including RaceFans after the race. “I came out the pits next to Ocon and I knew if I fell behind him my chance to undercut the guys ahead would disappear.”

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Russell admitted that the nature of the chicane and the run-off allows drivers the option to take the escape road rather than have to face the consequences for mistakes.

“I went in very hot into turn one knowing there was a bit of a risk to miss the corner and that’s what happened,” he said. “But in Monza, it’s a bit of a shame because it’s always a bit of a ‘get out of jail free card’ with the run-off there and that gives drivers, especially when you’re fighting, the chance to miss the corner. So I’d probably like to see a bit of a change in that corner in the future.”

Asked by RaceFans if he would risk a penalty again in future rather than yield the place back, Russell said he “absolutely” would take a risk.

“I knew that P5 was probably the worst that we could have achieved, considering the gap to the guy in P6,” he explained. “So it would have only compromised me if there was a Safety Car right at the end.”

Russell had fought hard to keep Perez behind him in the Red Bull for the first 15 laps of the race. Russell said he was pleased with how long he was able to keep Perez at bay.

“I was surprised how long it took Checo to pass with the superior pace of that car,” Russell said.

“They were so fast in the high-speed corners, we saw yesterday – probably a factor into their better tyre degradation than the rest of us. But I was pretty pleased to hold him off for that long and felt good and confident under the braking into turn one.”

After Mercedes were the third-fastest team behind Red Bull and Ferrari at Monza, Russell is hopeful their car will prove stronger at the next round at Singapore.

“I suspect we’ll be more competitive, especially in the race, than we were this weekend,” he said.

“We need to understand why we have such a delta between our higher and lower downforce package. We always seem to struggle at circuits like Spa, Monza, Baku, Austria – even on the medium-low downforce setting – and we always seem to be quick on the higher [downforce] side.

“So there are some characteristic differences in our higher and lower downforce packages. We need to understand that and recognise what it is that’s making us more competitive, at least on the stopwatch, between the two.”

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2023 Italian Grand Prix

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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27 comments on “Modify Rettifilo chicane to punish mistakes more, says Russell after penalty”

  1. I want to see these starting to attract harsher penalties.

    What’s the point of racing a slower car when you can cut the chicane, pull away within a couple of laps and negate any penalty?

    Bring back the drive through

    1. I agree, but unfortunately, stewards have only really handed out 5-sec penalties & occasionally 10-sec as a standard rather than a mixture featuring drive-through & others like in the more distant past.
      They should really be more flexible with in-race penalty options.

    2. There was a different rule a while back. Alonso overtook Kubica at Silverstone 2010 by cutting a chicane, Kubica pitted next lap but Alonso had to drop behind Kubica who had just pitted. Not sure why they stopped that rule. With the 5 second rule of today Alonso would have a few more points than he ended up with.

      1. Reminds me of a certain driver on lap 1 in a season finale gaining a lasting advantage

    3. Long Lap Penalty! Send ’em round the banking…

    4. The rule is inadequate because the circuits make it too easy to cut corners. The old retifilio had a gravel trap – no one cut that corner and gained an advantage.

      They could miss the chicane all together though that could have some unintended consequences in terms of having such a long straight – curva grande might become a bit dangerous as well.

  2. Well, that is a fair comment. Both Mercs got away clean there which doesn’t feel right. If your car is fast enough, the penalty does not apply to you.

    Someone should abuse it to the extreme. A bit like what Alonso pulled. Alonso must have thought about this one also I guess… Just go straight at the start and put your foot down. Jump 5 or 6 cars, maybe even more and don’t yield. Just take the 5s penalty. When the first pit stops come he would have gained so much more than 5s.

  3. He’s the first driver I recall directly admitting he’d take a time penalty chance if he can wholly negate the outcome impact as he eventually managed like his teammate.
    How exactly could the Rettifilo or Prima Variante (admittedly, I’d forgotten the precise name) be modified to avoid such situations other than simply bypass that altogether, as was considered at one point?

    1. Removable tyre stacks tethered to the inside of the corner should do the trick.

    2. Put gravel there

      1. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
        4th September 2023, 10:42

        The problem with gravel here would be that quite often the innocent party would pay the price. At least at the moment they do not.

        The real problem was the penalty procedure. Russell should been forced to give up the place to Ocon regardless of how much time he would lose and how many cars in between.

    3. @jerejj I do recall a few other times drivers have suggested it. Verstappen for instance in Bahrain 2021 argued with his team that he should have kept position over Hamilton after overtaking off-track and just pulled ahead 5 seconds, but he was informed that in that instance the race director had issued a direct instruction to give the position back, rather than the usual 5 second penalty. But I agree it is a common occurrence now where the benefit of the offence outweighs the penalty, so I think they could consider tweaking the rules to ensure this is not the case.

      I think if a driver either gains or retains a position through an illegal maneouvre, they should always be forced to give the position back, and if that isn’t possible (because the other driver has since pitted or retired from the race etc) then a more stringent penalty should be applied – say 10 or 15 second time penalty. But I also think time penalties should be capped at a certain number of race positions if applied post-race to avoid situations like Sainz in Australia where a 5 second penalty took him all the way out of the points due to a late safety car. A cap of 5 seconds = 1 position seems reasonable to me in such circumstances. I know this would all be expanding the rulebook even further, but it would seem fairer than what we have now where drivers can frequently benefit from abusing the rules.

      1. Actually I think the penalty should always be 1 place at the end of the race if you don’t give the place back voluntarily without prompting from the race director. And yes that means if you otherwise drive a perfect race you cannot win (unless the car behind is also penalised), but it’s a fair penalty for the infringement and is a deterrent. It also means you cannot lose 10 places for overtaking one car if the race finishes under safety car.

        1. I think that might be a little draconian in some instances. What if you gained a position off-track in a marginal call and before the team could review and let the driver know, the opposing driver retired? Then they just couldn’t win the race even if they lapped the entire field? Could also be a bit anti-climactic if the penalty is imposed some 10, 20 or 30 laps before the end of the race, knowing they had no way to overcome the penalty no matter how hard they pushed.

  4. I think it would make Monza a lot more exciting and unique to get rid of all three chicanes altogether and bring back slipstreaming Monza of the 1960s.

    1. I agree & coincidently, I’ve driven that old chicaneless version in Assetto Corsa, which is very enjoyable, so I wouldn’t mind a return to that in real life.

  5. Time penalties are not any sort of deterrent as shown this weekend. Both Russell and Hamilton both received 5 seconds, but did not effect the outcomes of their races. It is also dependent on when the penalties are given. During the race is much different to after. Surely, a place penalty would be much more effective. Only a suggestion, but maybe what not constitutes a 5 second penalty should become a two place relegation in the final results. a 10 second penalty should be a 5 place relegation. This would be a meaningful punishment.

    1. I don’t mind time penalties in principle, as it gives drivers a sporting chance to overcome their penalty and get a result anyway, as both Russell and Hamilton did.

      The key point is that the punishment must fit the crime. Russell gained far more than five seconds by passing off track. An appropriate penalty might have been five seconds, plus whatever the gap between Russell and Ocon was at the time the penalty was issued – the equivalent of a modest penalty for the track limits infringement, plus handing back the advantage he’d gained.

      You see penalties like this in other forms of motorsport. In a British GT round earlier this season a car ran a red light at the end of the pit lane to avoid going a lap down – they were handed a 131-second stop-go penalty, which was calculated based on the average green-flag lap time, putting them back in the position they’d have been in had they obeyed the rules.

      I think a more dynamic approach like this would tilt the cost/benefit calculations, and make drivers less likely to break the rules (or more likely to hand a position back straight away).

      1. Very good point about the “standard 5 seconds” not being fit for the purpose since it ignores how much time can be gained @red-andy

  6. Time penalties are not any sort of deterrent as shown this weekend. Drivers received 5 seconds, but did it not effect the outcomes of their races. It is also dependent on when the penalties are given. During the race is much different to after. Surely, a place penalty would be much more effective. Only a suggestion, but maybe what not constitutes a 5 second penalty should become a two place relegation in the final results. a 10 second penalty should be a 5 place relegation. This would be a meaningful punishment.

  7. The Rettifilio chicane has been a subject of debate for years. I actually quite like it because it is unique. And it often causes something interesting to happen.

    In this day and age though I think if possible, it should be modified to make it a proper chicane. So perhaps just making it a bit wider but with a proper penalty for missing it completely e.g. gravel or grass.

  8. I would look for the solution in modifying the chicane in question. At the moment the overtaking opportunities at Monza are quite sparse, only really present at Rettifilo, and by extension at the next one if the leading driver makes a mistake at Rettifilo.

    I’d suggest modifying it in such a way that there is a valid outside line to be taken for the first kink, with a viable exit line for both cars. Basically redesign the corner in such a way that there are two seperate lines that can be taken, which are hard to occupy both (but not imposisble) by the lead car.

    At the moment it’s a rather simple ‘defend the inside, squeeze, get decent exit’ for the lead driver, which provides for some long fights, but it also ensures a following car needs a pretty substantial pace advantage to even overtake at Monza. And yes, more overtaking does not make for better racing necessarily, but I think at the moment this corner doesn’t really suit the character of the circuit.

  9. Stephen Higgins
    4th September 2023, 15:59

    This sounds like a job for Fun With Tracks on YouTube.

  10. Perez must have used the acess road there in half the laps of this race.

    Gravel again would be nice, but then again, the race would be interrupted every time someone pulls a Hakkinen there and beaches it on the gravel.

  11. Tricky as it has to be safe for drivers who arrive at the chicane backwards, with no brakes or otherwise out of control. Thankfully the sausage kerbs are no more. Why does the chicane have to be so slow and narrow? They could try using the escape road as the racetrack.

  12. The entire article can be summed up in these few words: “I played the game and won, but don’t blame me, blame the game”.

    He knew he needed to clear Ocon, he knew he’d pull away like crazy once he did, so he took a calculated risk and collected a time penalty in exchange for track position, I don’t really see an issue here. An issue would arise however if someone did this for the lead of a race…

  13. Either give the place back or get a drive through, no one will risk not giving the place back. The 5s penalty for this is a nonsense. As is talk of modifying the chicane which doesn’t solve the problem. This isn’t the only track where these offences happen.

Comments are closed.