Stewards’ weak penalties will encourage illegal passes in race say McLaren pair

Formula 1

Posted on

| Written by and

Formula 1 drivers will go outside track limits to make passes in today’s United States Grand Prix because the penalties stewards issue are too lenient, the McLaren pair believe.

Oscar Piastri was overtaken off-track by George Russell during yesterday’s sprint race. He said his rival’s five-second time penalty, which cost the Mercedes driver one place to Pierre Gasly, made little difference to his race.

“I wasn’t really looking at him because he was behind me,” said Piastri. “I’ve seen the replay of it, he clearly just accelerates off the track and goes past. I don’t think you can even get close to arguing that that was a 50-50.

“The five seconds made a bit of a difference to his race, but not much. That’s the kind of thing you can do with faster cars, or when you’re in a faster car in a situation like that, I don’t think it’s great for everyone.”

Piastri said Russell’s move was “quite blatant” and that drivers will be more likely to make similar off-track passes in the grand prix, knowing they stand to gain more from quickly passing a slower rival than they will lose from a five-second penalty. He says the stewards should order drivers to surrender positions gained by passing off the circuit.

“I feel like swapping the cars back around shouldn’t be that difficult in that set of circumstances,” he said.

“If it’s only going to be five seconds for that, then, especially in a longer race, it’s going to be beneficial if we can clear quicker the slower cars.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

“So maybe some people will have premeditated [it]. It definitely sets a bit of a precedent for the kind of penalty you’re going to get for doing that and if you’re in a quicker car then whoever you’re trying to overtake, it does give you an incentive.”

Lando Norris is unhappy the situation is persisting despite the drivers having raised it on many occasions with the race director.

“These things have been brought up so many times in driver briefings,” he said. “It’s a point we bring up every time.

“It’s a point that George brought up himself in Barcelona, the fact that you can commit to the outside line in one, just kind of overdo it and get past two cars, commit to just going off like we saw people do in Russia as well in turn one, turn two.”

He was under the impression race control had decided to instruct drivers to give up positions when they had taken them by going off the track.

“It’s something you can easily prepare yourself for, and I’m pretty sure we came up with the conclusion that people are going to do it on purpose, we discussed that, this exact thing,” Norris added.

“We discussed that you can easily do it, if you’re quicker you could get past someone, you’re easily going to pull away by five seconds like in Monaco, for example, you cut the chicane blah, blah, blah.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

“So they came and said, ‘okay, we’ll do it so you have to give the position’. But now they’ve set a precedent of not even having to do that. I don’t know if they asked George to do it or not and if he didn’t want to do it. But they’ve set a precedent of being able to easily do that.”

Norris, who will start today’s race from second place alongside Charles Leclerc, admitted he may consider passing cars off the track tomorrow because the penalties are so lenient.

“If I have it with a Ferrari tomorrow, I just commit to doing it, it’s five seconds, I’ll pull away five seconds,” he said.

“So there’s a bit of a lack of consistency once again which I’m a bit surprised by. I feel like it was quite a clear guideline of what they were going to do when such a thing happened, but clearly not. So, if someone does it [in the grand prix] they can’t get a penalty, or they can’t get anything worse than what happened today.”

Since the five-second time penalty was introduced, F1 drivers have expressed concerns that it is not sufficient for some incidents because of the delay in applying it. Other series such as Moto GP use a ‘long lap penalty’ to swiftly impose minor sanctions on competitors.

Track limits have often been a bone of contention between drivers when racing at the Circuit of the Americas. Fernando Alonso raised the matter after the 2021 race when he accused Kimi Raikkonen of overtaking him outside the track limits.

Become a RaceFans Supporter

RaceFans is run thanks in part to the generous support of its readers. By contributing £1 per month or £12 per year (or the same in whichever currency you use) you can help cover the costs of creating, hosting and developing RaceFans today and in the future.

Become a RaceFans Supporter today and browse the site ad-free. Sign up or find out more via the links below:

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2023 United States Grand Prix

Browse all 2023 United States Grand Prix articles

Author information

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...
RJ O'Connell
Motorsport has been a lifelong interest for RJ, both virtual and ‘in the carbon’, since childhood. RJ picked up motorsports writing as a hobby...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

13 comments on “Stewards’ weak penalties will encourage illegal passes in race say McLaren pair”

  1. Norris couldn’t be more right.

    1. Yeah, it felt really jarring to have had them almost overdo it on the penalties recently and suddenly they are swinging in the other direction of more or less letting everything go without penalty, just because they dislike having to talk about track limits.

      They really should be looking at the track edges to make it less of a bonus to go off. Also, that 5 second penalty they standardly give has proven time and again to be worthless since it is all too often easier to just build a gap than to give back the spot.

  2. I agree, and have been saying so since at least the time (2021?) when Perez made a pass and was told by RBR not to give the place back. It was obvious even back then that in a large number of situations a 5s penalty would be more than made up for by the advantage a driver got for being ahead.

    For me, if a driver makes a pass outside track limits, he should be ordered to give the place back. If they refuse, a heavy penalty up to and including disqualification should be given for failing to follow the stewards’ instructions.

    If the penalty for an infringement is near certain to be less than the advantage gained, it will encourage drivers to flout the rules, or at least risk doing so.

    1. Agreed. A stop and go penalty for failure to give back the spot would get drivers’ attention.

    2. And took out in Albon (costing Williams points) only to receive a meaningless 5 second penalty while Albon’s race was done.

      Unless, you’re within 3-4 laps of the end, it’ll be worth it 85% of the time to pass off track if you only get a 5 second penalty. This is one of those situations in which the stewards should use discretion on whether to give a 5 or 10 sec penalty or a drive thru. Or order the position to be give back within a lap of it happening. If ordered and they don’t, automatic drive through.

    3. Was obvious even before to me, I had been thinking in monaco 2019, when verstappen was faster than hamilton but couldn’t pass him, that he could just cut the chicane and pull away, he could’ve recovered 5 sec quickly and forced a change, too bad he or others didn’t do anything like that when the occasion came.

    4. I think they should lose the lap if they’ve gone off track and gained an advantage and don’t give the place back, or for any track limit violation after 3 warnings.
      Not the lap time, the lap. The race order would be as if that lap wasn’t completed at all – they would have been lapped. Easy enough to implement on the timing systems, easy enough to monitor.

      Also, 5 second penalties for all drivers whining about other drivers infringements.

  3. passing off track give position back immediately if not within that lap: 5 secondes.. after that it becomes 10 seconds.

    1. Actually, adding another 5s every lap completed without giving the place back would work.

    2. Yes, that’s a good idea.

  4. “I wasn’t really looking at him because he was behind me,” said Piastri. “I’ve seen the replay of it, he clearly just accelerates off the track and goes past. I don’t think you can even get close to arguing that that was a 50-50.

    You had 0 pace yesterday. Russell simply out tractioned you, I don’t know how you get out tractioned at that corner and Russell was quite behind to do that.

    1. Well, TBF, he had zero pace after receiving damage. It also doesn’t change the fact that Russell made an illegal move. If he was so much faster, no reason not to make the pass legally. With these rules, Alonso would have easily passed Petrov and won the 2010 WDC.

      1. Exactly Nick. If Piastri has 0 pace, all the more reason to just wait a little bit longer for the inevitable. Haven’t been enjoying some of Russels on track (or really off track) handling recently, seems he is too much pushing at times and goes over the line.

Comments are closed.