Penalties for drivers who cause red flags introduced in F2 and F3 before F1

Formula 2

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New rules will prevent Formula 2 and Formula 3 drivers benefitting from causing red flags in qualifying sessions next year.

However Formula 1 has not adopted similar rules despite recent incidents leading some drivers to call for their introduction.

The updated regulations for the Formula 2 and the FIA Formula 3 championships state that any drivers who cause red flags during qualifying face losing their quickest lap times and being barred from continuing in the session. Similar rules have long been used in IndyCar and other series to remove any incentive for drivers to cause a red flag in order to disadvantage their rivals.

The updated F2 and F3 rules state “any driver who in the opinion of the stewards is the sole cause of the issuance of a red flag during the qualifying practice session will not be permitted to take any further part in the session and their fastest lap time during the session may be deleted” for 2024.

The FIA has also removed from the regulations the ability for teams to appeal against the deletion of lap times in qualifying.

Drivers causing red flags and benefiting from them has not been a significant issue in F2 and F3. However it has arisen several times in F1 in recent seasons and two years ago the FIA indicated it was considering adopting IndyCar’s rule.

That year Charles Leclerc secured pole position for the Monaco Grand Prix when he crashed out of Q3. The stewards examined the incident but decided the Ferrari driver had not crashed deliberately.

The following year Sergio Perez crashed in the dying moments of Q3 at the same circuit which meant he started ahead of his team mate Max Verstappen who was on course to improve his pace before red flags waved. “That shouldn’t be allowed,” Verstappen told his team afterwards.

Other regulations changes for F2 and F3 include an option to use the championship standings to set the grid if neither practice nor qualifying take place. Drivers are also being the opportunity to make two reconnaissance laps before taking their position on the grid for races.

Race directors have also been given more freedom in their interactions with competitors, being allowed to summon teams at any teams for meetings rather than in specific windows during the weekend so as not to be disruptive to garage activities. However that could lead to teams being summoned to race control after they have left the track at the end of a weekend.

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36 comments on “Penalties for drivers who cause red flags introduced in F2 and F3 before F1”

  1. Totally pointless rule, not to mention unfair to drivers in red-inducing situations where either a genuine error (no one’s perfect so occasional mistakes are inevitable for everyone) or a failure out of a driver’s control causes an off that leads to a session suspension as the wording doesn’t seem to exclude these scenarios.
    With such a rule what’s the point in even trying to be fast if merely making an error is effectively banned?

    1. Nah it’s good.

    2. Read it more carefully.

      “any driver who in the opinion of the stewards is the sole cause of the issuance of a red flag”

      So that means if the failure is out of a driver’s control, it doesn’t apply. As to “occasional mistakes”, these are supposed to be the best drivers in the world. Mistakes should have consequences. If a driver doesn’t want to fall foul of this, they can drive slower and avoid mistakes.

      1. A great idea, yeah. Motivating drivers to drive well within the limits. Either it will never be used (track circumstances like rain, stuff going on around the driver – like we see with the ones causing incidents when they are the last in a train of cars trundling on track) or it will lead to situations where the penalty seems unfair.

        If something is amiss, the stewards are already fully able to investigate and hand out penalties.

        1. Rosberg n Schumi @ Monaco?

        2. No, it separates the very best drivers from the merely very good. If you can’t keep it out of the wall, then you have to drive slower and make sure you don’t crash. It rewards those who have the skill or the guts to go for it.

          And it stops Monaco moments like Schumacher 2006 and Perez 2022. Though Rosberg 2014 wouldn’t have been covered – that was just a yellow, if i remember correctly.

          1. Wasn’t schumacher 2006 also a yellow? I’m pretty sure alonso merely slowed down, it’d have been different if it were a red.

          2. @esploratore1 you are correct – back in 2006, Schumacher caused a yellow flag to be brought out, which meant that drivers behind him had to slow down.

            The case with Schumacher also highlights the point that others have made, which is that the rules already given the stewards the power to penalise a driver judged to have acted maliciously and already gives them the data to analyse that scenario.

            Furthermore, let’s be blunt – most complaints here about red flags are being deliberately selective by only cherry picking a situation where there was a perceived benefit to the driver who caused it, but omit the scenarios where it was to the disadvantage of the driver involved.

            I would wager that, if you actually analysed the situation properly, you’d find that those sorts of accidents have more often been to the detriment of the driver involved – posters here attack Perez for Monaco 2022, but there have been far more instances in recent years where the driver who caused the red flag ended up significantly worse off than they would have been without crashing.

            Just think about those in 2023 – we had Perez, Gasly, de Vries, Sargeant, Stroll, Piastri, Bottas and Ricciardo cause red flags due to crashing during qualifying. Out of those named, every single driver apart from Bottas ended up actively harming their chances with those accidents – and, in the case of Bottas, many here argued that the race director prematurely threw the red flag for an incident that could have been dealt with under yellow flags.

      2. rprp Yes, they’re supposed to be the so-called best drivers in the world, but my original point that no one’s perfect still applies, which makes a scenario where no one ever makes mistakes while pushing on the limit to be as fast as possible is impossible & the whole point in motorsports is to be fast, so contradictory argument.

      3. Coventry Climax
        20th December 2023, 22:47

        Read it more carefully.

        “any driver who in the opinion of the stewards is the sole cause of the issuance of a red flag”

        So that means if the failure is out of a driver’s control, it doesn’t apply.

        You’re dead wrong, rprp; read it more carefully:

        “any driver who in the opinion of the stewards is the sole cause of the issuance of a red flag”

        means that it is the stewards that get to decide whether it’s out of a driver’s control yes or no. There’s absolutely nothing automatic about it applying or not, like you suggest.

        Given the decisions by the stewards over the recent years, with no knowing, no certainty and zero consistency, that means drivers will have to stay well within the limits – their limits and the car’s limits- , just to ‘please’ the stewards, because if they don’t, there’s no telling what might happen and what they decide.

        I want to see them trying, and I mean really trying, because that’s what sports is about.
        Yes, that goes hand in hand with getting it wrong sometimes and having tried too hard. But I want to hear them say ‘Well, at least I’ve tried’. When trying gets punished, that is downright wrong for a sports. If it can’t be detected otherwise, then the qualifying format is wrong, not the drivers because they’re trying, and this rule doesn’t ‘mend’ it.

        Counterproductive rule, like so many that have seen the light in recent years.

        1. So your beef is not so much with the rule, but your mistrust of the stewards?

          I also want to see them trying. Now there is an argument that somebody made that pointed out that Verstappen in Jeddah 2021 might never have happened, given the risk of losing his first lap time. If I remember right he was last on track and couldn’t have ruined anyone’s lap. That’s a potential gotcha. But I would hazard a guess that he’d have still gone for it, given the situation of the championship at the time. It’d be different in 2022-2023 when there wasn’t so much on the line perhaps.

          The best drivers will still try it. And if they don’t, they risk someone else going balls out trying it. It’s not counterproductive. If anything it brings greater reward to those that have the metal to go for it.

          1. Coventry Climax
            21st December 2023, 9:50

            No, the intention of the rule may sound ok, with penalising drivers that willingly cause a red flag to salvage the qualifying position they’ve just managed, but there’s a couple of things that make my hair go stand up straight:
            – There’s rules for that already.
            – It does not prevent crashgate situations where a team mate does the job for you.
            – They’ve shut down the appeal option
            – The wording, as usual, is vague and leaves room for ‘interpretation’ and/or even manipulation that shouldn’t be there.
            – The stewards have a track record of taking controversial decisions, and the FiA generally allows for it, even after ‘investigations’.
            – There should be as little room as possible for ‘closed doors decisions’ based on opinions in this sport, so a rule stating ‘in the opinion of’ is quite the opposite.

            Want me to go on for another hour or so?
            – I think it makes drivers try less hard, and punishes those that do try.

    3. Just imagine the drain cover ripping apart cars in Vegas would have happened in qualifying and Sainz would not just get a gearbox penalty but ALSO an additional penalty for “causing a red flag”.

      No, I wholeheartedly agree with Jerejj here, this rule really is not a good idea at all and doesn’t solve anything, and will surely lead to some awkward “yeah, it was not deserved, but you know, automatic penalties” moments in the following years.

      If there’s suspicion something was going on, by all means, investigate. But do that regardless of whether it causes a red flag, a yellow flag, or just other competitors to lose laptime / positions.

      1. Once again:

        “any driver who in the opinion of the stewards is the sole cause of the issuance of a red flag”

        There’s no way the stewards could deem that to be solely caused by the driver (Sainz).

        I don’t know what’s not to like about this rule.

        1. Coventry Climax
          20th December 2023, 22:54

          I don’t know what’s not to like about this rule.

          Two possibilities:
          1) Yes you do, you just don’t want to acknowledge that you do.
          2) Try harder. It’s not that difficult at all.

        2. Coventry Climax
          21st December 2023, 9:33

          Tell that reasoning to Trump.
          And I assess the FiA or it’s stewards no higher.

  2. Biggest can of worms ever.

  3. Never been a fan of this rule in any series.

    Besides, it’s usually pretty redundant in F1 as it’s common to change parts due to damage which means at least a grid drop penalty anyway.
    This combination effectively punishes genuine pushing for ultimate lap time more than deliberately parking a car on the side of the track. And then possibly driving off once the Red Flag is called…

  4. Coventry Climax
    20th December 2023, 13:18

    Sounds like Max Mosley’s choice of party dress has become FiA’s official dress code now.

  5. Coventry Climax
    20th December 2023, 13:27

    Think of the consequences for the show!
    Just the thought of allowing drivers to really try and find the limit in competition, or even complete teams being allowed to come up with groundbreaking enigineering feats, just for the effort of outsmarting the competition!
    All that would make such an utter mess of F1, and put show right down at the bottom of things important in a sport.
    Surely we can’t have any of that now, can we?

  6. Usually the red flag is a crash or a mechanical failure that forces a car to stop in a dangerous position, which results in end of session anyway. And those aren’t really helping any driver. So to me this seems a bit cruel to take away the time as well.

    1. “any driver who in the opinion of the stewards is the sole cause of the issuance of a red flag”

      I guess in that case, the driver is not the cause. It’s the car. But we’ve seen before there’s a blurry line between driver and car.

  7. Good step in the right direction, and hopefully it will make it way to F1 in the near future. It has become expected now that someone will crash in Q3 in Monaco for example, whether intentionally or not, and secure themselves a beneficial starting position.

    Though I do wonder on the wording of lap times “may” be deleted. I realise it is up to the discretion of the stewards whether the red flag was caused by a particular car or not, but once that is determined, there should not be any room for subjectivity over the lap time being deleted or not. But all in all, this rule should make things fairer and less open to abuse.

    1. I can see scenarios where either answer could be appropriate.

      Eg1 – rain is forecast, so the drivers head out early. The first driver finishes a decent lap, but crashes on the cooldown, causing a red flag. Rain comes during the stoppage, so no-one else matches those early times. The first driver’s time should be deleted.

      Eg2 – in a relatively straightforward qualifying session, everyone has done first runs, which produced vaguely normal times. 7 minutes later they are all out again. One driver crashes, causing a red flag. Arguably the time from the “first runs” could stay.

      I hope that at a minimum, this rule comes with guidance on WHEN it should be a yes or a no. Personally I think my rule would be that your times since you last left the pits get deleted. But I can handle steward discretion as long as they’re given clear tramlines.

      1. The way I interpret it, in eg 1, yes, the first driver would lose their bests lap time, and it would basically put them at the back of that session’s classification

        In eg 2, assuming the driver that crashes on their 2nd hot lap, they would lose their first hot lap. And again, back of the session’s classification.

        If the driver, for example, went faster on their 2nd hot lap, and crashed on their cool down lap (which would be odd and suspicious, unless a very sudden change in conditions occurred), they would lose their 2nd hot lap. And I suspect there would be an investigation into foul play for crashing on their cool down lap. F1 drivers really ought to be able to get a car around a track when not pushing at 100%.

  8. I like “no further part in the session”, but I worry about the “may” be deleted. I hope that’s been issued alongside guidance giving examples of when it should or should not: otherwise that’s a minefield.

    The main thing for me though is that they’re trialling this in F2 and F3 – to observe unintended consequences and work out the kinks – before bringing it to F1.

    Looking back on the (at times) amateurish lack of forethought and preparation in this year’s rule tweaks – eg around track limits and use of the pit lane in qualifying – I hope more rules are trialled in the lower formulas before making a decision on whether they progress to the main event.

  9. It’s good to codify these things and put them into writing. Clear written rules and consistent enforcement are much better than what F1 has devolved into over the past 20 years.

    That said, “in the opinion of the stewards” does mean they are essentially saying the driver did this on purpose. That is unsporting behaviour, and could already be penalized (though the exact penalties for that weren’t laid out). But more importantly, like with the addition of mentioning unsporting behaviour in the penalty given to Norris in Canada, these penalties quickly feel personal. And in the world of sports, where drivers seek to cash in on their own merchandise sales, such a label can quickly lead to reputational damage. And that could become quite a legal mess if pursued.

    1. There’s nothing in the rule as reported about causing the crash *on purpose*.

      It’s simply – driver X crashed while no-one else is around, causing a red flag. Therefore driver X (and possibly their car) is the sole cause of the crash. They cannot participate in the session after the restart, and they may have a time deleted.

      Even if two drivers were to hit each other and the stewards ruled one was the “sole” cause, it wouldn’t mean the collision was necessarily on purpose: simply that the fault all lay with one driver.

      1. This is happening in the context of some odd events that may or may not have been intentional, but nevertheless appeared intentional to a conspiracy-minded part of the public. That’s prompted these discussions, and apparently now these changes.

        I don’t see any other reason to introduce penalties. Deleting a time is a penalty, as is preventing people from taking part in a session (it’s essentially a DSQ, one of the harshest possible penalties). But the stewards do not penalize people who crash out. That’s never been a thing in all of F1 history. It’s part of racing and we all want to see the drivers push to the limit; especially in qualifying. Sometimes they misjudge that. Sometimes other competitiros are then unable to complete their laps. It happens… and thankfully, only very rarely.

        Penalize intentional shenanigans, sure. Penalize mistakes? What’s next, race bans for people who “cause” a safety car? After all, safety cars routinely ruin people’s races. Far more often than any qualifying mishaps.

        1. The stewards do actually penalise drivers who cause crashes, regularly, and without saying it was intentional.

          Next time there’s a crash (or even just a bump) in a race, watch the top of your screen: you’ll probably see a message that the stewards are investigating it. About half the time, they decide one or other of the drivers mostly caused the crash (not intentionally, just by mistake), and they’ll penalise them.

          It’s a completely normal part of the rules that you just might not have noticed before.

          If the stewards thought someone was intentionally crashing – which as you correctly say, is normally the stuff of consipracy theorists – you’re in ban territory. See: Schumacher, Briatore. The penalty would be much more severe than missing the rest of a 15-minute quali session.

  10. And what about cases where a red flag is called prematurely which is something that has happened several times the past few years.

    I absolutely hate these kinds of rules, Completely unnecessary and at times both unfair & nothing but an additional penalty on top of the penalty for making a mistake to begin with.

    If a driver is pushing to/beyond the limit trying to better a lap time and make a genuine error that already costs them the opportunity to improve & potentially damages the car that is penalty enough so adding additional penalties is just ridiculous.

    Look at Verstappen in Jeddah 2021 as an example. He had that car on the limit through that lap & it was brilliant to watch yet he made one small error in the final corner that took him out of contention for the pole. It gained him nothing & didn’t really cost anyone else anything.

    The penalty for not been able to improve his time & get the pole the lap to that point was looking like he was going to get was the penalty. Deleting his prior time and giving him the additional penalty of starting probably 10th would have been completely illogical and may have even discouraged that sort of on & at times over the limit that that qualifying should be about.

    And what about Stroll at Singapore this year or Norris at Spa in 2021? Massive accidents that took them out of qualifying & destroyed the cars. That was the penalty for making the error so zero need to add an additional penalty on top of that.

    If something is done intentionally & such a thing can be proven then by all means hand out a penalty. But doing it for every incident including for honest mistakes that even the best can make when pushing on the limit going for pole (Again pointing to that Max lap in Jeddah ’21) is just one of the silliest ideas ever.

  11. So, the majority verdict round here is to not have a rule that allows drivers deliberately causing an incident that prevents the competition from beating their time?

    Sounds like people aren’t thinking through the consequences of doing nothing.

    1. @SteveP But there is already something there which allows drivers who are found to have intentionally gone off in qualifying to be penalised by the stewards in the form of disqualification from qualifying.

      Hence why Michael Schumacher had to start from the back of the grid in 2006. That option was there then & it’s still there today as far as i’m aware.

      Drivers who intentionally cause yellow or red flags in qualifying should indeed be penalised accordingly; Honest mistakes however should not be. Handing out penalties for an honest & potentially minor mistake while on the edge in qualifying is not & never will be fair or sporting.

      Again if it’s intentional then by all means hand out a harsh penalty but if it isn’t then it isn’t right to do so.

  12. Coventry Climax
    20th December 2023, 23:00

    Given the discussion this raises within just a single day already, it’s clear this will only lead to more inconsistent rulings by the stewards, and more controversy, as they’ve also cut off all options for appeal.

  13. Given how there have been times when a red flag has been brought out too soon & ultimately completely unecisarily then I don’t think we can trust the steward to be fair or consistent with it.

    I can’t remember who or when it was but was there not at least 2-3 times the past year or 2 where a driver spun off with a red flag been called even though the driver was able to safely rejoin the track and carry on fairly quickly.

    And we have also seen instances where a driver has gone off and a red flag has completely unecisarily been called because of a bit of gravel or dirt that ended up on track. And again they have been very inconsistent with that so again I don’t think we can trust them to be fair or consistent with it.

    I don’t really see a need for additional over-regulation & more needless penalties given how the stewards already have the power to penalise drivers for intentionally impeding in qualifying by causing yellow/red flags & it is indeed something they have used in the past to exclude a driver from qualifying. So just use that rather than bringing in a ridiculous blanket penalty that is just going to be a penalty on-top of a penalty for making a mistake which is ridiculous.

    What a joke this show that used to be a sport is becoming!!!

  14. I’m more concerned about this “Other regulations changes for F2 and F3 include an option to use the championship standings to set the grid if neither practice nor qualifying take place.” That may remove any hesitation to delay Qualifying procedures in case of heavy rain or accumulated delay in the time schedule due to previous incidents in another category.

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