Dodging Qatar penalty the only decent thing we got from Perez’s race – Horner

Formula 1

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Red Bull ensured Sergio Perez avoided a grid penalty at the next round by sending him back onto the track 40 minutes after he originally retired from the race.

Team principal Christian Horner said the outcome of the unorthodox move was the only upside to an otherwise disastrous race for his driver.

Perez’s race began to go awry when he incurred damage immediately after the start when he was pincered between Lewis Hamilton on his left and the two Ferraris to his right.

“He got off to a bad start,” said Horner. “He got sort of pinballed on the way down to turn one. That was unlucky for him. He then had damage, I think it was with Lewis, and broke the front wing.”

The stewards penalised Perez twice during the race, once for overtaking Fernando Alonso during a Safety Car period and again for colliding with Kevin Magnussen.

“He passed Fernando on the way in under the Safety Car, picked up another penalty, goes out, [was] a little bit too optimistic, probably out of frustration trying to pass Magnussen. Another front wing and the steering damage.”

The team decided Perez’s car was too badly damaged to keep him in the race and chose to retire it shortly after he returned to the track. However when it transpired Perez had been given a second five-second time penalty Red Bull chose to send him out again.

Doing so allowed Red Bull to make a pit stop and serve Perez’s penalty. By ensuring the penalty was served, the stewards would not have to issue a replacement for it, which would likely have taken the form of a grid drop for the next round.

“The only decent thing we managed to get out of today was not carrying a penalty through into the next race in Qatar,” Horner concluded.

Perez was already carrying some damage from the earlier incident when he collided with Perez, Horner confirmed. “He’d already done one front wing and a wheel hub and whatever. I haven’t seen a complete damage report but it’s possible that there could have been other damage.”

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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...
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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76 comments on “Dodging Qatar penalty the only decent thing we got from Perez’s race – Horner”

  1. Says all about 5 second penalties. Worst penalty invention is time penalties.

    1. A 10s penalty or drive through would have the same result.

      I agree though that the Magnussen clash seemed to be more severe and I’m sure AI would’ve given it at least 10s.

      PS I wonder what AI would do with the inner Mercedes forcing off track incident.

      1. Drive-thru’ has to be served within 3 laps. I wonder if it’s 3 of your laps or 3 laps of the race.

        1. It’s measured by your car crossing the S/F line, so it’s three laps in your own car.

      2. Drive thrus cost a driver a lot more than a 5 second penalty. Maybe in this specific circumstance it wouldn’t have changed much, but he wouldn’t have punted Albon off if he expected to get a drive thru instead of a 5 second penalty.

  2. Good job, stewards.

    These shenanigans are to be expected from Red Bull. Last year Tsunoda got a penalty for repeated warnings, or whatever it’s called, and they decided to just change the PU, effectively cancelling the penalty.

    Penalties in F1 are bad on purpose though, so this won’t change.

    1. Those “shenanigans” are to be expected of any team. That’s what you have to do: maximize your opportunities. It’s not up to them to come up with reasonable or logical penalties.and their application.

      If the rulebook is not up to the task it’s not the team’s fault

      1. I think it is clear that the 5 second one penalties need to change.

        1. Regardless, it’s not the team’s fault. It’s like getting a penalty in qualifying and deciding to replace your PU anyway so you kill two birds with one stone. That’s taking advantage of a situation.

    2. Yes, verstappen did the same, he had a 3 place grid penalty for russia coming from his monza crash with hamilton and they had to get a new engine and other parts before the end anyway, so they decided to change all at russia, starting from the back no matter what, making the penalty irrelevant.

    3. What happened yesterday is a old rule as you can repair your car during the race and join the race after being 15 laps behind. That can’t be used with cars on track ofcourse that why George lost the appeal to let him start after the red flag as his car was towed away.

      Back in those days the drop out rate was huge and you could get points by just beat the amount of laps of those retiring…
      Nowdays that is not possible anymore but you can use it to prevent griddrops ……

  3. I wonder if Danny Ric is following this with more than just interest.

    1. Of course he is. Red Bull’s 5 drivers / 4 seats problem is working itself out. Perez is showing weekend after weekend that he can’t convert the RB’s potential into points. Question is will Riccardo be in improved form later this season and next year or is he overhyped?

      1. Ricciardo will be more comfortable in the RBR than the AT ironically. He loves the same setup as Max and is the only person to ever beat (even if by the thinnest margin possible) let alone match him. He obviously won’t beat him now, but there’s almost zero risk putting him in the RBR. He can’t do worse than Perez and even at the height of his struggles during his second season at McLaren, whose braking and handling were the opposite of what he was used to, he wasn’t nearly the liability Perez has been since the bottom fell out. The number of times Checo has crashed off by himself, taken out other cars and himself or been eliminates in Q1 or Q2 is endless. He’s become such a tiring media headache.

  4. And what about the rule that says the car is withdrawn if he leves the car, this should apply if he leves the car in the pits too?

    1. Good point. I had forgotten about that reactionary change.

      1. Except during a sprint session suspension or race suspension, any car abandoned on the circuit
        by its driver, even temporarily, shall be considered as withdrawn from the session.

        Much as any non-RBR fan would like to see them get more than a smacked wrist (if that), the sporting regulation in question does not apply unless the car is abandoned on circuit:

        Section 26.18
        Except during a sprint session suspension or race suspension, any car abandoned on the circuit
        by its driver, even temporarily, shall be considered as withdrawn from the session.

        1. But AFAIK Checo never left the car. It was strange to see him still inside the cockpit a lot of time after the car was in the pits. For a reason obviously.

          This is all very strange but I assume the rules allow it, or else it could not have worked.

          1. But AFAIK Checo never left the car.

            Oh, he definitely left the car. But section 26.18 doesn’t allow for declaring that to be a retirement, as it says “on circuit” and he was in the pit.

      2. The rule was set to protect the marshals, and the marshals are not generally inconvenienced by drivers deciding to exit their cars and have a bottle of water in their motorhomes/do some interviews while their car is repaired.

    2. Good one.

      Why didn’t other teams lodge a protest before the results became final?

      1. Facts&Stats
        The results can be changed until the year’s final WMSC meeting, albeit what difference would that’ve made even before, given Checo couldn’t gain any sporting advantage in this race & not like a 3-place grid drop in Qatar would necessarily really make a difference with his current performance level versus not getting any drop from qualifying position.

        1. The results can be changed until the year’s final WMSC meeting

          But a protest (or whatever it is called) about the race and stewards’ decisions can only be lodged before the results are published some two hours after the race finishes.

          1. A protest can. However, the FIA is allowed to review evidence on its own initiative up to the final WMSC meeting. This could theoretically be done, although given that teams have previously avoided grid penalties by restarting later and having a test session in the race (they finish the car if possible “to get more data” or retire if “there were signs of more technical trouble”, and then talk only of the test session element – it was more a thing 10-15 years ago), I doubt the FIA will bother.

          2. Also, it costs $2000 to lodge a protest and this is considered an in-race protest. Even if the teams could prove they were parties, which is unlikely, the FIA would most likely have pocketed the money and advised them that in-race protests can only be lodged if significant new evidence is revealed.

    3. Did he definitely leave the car though? (I’m not sure either way, just raising the question). It’s possible he was just sitting in it the whole time.

      1. AJ (@asleepatthewheel)
        24th September 2023, 13:34

        Vaguely remember him getting out of the car. But they definitely showed him climbing back in again and was sat there for quite a while before going out

      2. I believe one of the engineers told Perez to stay put in the car and not go anywhere. Meanwhile the team all crept out the back and headed straight for the airport.

    4. I think I recall a radio message telling Perez to retire the car. And he definitely got out of the car once it was in the garage. It does feel so wrong to go out for one of two extra laps just to neutralise a penalty.

    5. That’s only for leaving it on track. Otherwise the whole field would be retired every time a red flag flew.

      1. Okay, there’s actually an exception for that. But the rule still says on the circuit

    6. Only on track…..

  5. Can’t fault Red Bull for exploiting a rule again if its not written down. Expecting a rule change in Qatar that goes “cars that are retired at first must serve any additional penalties given at the next race”.

    But time penalties never sat right with me cause the severity all depends on the car you drive. Perez destroyed Magnussen’s race today but even if Perez had to give the place back after the spin he would still beat K-Mag by about a minute. Perez in theory can easily cut a corner to pass someone, get 5 secs added and still finish ahead of them.

    Drive through and stop-go are not it either cause not every pitlane is the same length so the time of a penalty changes with every track. I can’t think of a penalty system where the punishment weighs the same for Red Bull as it is does for Haas, but they should really start giving drive throughs for incidents and drivers ruining races like Perez did today.

    1. Agreed.
      A 5 second penalty is meaningless if the driver can create a bigger gap, and devastating if not yet served when there’s a safety car or red flag shortly before the finish.
      A positional penalty is fairer. Drop 1 position in the end result instead of a 5 seconds time penalty. If the driver finishes outside of the points anyway it converts to a 3 position grid drop for the next race.
      Grid drops penalties which are not or just partially fulfilled because of already starting at the back should carry over to the races after, just as long as the remainder is fulfilled as well.

    2. Expecting a rule change in Qatar that goes “cars that are retired at first must serve any additional penalties given at the next race”.

      No need for a new rule, simply delete the words “on the circuit” from the first sentence in 26.18

      From 26.18
      Except during a sprint session suspension or race suspension, any car abandoned on the circuit by its driver, even temporarily, shall be considered as withdrawn from the session.

      1. You could argue parking the car in the garage is not abandoning the car, so that rule would not apply.

      2. The complication there is that F1 doesn’t have a definition of “abandoned”, and the one definition I’ve seen in motorsport that does exist has two parts: a 10-metre rule or a requirement to fill in a form and shut the garage door to be treated as “abandoned”. It’s not clear if Perez was ever more than 10 metres away from his car, and Red Bull definitely didn’t close the garage door.

    3. How about a “if you are in the pits when, had this been the last lap, you would be beyond the 111% rule for classification, you are instantly deemed ‘not classified’ and any penalties held at that point converted at a standard tariff” rule?

      For a 52-lap race, that would allow drivers 5 laps’ grace to pit, get repairs and rejoin the race with the possibility that a sufficiently chaotic second half of the race might still get them a point (assuming the driver was on the lead lap when originally going to the garage). Aside from covering this loophole, it also prevents something that happened in previous years – that of drivers with no chance of classification being sent out to do extra running by converting their race into a test session.

      1. The simplest way to fix this would be to simply say that if you’re more than one lap behind the leader, the penalty transfers to the next race. That eliminates worrying about the dozens of other wording issues and definitions mentioned above.

      2. TBH the simplest would be to simply declare a car abandoned/retired if the driver leaves the car while the race is running. We’re no longer see teams racing to repair a car and sending them out to compete the race from 10 laps down, as we used to (occasionally). This is the first time I can remember in the last decade, at least, that a car has been sent back out when the driver has left the cockpit. In fact, I can’t even remember a car being pulled into the garage then sent back out any time recently, so maybe just call it “retired” if it’s pulled into the garage.

        Maybe the team should be able to formally request to repair the car, for it not to be considered required, but then a scrutineer should have to ensure they are actually working to repair the car with the intent of finishing the race.

        All that said, maybe the solution to this looks is even simpler: if a car doesn’t complete the race, is not classified, then any time penalties (served or not) may be converted to grid penalties for the next race. Then leave it to the stewards to decide whether they think the should “carry over”.

        1. All that would result in is the team making sure the driver sat in the car. It also would likely be protested on the grounds that a driver might need to get out in case the team needed to ensure the car was safe (whether that means checking something in the footwell or the potential for fire when a car is suddenly stopped – I know the odds are extremely remote, but it would be still made). So, now you’re having to write rules for mitigating circumstances, which automatically ruins any simplicity.

    4. The you create a other rule what is retired from the race as that rule doesn’t exsist now.

  6. The intention was ultimately clear-cut, although such an action to avoid a carryover penalty into a following event shows FIA should close a loophole, which has seemingly always existed regarding rejoining a race after retiring.
    I initially thought he might try & take away the fastest lap point.
    As for the SC infringement penalty, I didn’t realize that was for the pit entry situation with Alonso that got shown as a replay once until after the race as he overtook Sargeant, who was already beyond the SC2 line, meaning Checo should’ve immediately dropped behind him in the queue.

  7. Shockingly bad performance. Imagine Red Bull without Verstappen: they’d have to dial back the car’s performance to make it ‘driveable’ for Perez and would now be the same pace as the McLarens. And that’s before getting on to Perez’s actual race performance. He says he was ‘sandwiched’ at the race start when he actually veered towards Hamilton (though the usual deceitful dross from Horner implying somehow it was Hamilton’s fault!). But the lunge on K Mag was simply terrible, the same kind of wild lunge as the last race in Singapore. None of the drivers Red Bull have ditched over the years was this bad.
    Positively though, yeah, Red Bull were able to exploit the rules and cancel a well-deserved penalty, Perez’s race was so bad. So congratulations on that one.

    1. they’d have to dial back the car’s performance to make it ‘driveable’ for Perez and would now be the same pace as the McLarens.

      Nope. If Perez were comfortable in the car, he’d be much faster and more confident than he currently is.
      See the beginning of the season…

      1. Yep. Because the other cars have evolved. See this end of the season.

        1. They haven’t evolved that far. The ‘best’ McLaren was 20 seconds off a cruising Verstappen today, and that isn’t at all uncommon. If Verstappen had really wanted to push, he’d have been well over 30 seconds ahead.
          His winning margins tell how much performance balance they have in hand to give back to Perez if they wanted to.
          There’s more time in making Perez comfortable than there is in bringing more of the same types of ‘upgrades’ that primarily help/exploit Verstappen further.

          If Red Bull were focused more on the WCC, they’d be doing things differently.

          1. OK, but my hypothetical was really to imagine Red Bull without Verstappen all season – admittedly you weren’t to know that! (wasn’t very clear): if Red Bull were going in a more Perez direction all season, I doubt the car would have developed to its current potential, as led and exploited by Verstappen. I really don’t see how Red Bull could make a car Perez is happy with that didn’t or doesn’t involve removing a big chunk of time. What exactly does he need? More rear grip? A different balance? The whole car philosophy seems to be directed towards overall balance of the car, through its suspension and floor innovations, to keep it close to the track without any noticeable kind of bounce. I suspect Perez wants a more ‘rear heavy’ car that would counteract the design advantage they’ve gained. But really maybe it’s mysterious to everyone what he actually needs to improve.

        2. You were perfectly clear. He is just contrarian as usual.

          1. Well there’s a chance I’m wrong and that a Perez-led or Perez-friendly Red Bull would still be ahead at this point of the season. I think it’s a mirage though. Verstappen simply adapted his style to the car’s easiness on the tyres, which meant that the drivers had trouble warming them (hence Perez spinning off in Australia etc.) Early circuits also favoured Perez slightly. But after Verstappen blasted past Perez in Miami, the entire season was over and Red Bull then seem to go with what Max wanted. I think S is right that if Red Bull needed Perez’s points too then they’d might have had to compromise.

  8. Perez was already carrying some damage from the earlier incident when he collided with Perez

    It seems Perez is always occupuing the same space as Perez.

    1. Ahah, was thinking the same, perez is having such a bad season that he can easily crash into himself!

  9. Why are all the leading contenders in Formula Useless – Stroll, Sargeant and Perez – being retained for 2024?

    1. Sargeant at least has the potential to improve. The other two though… They shouldn’t be in top 5 cars.

  10. Don’t see anything wrong with Red Bull sending the car out again to serve the penalty.

    What is more surprising is how Perez is managing to make such a mess of driving the fastest car around the track.

    Red Bull could have a rookie in the seat again if they wanted to incur penalties and damage every weekend.

    1. Leaving his car is out of the race so he still needs to do the penaulty…

      1. I forgot he was in the box where they can exit the car for repairs then that rule doesn’t work.

  11. Why are all the leading contenders in Formula Useless – Stroll, Sargeant and Perez – being retained for 2024?

    Stroll — money/nepotism
    Sargeant — is he? I hadn’t seen a confirmation
    Perez — money.

    1. I disagree about perez, red bull don’t need money, if they keep him it’s either cause they don’t want to challenge verstappen, so they’re ok with a weaker team mate, but even so I’m not convinced, as they’re trying to bring back ricciardo, who was closer; I think it’s just that they don’t have drivers outside of the red bull group that will do better than perez, and early season perez was pretty close to verstappen.

      1. Red Bull were trying to get Lando …..

    2. drivers inside the red bull group*

    3. In Perez’s case (if it happens), add a very good lawyer (as in, the sort of calibre which helped rescue Force India when it nearly ceased to exist, without which Aston Martin would not be on the grid in this form).

  12. I do think this is a loophole which should be closed. However, as it exists, I see nothing wrong with RBR using it.

    I do feel Perez got away with this race lightly, though. He was an absolute menace, I’ve seen rookies drive better. He’s got to buck his ideas up or he’ll lose his seat, and deservedly so.

    1. We’ve seen a number rookies be good enough to win a WDC let alone running into people left and right.

  13. The manipulation of the rules (sending a retired car out to serve a penalty to avoid a penalty) feels like dirty pool to me. But on the other hand it is exactly the kind of rules shenanigans we expect from F1

  14. Horner and Marko must surely be tempted to swap Lawson for Perez with immediate effect.

  15. I don’t see any issue with what they did. He served the penalty he was given.

    He was never given a penalty for the next race and may not have been for all we know.

    As to those whining about the time penalties.

    Back when it eas a drive-thru or stop/go all everyone did was complain they were too harsh which is why the 5/10 second time penalties were introduced to begin with.

    Just shows that F1 shouldn’t listen to the fans, Most of which have zero idea what they are talking about.

    1. I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive. The sport, the teams, the drivers and the fans should always be in communication regarding the health of the sport. I personally hate the 5 second penalty as I don’t think it’s harsh enough and the drive through penalties were too harsh at 25 seconds and a ten second penalty costing 35s.

      There is a happy medium of the lowest penalty at 10 seconds and a harsher penalty of 15 seconds. This has the advantage of making the stewards think twice about light penalties and gives proper enforcement of track limits and collisions etc. The rules do need tightened up here and have done for years but communication is key.

    2. Back when it eas a drive-thru or stop/go all everyone did was complain they were too harsh which is why the 5/10 second time penalties were introduced to begin with.

      Just shows that F1 shouldn’t listen to the fans, Most of which have zero idea what they are talking about.

      The teams thought it was too harsh. F1 doesn’t listen to fans as there are enough of them to lose the sticklers for any one issue; heck, they’ve lost millions since the early 2000s and it’s still fine. This was amusingly demonstrated when the few fan surveys they did gave ‘wrong’ results with too much talk about V10s and such, so the last few they did had tailor made questions along the lines of, ‘How much do you enjoy XYZ; a lot, very much, or love it!’.

      And that’s fine. They don’t need to listen to anyone; it’s their show and all we as viewers can ultimately do is decide whether or not we want to visit, subscribe, watch, etc.

      As it is, the stewards can give any of the following penalties:
      – Five second time penalty.
      – Ten second time penalty.
      – Drive through penalty (twenty seconds).
      – Ten second stop-and-go penalty (thirty seconds).
      – A nonspecific time penalty.
      – A reprimand.
      – A grid penalty for the driver’s next race.
      – Disqualification.
      – A race ban.

      One of the problems with the way they’ve gone about it is that, apparently, pretty much everything that doesn’t come with a prescribed harsher penalty is given a five second time penalty. From track limits to crashes to other shenanigans. That raises the question what must happen for the stewards to give people a harsher penalty. We saw in 2017 that deliberately crashing into an opponent, under a safety car no less, results in a ten second stop-and-go penalty. So apparently for a driver to earn a disqualification or even a ban their antics must be even more outlandish.

  16. It would be very funny if he received a penalty for holding up Norris during VSC..

  17. PER hit HAM twice. He hit HAM when squeezed by the Ferraris and at the next turn he hit HAM tires to tires. Was only shown once, briefly and never revisited.
    Also, if PER was only back in the car to do a lap, serve the penalty, and retire again, then why did he sit there for lap after lap. RB waited until VER did his pit stop and tried for fastest lap. If VER doesn’t get fastest lap, PER was to go for fastest lap on the soft tires. No other reason to sit in that car if they were just trying to serve the penalty.

  18. Not to pat myself on the back, but once Red Bull told Perez to retire the car the first time, I said out loud ‘serve the penalty first’. It was so obvious that he would get a 5 second penalty for that collision with Magnussen that I did not understand that Red Bull didn’t anticipate on it straight away. Or did it take 40 minutes before the penalty was given?

    1. @matthijs The penalty was given just before Perez pitted (I think he was on his way to retire regardless). The Channel 4 commentators said that arguably the stewards had given the penalty too fast because it didn’t look like the car could have continued in that state. Had he pitted 30 seconds earlier, I think he would not have been given the 5-second penalty, because the stewards don’t give those to drivers they think have already retired.

      It was only once Red Bull confirmed that the penalty couldn’t be changed over that they could be sure their plan would work.

      1. Thank you for this insight.

  19. Congratulations, Christian, for binning much of the advantage Red Bull gave you for doing that strategy for Perez. Had you done a couple more laps and called it a test session, you might have left yourself the opportunity to do it again!

  20. For what he did the only fair penalty would be to retire the car actually (regardless of any damage). Taking risks is one thing, being a bully on track is something else entirely. Especially when it becomes a habit… He knew what he was doing, it’s not just an incident. What RB did, sending him back, makes perfect sense considering the rule set; they were allowed to (so why would they punish themselves?). 5 seconds rule suck, but what sucks more is that this is almost the only penalty (sometimes it’s 10 sec, but it always seems arbitrary anyway). They must differentiate between smaller and bigger offenses on track, you MUST always lose when you’re at fault. You can’t make gains by getting penalized on purpose, why the hell is that still not rectified? This really can’t be a strategic choice available to drivers.

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