Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Yas Marina, 2021

Ferrari chairman wants “more clarity” in FIA’s application of F1 rules

Formula 1

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Ferrari chairman John Elkann says the FIA needs to apply Formula 1’s rules with greater clarity following the controversies seen in recent seasons.

Last weekend the team’s driver Carlos Sainz Jnr was given a 10-place grid penalty because he exceeded the maximum number of energy stores he is permitted to use. The situation arose because his car was badly damaged by loose water valve cover at the new Las Vegas Strip Circuit. Ferrari unsuccessfully lobbied the stewards not to apply a penalty on the grounds of force majeure.

Elkann referred to other recent high-profile disputes over F1’s rules. Red Bull became the first and so far only team penalised for exceeding the budget cap when it was introduced for the first time in 2021. But their penalty, announced late last year, was regarded as too lenient by many, including Ferrari team principal Frederic Vasseur.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen had already won the 2021 championship in controversial circumstances after race director Michael Masi applied the rules incorrectly at the end of the season finale in Abu Dhabi.

Masi lost his job at the FIA as a result of the error, another incident the Ferrari head referred to. Following the disputed conclusion to the 2021 championship, the FIA overhauled its race control division. This included the creation of the Remote Operations Centre to aid the decision-making process, the restructuring of its personnel and hiring of new staff.

John Elkann, Ferrari, Las Vegas, 2023
Elkann was unimpressed with Sainz’s penalty in Las Vegas
“You don’t want things to happen like the 2021 championship, how that ended up,” Elkann told the BBC. “You don’t want to have situations like the ones here in Vegas, where you get penalised 10 places.

“So from the regulatory standpoint in terms of rules and applications and what we have seen with the budget caps, those are areas where you’d like to have more clarity.”

Two other teams were penalised for budget cap infringements last year not related to over-spending. The regulations were revised this year to better account for development work conducted by teams’ non-F1 divisions.

F1 plans to introduce new technical regulations in 2026 including an overhaul of its hybrid power units and the introduction of sustainable fuel. Elkann said it is important to ensure those rules are clearly defined and enforced.

“There are a lot of changes in how the evolution of technologies happen, the importance of being carbon-neutral,” he said. “Within that, being able to define clarity on rules and applications is important.”

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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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24 comments on “Ferrari chairman wants “more clarity” in FIA’s application of F1 rules”

  1. I’m really getting tired of F1 teams, maybe due to the extended number of races. All teams only want a review of the rules when it directly impacts their team. They could care less about how the rules are enforced when it impacts another team. Just not sporting and because they don’t care about the rules with respect to any other teams, it allows F1 to be inconsistent with their decisions. I go back to the chicanery that F1 pulled in Abu Dhabi a few years ago when it chose not to enforce several rules including a full lap prior to the safety car ending and for all drivers or no drivers to unlap themselves. The ruling only affected 2 drivers with respect to the season ending results, but the ruling affected every driver that was still racing for their career statistics. Only the team that was affected complained and if such a ruling went in their favor, I’m sure they wouldn’t have complained. The F1 teams and their insistence on preventing another team from joining F1 shows exactly how sporting they are.

    1. Congratulations. You’ve noticed that the bulk of F1’s operational/administrative issues are actually brought about by the competitors themselves.
      Sadly, Liberty creating the perfect conditions for the current cartel with the teams has lead to this becoming so much more of an (overt) issue that it ever was with Bernie and his divide and conquer approach.
      Having 3 entities run F1 (with 2 of them in collusion with each other, seeking money first and foremost) was always going to be a disaster.

    2. I go back to the chicanery that F1 pulled in Abu Dhabi a few years ago when it chose not to enforce several rules including a full lap prior to the safety car ending and for all drivers or no drivers to unlap themselves.

      That was all “fine”, as the stewards ruled in response to Mercedes’ list of protests. But the bigger picture problem is that F1 has worded its regulations for almost 20+ years in such a way that the race director – then Charles Whiting – was able to effectively rule F1 with little in the way of formal constraints on his power. Hence all the ‘may’, ‘can’, and best (read: worst) of all, ‘at the sole discretion of the race director’. It’s also a great reason to put some term limits on the role. Nobody should have that much power for so long.

      Like you note, on average the teams stand to gain from this situation and thus all cheer it on. After all, there’s only a 1/10 chance that a sudden enforcement of a rule will apply to them, whereas when it is not enforced they are guaranteed to get away with whatever it is they’re up to.

      Clear rules, clear penalties, clear roles for all officials, and consistent application of said rules is the way to go. And also get rid of any silliness about ‘precedence’ being the key in determining penalties. Write it down in the rules. This has the added benefit of severely reducing the ability of the stewards to unscrupulously interfere in the race (Australia being the low point of the season in that sense). They’re not there to ponder the intricacies or historic analogues of any incident, but rather to quickly (!) apply the prescribed penalties.

      1. You say clear rules, clear penalties…..yet most people are complaining about that
        parts rule in the Sainz penalty case last weekend. They *wanted* an exception written into that rule, making that rule and penalties less clear and more subjective.

        People say they want clear rules and clear penalties…..until they see an incident that don’t like where they can’t get the result they want. By which, they call for more complexities.

        1. @Yaru Exactly this.

          The problem today is F1’s rulebook has grown increasingly prescriptive, driven by teams, pundits, and fans demanding “clarity” on everything from power unit elements to overtaking guidelines and track limits.

          Abu Dhabi ‘21 would not have been nearly as controversial if, as it had been for decades, section 15.3 was universally interpreted as giving the race director the “overriding authority” to use the safety car, with no limitations. But the addition in recent years of additional sections to the regulations to prescribe safety car procedures for the clerk of the course created an expectation that they be followed by the race director, with no exceptions. Without those procedures — or with a clause granting discretion to abandon them — we would still have been debating whether the partial wavearound was fair to those who did not receive it, but the integrity of the championship would not have been soured by the stink of alleged procedural error.

          I don’t wish to have rose-tinted glasses and pretend that there were no rules controversies during the Whiting era. But I think that what we have today is certainly no better and arguably worse.

          To be fair, I don’t know that either approach — discretion vs prescription — is intrinsically better or worse. But when a race official makes an error in judgment, if they have the disposition for the job, they can accept it gracefully and immediately do better. When the regulations are so prescriptive and difficult to amend that all that anyone can do is throw their hands up, nothing can improve, and that’s the cycle F1 is caught in now.

    3. All teams only want a review of the rules when it directly impacts their team. They could care less about how the rules are enforced when it impacts another team.

      As noted by George Russell, who was driving a Williams at the time of a similar incident with a drain cover back in 2017, it’s happened before.
      Ferrari were conspicuous by their absence in the requests for special dispensation for Williams in 2017
      Now it seems the rules need changing.

      Not specific to this type of incident and its effects, but ALL teams should consider the simple fact that sooner or later they are the one on the, cough, naff, end of the stick.

      1. But perhaps some teams are incapable to look 10 years into the future (realistically, this stuff happens rarely enough mercedes could only become a victim after 2030) and focus only on the immediate gain or loss, as merc did here.

  2. I’d also like to see the stewards not take 18 laps / nearly 40 mins to decide something so simple. It’s embarrassing. I’d also like to see drivers ordered to just the place back in situations like these rather than some unnecessarily delayed dinky time penalty.

    1. Yea just flip a coin, si.ple and fast. Who needs data and telemetry analysis?

      1. Anybody with a TV screen and one half open eye could see that Max had to give that place back.
        No need to ring the help lines in the telemetry data centre.

        And even if the stewards (or RD as far as I’m concerned) get it wrong occasionaly, it is better than waiting 8 laps and having to dish out penalties (of course serious offences could require a ‘give the place back’ plus a penalty).

    2. I agree, that is what I found most unsatisfactory about last weekend. They got the right decision in the end regarding MV and his first corner move, even MV agreed after the event, but how did it take them so long? Regardless of who had the racing line, MV gained his advantage by putting all four wheels off the track, not to mention crowding LeClerc so far off track that he almost had to take a bus back from Downtown Las Vegas, so I didn’t understand what the debate was about. Yes, there may have been factors like the tyres being cold, the first lap congestion, etc, but neverhteless, MV wasn’t the one pushed off, MV wasn’t avoiding a car in front of him, and MV was the one who gained all the advantage. So how did it take them so long to reach a decision?

      I think there should be a time limit on stewards decisions. If they cannot make a decision within, say, one minute, about an incident which took less than a second in real time, then they need to forget it and move on.

      1. Mmm, maybe 1 minute is a bit too little, some of these contacts need some time to consider all circumstances, I’m thinking vettel-hamilton in canada 2019, which was very controversial, but I’d give them a 5 minute time limit, certainly better than what we got.

  3. The rules for the parts penalty didn’t mention cases where exceptions are allowed, so it wasn’t allowed. It’s pretty clear cut.

    There was not a huge hurricane or anything so force majeure wouldn’t have applied.

    If F1 don’t like it, they should write exceptions into the rules for next season but nothing was wrong with the way it was applied last weekend as that’s just how the rules were written.

    1. @yaru As a contract term, force majeure simply means that is isn’t the party’s fault and couldn’t have been prevented
      or predicted by the party. No natural disasters needed (though of course it depends on the laws of the country).

      – Someone hitting your car most certainly isn’t, as that happens a lot and is just part of racing.
      – Unless competitors were warned of the risk or somehow had a chance to see it coming, a loose drain cover very well could be (although it having happened before could limit the chance of that working as a claim).

  4. The rules are very simple. I don’t understand why people don’t understand these matters.

    If the BrakeTester brakes a rule, then its not applied to him, or its only applied when it does not affect him in practice or the rule is changed so that it no longer applies. If anybody else apart from Hamilton brakes a rule then its strictly applied depending on who’s stewarding on the day. If Hamilton brakes a rule then its applied more harshly.

    There, what’s so difficult to understand about all that?

    1. Yeah, right

      The day I see some other driver than Sir D1rt1estEver being hoisted by a crane after getting beached in the gravel trap, and put back in track to carry on like nothing had happened, while other 5 drivers also beached wach it with impotence, I might begin to believe your utter BS.

      1. This part of the video is even more interesting.
        If they had learned some lessons from that we would not have had Suzuka 2014 or even the scare for Gasly last year.

  5. Man I miss Charlie more every day. Now we have to write absolutely everything down in stone, because we can’t trust anyone else’s judgment.

    1. Myself I don’t miss Mr Whiting a bit, he always seemed to me like a McL employee

    2. Charlie whiting has been widely criticised as well in his era, I’m not sure we would be better off (but maybe).

  6. There, what’s so difficult to understand about all that?

    Your spelling of Verstappen is awfully confusing.

  7. The rules were clear and applied correctly.

    I don’t agree with them in Sainz’s case, but that’s not an issue of clarity of application.

  8. Ahhh the legacy of Abu Dhabi continues. What a toxic team Horner and Redbull are.

    Cheats through and through and nasty for the sport.

    The amount of toxicity they have bought since joining is another level.

  9. It is inaccurate to say that Masi applied the rules incorrectly. Poor show, RaceFans.

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