Analysis: Who are Haas trying to get penalised with their US GP review bid?

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Tomorrow the stewards of the United States Grand Prix will decide whether to review the results of a race which took place over two weeks ago.

Almost half of the 10 teams on the Formula 1 grid will be represented in a hearing which was instigated by one of them: Haas. What do they hope to achieve, and how realistic are their chances of success?

The Austrian Grand Prix precedent

Documents issued by the FIA yesterday confirmed only a few details of Haas’s “petition for a Right of Review’. They relate to two documents: The final result of the race and a decision not to further penalise Alexander Albon for track limits infringements.

This is not the first time this year a team has raised concerns about the enforcement of track limits during a race. Aston Martin successfully protested the result of the Austrian Grand Prix by claiming multiple track limits infringements by rival drivers had been overlooked.

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin, Red Bull Ring, 2023
Aston Martin’s protest moved Alonso up to fifth in Austria
In Austria, several drivers were penalised during the race and four further penalties were applied as it ended. Aston Martin then entered their protest, and after the stewards accepted it and analysed the potential infringements more closely they unearthed many more transgressions.

“It was determined that some of these infringements warranted a penalty that was not previously applied when the provisional classification was published,” the stewards admitted. “These penalties will be reflected in the final classification.” As a result of Aston Martin’s intervention the stewards issued an additional 12 penalties to eight different drivers.

Clearly, Haas believe that if the same rigour had been applied at the Circuit of the Americas, they would have benefited.

What Haas are doing

Once the dust had settled at the Red Bull Ring, 84 lap times were deleted for track limits infringements. That compares to 35 in the grand prix at COTA, involving breaches at eight different corners.

Alexander Albon, Williams, Circuit of the Americas, 2023
Albon already had one penalty in Austin
Albon was the most frequent transgressor. The stewards ruled he went off-track five times (six of his laps were deleted as one of his infringements occured at the last corner, which meant both the current and subsequent laps were annulled).

However in one of the documents Haas have challenged the stewards admitted they had been unable to identify every potential infringement. “Based on the video footage available (which did not include CCTV), the stewards determine, whilst there might be some indication for possible track limit infringements in turn six, the evidence at hand is not sufficient to accurately and consistently conclude that any breaches occurred and therefore take no further action,” they said.

The “right of review” process has been successfully wielded by several teams to change the results of races or qualifying sessions in their favour in recent seasons, including this one. However the review will only go ahead if “a significant and relevant new element is discovered which was unavailable to the parties seeking the review at the time of the decision concerned”.

The United States Grand Prix stewards’ concession that there may have been further track limits breaches they did not penalise due to a lack of evidence presents a clear opportunity for any team to request a review if they unearth new footage showing drivers committing infractions.

Which drivers are at risk?

The FIA has summoned three of Haas’s rival teams to its hearing, which gives an indication of who are the likeliest targets. Red Bull, Aston Martin and Williams have been summoned. Here’s how they were classified in Austin and, crucially, how many ‘strikes’ for exceeding track limits they had:

1Max VerstappenRed Bull560
2Lando NorrisMcLaren5610.738.5052
3Carlos Sainz JnrFerrari5615.1344.4041
4Sergio PerezRed Bull5618.463.3261
5George RussellMercedes5624.9996.5392
6Pierre GaslyAlpine5647.99622.9971
7Lance StrollAston Martin5648.6960.71
8Yuki TsunodaAlphaTauri5674.38525.6892
9Alexander AlbonWilliams5686.71412.3295
10Logan SargeantWilliams5687.9981.2843
11Nico HulkenbergHaas5689.9041.9062
12Valtteri BottasAlfa Romeo5698.6018.6970
13Zhou GuanyuAlfa Romeo551 lap0
14Kevin MagnussernHaas551 lap4.4964
15Daniel RicciardoAlphaTauri551 lap0.780

At the Austrian Grand Prix the stewards applied the following penalties for track limits infringements:

  • Four strikes: Five-second time penalty
  • Five strikes: 10-second time penalty
  • Nine strikes: Five-second time penalty
  • 10 strikes: 10-second time penalty

The stewards generally only count a ‘strike’ against a driver if they left the track unnecessarily, and do not include occasions where they were forced wide by a rival. This likely accounts for why Magnussen had four strikes but no penalty, and why Albon was issued a five-second time penalty for four strikes at 3:32pm during the race, at which point he had already incurred his fifth strike, which under the precedent established in Austria would mean an additional 10-second penalty.

Williams the top target

Logan Sargeant, Williams, Circuit of the Americas, 2023
Haas could cost Sargeant his only F1 point
The Williams drivers are the most obvious target for Haas. A further strike for Albon should trigger a 10-second time penalty which would promote Hulkenberg into the points.

Logan Sargeant’s only F1 point to date may also be at risk. Assuming none of his three strikes were caused by a rival forcing him wide, one more would lead to a five-second penalty and also drop him behind Hulkenberg. However if Sargeant’s team mate gets a further penalty he could keep hold of his 10th place.

This could prove significant in the fight for the bottom four places in the constructors’ championship. Williams is on 28 points, just seven ahead of AlphaTauri, and scored three in Austin. Haas have fallen to the bottom of the table and have a four-point deficit to Alfa Romeo.

Stroll and Perez?

The inclusion of Aston Martin and Red Bull in the hearing is striking, as their drivers finished far ahead of the Haas pair.

Lance Stroll, the sole Aston Martin driver to finish, came in 41.2 seconds ahead of Hulkenberg. Based on the precedent set in Austria, where a “reset” was applied after every five track limits infringements, Haas would need to identify a further 14 track limits infringements on top of the one already acknowledged to drop Stroll behind Hulkenberg.

Esteban Ocon, Alpine, Red Bull Ring, 2023
The stewards missed 10 breaches by Ocon in Austria
Sergio Perez took the chequered flag well over a minute before Hulkenberg and, like Stroll, had one ‘strike’ for a track limits breach. Haas need him to receive over 71.4 seconds of penalties to get Hulkenberg ahead, which means identifying 24 more track limits breaches.

Is that realistic? The example of Austria shows Stroll and Perez can’t rest easy. Esteban Ocon was congratulated by his race engineer at the end of the Austrian Grand Prix for avoiding any track limits strikes. But once the stewards completed their review he was found to have committed 10 breaches and was handed four separate penalties totalling half a minute.

The fact Red Bull have been summoned leaves open the possibility race winner Max Verstappen could be a target. This seems most unlikely, as he would need a total of 30 breaches to drop him behind a Haas.

Of course five track limits strikes for Verstappen would translate to a 10-second time penalty which would cost him victory to Lando Norris. But if this was a realistic possibility McLaren would surely have already taken the same action as Haas, instead of criticising their request for a review. Besides which, Norris himself has already admitted he exceeded track limits during the United States Grand Prix, so McLaren probably don’t want to tug on that thread.

The evidence

It’s important to stress that this conjecture will be academic if Haas do not have new evidence the stewards find sufficiently persuasive. However as the stewards have already pointed out what material was not available to them, Haas knew where to begin looking.

The deadline for submitting a request for review fell 14 days after the race. Haas waited until day 13 period before submitting their request, indicating they’ve maximised the time available to identify new material.

Significantly, it seems the stewards do not consider forward-facing onboard cameras from drivers’ cars sufficient evidence on their own that a track limits breach has been committed. Norris made this point after the Austin race.

Bottas onboard shows Albon off-track long before his first strike
“The ruling is it has to be clear enough for the FIA and it needs to be basically clear from an actual view that both tyres are off, and an onboard camera doesn’t prove anything,” he said. “If the rear wheel might potentially be in, then you can’t classify it as being out. Which is their point.”

However Haas may have been able to obtain other camera angles revealing new information. This has happened before: Red Bull successfully triggered a penalty for Lewis Hamilton at the 2020 Austrian Grand Prix this way, and Mercedes tried to return the favour when new footage from Verstappen’s car emerged following the 2021 Brazilian Grand Prix.

Alternatively, Haas may have been able to source the CCTV footage which the stewards noted was unavailable to them at the time.

Footage from rivals’ cars may yield further relevant details. For example, Albon’s first track limits infringement was timed at 2:38pm according to the FIA’s documents. But the onboard camera from Valtteri Bottas’ car reveals he had all four wheels off the track at turn six at around 2:06pm, on lap two.

Could this backfire on Haas?

Many ‘right of review’ requests have ended with the stewards concluding the complainant failed to provide evidence which was new and relevant. Haas will need to have done their homework to clear that difficult first hurdle.

Haas’ rivals will have had a close look at their lines too
Beyond that, there is the possibility their own drivers may have committed track limits breaches and collect further penalties. In which case their efforts to trigger penalties for rival teams may be in vain.

Indeed, if the outcome is Haas and other teams receive penalties, this could play into the hands of their closest rival in the championship: Alfa Romeo. In the stewards’ assessment the Alfa Romeo drivers kept clean sheets when it came to track limits in the US GP.

Whatever comes of Haas’ request for a review, it highlights again that the FIA’s attempts to rigidly enforce track limits this year present more challenges at some venues than others. Following Aston Martin’s Austrian Grand Prix protest the stewards urged they “very strongly recommend that a solution be found to the track limits situation at this circuit”. That surely also applies to the Circuit of the Americas.

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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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19 comments on “Analysis: Who are Haas trying to get penalised with their US GP review bid?”

  1. Yes (@come-on-kubica)
    7th November 2023, 13:21

    Would laugh if Verstappen lost the win!

    1. Not a lot of chance, since the Mercedes tack limit inspectors were rather silent. If Max would’ve gone off-track twice, we would’ve heard Lewis’ complaints at least three times :p

    2. Would laugh if Verstappen lost the win!

      From various footage, Max didn’t look to be pressured enough, often enough, to produce regular limits violations.

      Perez however, from what some drivers commented, spent more time off track at corners than he did on track.

  2. It’s Haas fault that the judges are incompetent?

    1. Billy Rae Flop
      7th November 2023, 15:06

      They really said we’re enforcing track limits but we aren’t going to check everything.

  3. Haas need to focus on building a better car.

    1. Billy Rae Flop
      7th November 2023, 19:50

      Or maybe if there are rules then the stewards whoudk actually euphold them? And if they can’t then let it go

  4. the stewards do not consider forward-facing onboard cameras from drivers’ cars sufficient evidence on their own that a track limits breach has been committed

    This is just silly. Yes, there will be cases where the angles are such that you can’t properly tell where the front wheels are. But those are an outlier. It’s perfectly possible to tell from just that camera in many other cases.

    1. To be fair, I agree. They know the dimensions of the car, the location of the camera, and the shape of the track. The rest is simple geometry, it wouldn’t trouble a Vulcan child.

  5. Agree that it seems the Williams cars are the main target for Haas, since any cars further ahead would require a large number of new strikes to put them behind Hulkenberg. Will be interesting to see if the review causes any other collateral effects by shuffling around any of the frontrunners.

    Not sure how i feel about this late review after the fact though. If the drivers knew that for example, turn 6 was not being policed, and then decided they would use that line for every lap of the race when it suited them, then the results could turn into a complete farce when multiple cars then rack up dozens and dozens of track infringement penalties. You could argue it would be their own fault for abusing track limits, but then if they weren’t cutting the corner they would be giving up time to their rivals, unless this very unlikely scenario played out where the stewards retrospectively apply penalties to an infringement that wasn’t previously penalised.

    1. @keithedin Yes, it would be ridiculous. But right now, I think that’s exactly what we need. We need an example that is so catastrophically stupid that it truly exposes how broken the track limits system is, so maybe someone will actually sit up, take notice and try and fix it. I still don’t understand why F1 is still finding it so difficult.

  6. As toxic as it looks like from Haas, this is what every team does. The thing is that when Mercs & RBR does it, they get more media coverage and increases the drama.

    Nothing new here. Look at Massa trying to challenge things that happened centuries ago

  7. Not sure why all the Haas hate. Their action is within the rules. If MAG’s 4 strikes were all in turn 6 and other drivers were free to exceed limits at turn 6, then the racing was unfair regardless of MAG’s position. The inconsistency is definitely an issue as drivers with strike against them must drive differently to not receive a penalty. Haas may only be targeting the stewards and not another team.

  8. I hate Haas as a team. I think they are just a bunch of failures with no real passion for it nor goals or prospects.

    But… This is significant because if the right of review is successful it sets another precedent alongside the one in Austria, further confirming that this system just doesn’t work. It might be doable for qualifying but for a race it’s just wrong every way you look at it. They need to implement an automatic system not something that needs to be reviewed by a limited number of individuals while they are fulfilling other tasks that are also time consuming. And this affects the race as a whole, if you get away with it once per lap it and you gain 2 tenths each time, after the race you’re a whole straight ahead of your competition

    And just as Lando says, they are able to exploit it now. If the track limit is a black and white thing, the decision making needs to be equally fast and clear.

  9. 2021 Lewis Hamilton Bahrain 29 times going over track limits and no penalty?????
    Why don’t the use a sensor system like they do with the SuperCars in Australia. No need for cameras or reviews. With technology, surely there is a better system than manual reviews.

    1. The hint is right there in your post – 2021.

      It’s so funny and yet so predictable how Lewis ends up getting dragged into discussions that have zero to do with him.

      1. My comment was to indicate let things go. It was in the past. Nothing was done then, and nothing should be done now.
        The point you missed was that there is technology available to address these issues instantaneously, not weeks after the race.

    2. 2021 Lewis Hamilton Bahrain 29 times going over track limits

      Track limits were enforced differently under the race director at that time, Michael Masi. The key change was made from the first race after he was replaced:

    3. In 2021, not all corners were on the list of monitored corner and it just so happened that turn 4 was one of those corner. Thus when Lewis went off there, it didn’t trigger the three-strike system in place today.

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