Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin, Red Bull Ring, 2024

Alonso warns F1’s penalty points system “takes away incentive to try to overtake”

Formula 1

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Fernando Alonso believes F1’s superlicence penalty points system is punishing “racing mistakes” when it should be reserved for instances of dangerous driving.

Formula 1 drivers can receive penalty points from FIA stewards for infringing the regulations. Any driver who collects 12 points over a 12 period receives in a one-round suspension.

Aston Martin driver Alonso moved onto eight penalty points at the Austrian Grand Prix. He is four away from a race ban and will not deduct any for another 15 rounds.

He gained two penalty points last weekend for colliding with Zhou Guanyu on lap 20 of Sunday’s grand prix and was involved in a separate incident in the sprint race when Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg pushed him off track and caused him to lose two positions.

Speaking to media including RaceFans ahead of this weekend’s British Grand Prix, Alonso argued that he disagreed with the philosophy behind the current penalty points system.

“I think when penalty points were introduced, it was to avoid dangerous drivers, who keep accumulating penalties without a race ban or something,” Alonso said. “Just to avoid dangerous manoeuvres and putting in danger anyone on track.

“I think now we are mistaking racing mistakes with dangerous driving. I made a racing mistake in turn three and I hit Zhou and I deserved a 10-second penalty. I think maybe Nico – or another driver, I don’t know, in the race – made a racing mistake and you pay the price – or you give back the position, or you have five seconds or 10-second penalty. This is a racing mistake. It always will happen and it did happen in the past.

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“What I don’t get is the ‘danger’ involved from those manoeuvres – because there is no ‘danger’. We are taking away the incentive to try an overtaking manoeuvre, because if you make a racing mistake you will get penalised with penalty points. So it’s better sometimes to stay behind, because they are just promoting only DRS overtaking. Because you cannot make an attempt to pass anyone, because it’s going to be penalty points for one of the two drivers. So this is, for me, wrong.”

Only one driver has received a race ban in the last 15 seasons in Formula 1. Romain Grosjean was suspended for a round for triggering a multi-car crash at the start of the 2012 Belgian Grand Prix, which was one of several incidents in the years leading up to the superlicence system being introduced in 2014. Alonso suggests that the current regulations are too overbearing when it comes to restricting wheel-to-wheel racing and punishing minor incidents.

“We try to prevent dangerous drivers taking penalties every two or three weekends and putting people in danger,” he said. “In the past, I think, this was back when Grosjean had the accident in Spa with Lewis [Hamilton] and myself involved, something like that.

“Now, I think we’ve definitely never had so many rules as we have now. We cannot overtake on the pit lane, we cannot go fast in the pit lane, we cannot go slow on track – we cannot do basically anything. This is probably over-regulated and we drivers feel frustrated sometimes – teams as well. But we need to find a solution between all of us. We cannot leave the FIA alone on this. We need to propose something that is better than the current rule and this is something that we need to do between all of us.”

Alonso says the complexity of the racing rules does not mix well with the split-second decision making and intense pressure that drivers come under during an on-track battle.

“You’re always racing, trusting the other drivers,” he said.

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“You forget the rules for a moment when you are in the heat of a battle and you are fighting sometimes for points, sometimes for podiums and sometimes even for world championships. I’ve been fighting for world championships five times at the last race, in the last moments of the season. How can you think about the rules in that moment? You go for an overtake or you go for a defence and you try to be fair and you need to trust the other drivers. So that’s probably the way we always race.”

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Author information

Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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20 comments on “Alonso warns F1’s penalty points system “takes away incentive to try to overtake””

  1. He’s right.

    1. He collected penalty points over failed overtakes lately, so he’s wrong as it doesn’t take away the incentive to overtake if you do it clean.

      1. @jeff1s don’t concentrate on the attention grabbing title.

        He’s just right about the penalty point system.

  2. Alonso is the only driver I can actually see getting a race ban in the foreseeable future. While other drivers mysteriously stop accumulating penalty points when they get near the 12-point mark, I don’t feel Alonso will be granted similar latitude. Especially if he’s going to continue being given points for such egregious offences as “being somewhere up the road from another car that crashed on its own.”

    1. Yes, that was absolutely a joke penalty.

    2. I mean, he’s on Herbert’s you-know-what list and apparently that guy gets to be a steward for a bit longer, so it’s only a matter of time, at any rate.

      1. Stating he is biased and has a personal agenda here, is indeed quite an understatement.

    3. Kevin Magnussen???

    4. If Kevin hits someone tomorrow of is on the wrong spot during Qualify he is banned next race….

  3. Coventry Climax
    4th July 2024, 17:09

    He’s right, the article is wrong here:

    when Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg pushed him off track

    That’s a c, an r, an a and a p. Hulkenberg tried to outbrake Alonso and Alonso took the bait and braked to late as well.
    That’s what the game of overtaking in motorsports largely is all about.

    Proves Alonso’s point though.

  4. The current penalty point system is way too imbalanced. Track limits is 1 penalty point but actual, dangerous driving is 3 penalty points. IMO the FIA should raise the penalty points limit to 24 points, but give out bigger chunks of penalty points (like 6 penalty points minimum for causing collisions).

  5. I’ve always felt the licence point system is silly and unnecessary.

    Penalty points & indeed things like race bans should be reserved for the most serious offences rather than minor bits of contact that occurs from hard racing.

    I wonder how many points Gilles Villeneuve and Rene Arnoux would have received for the bits of contact and running each other track that occurred during there incredible fight at Dijon 1979?

    Heck I wonder how many points & race bans Gilles Villeneuve himself would have got over his career as he had a fair bit of contact with other drivers and drove back to the pits with a wheel hanging off his car at Zandvoort in 1979 (Which is only one of the most iconic moments in F1’s history) and we saw from the Red Bull penalty in Montral that you can’t drive a damaged car back to the pits in the show over sport sanitized modern F1.

    Let drivers race!!!!

    1. Agree, it’s absolutely absurd that you can’t drive a car with a broken rear wing to the pits, there’s been races in the 2000s where drivers used to do that, barrichello even got a podium I believe at spa in one of those years, with spa having such a long lap that the SC took over 3 mins to do a full lap, he was able to get out after the repairs while still on the lead lap, and back then there was no rule to recover laps behind SC.

      1. I agree this should be a part of racing. It creates suspense… do they make it to the pits? How much time will they lose?How well does the team respond? Will they be able to fight their way back in the game? Only counter thing is that it is quite disappointing for the race leader to get a flat tire due to others car’s debris. Feels quite unfair.

  6. Alonso’s right– there have been no aggressive overtakes in the past 5 years, and drivers have been banned for hitting the 12 point limit repeatedly.

    …… wait a minute.

    1. grat, exactly – it’s a case of Alonso playing to a certain group of fans and use that popular pressure to sway opinions, and it’s clear from the responses of certain posters on this site that they are dancing to his tune.

      1. So you’re not happy because people are not dancing to your tune …

  7. “I think when penalty points were introduced, it was to avoid dangerous drivers”

    Whilst I do not recall specifically what the original stated purpose was, it is not a great system for purely “dangerous drivers” in my opinion. If that were the case I would think something more along the lines of a maximum of two points before being penalised is more appropriate, with offences earning 1, 2, or 3 points.

    Truly dangerous driving should not be without consequence after repeated infringment.

    1. It was for drivers like Grosjean who made Max a schoolboy driver…..

  8. Captain_Slow
    5th July 2024, 8:15

    Never been the biggest fan of everything Alonso voices, but this one is right on the mark.

    We want more racing and overtaking – and when we get it, we penalize the ones that creates the spectacle.

    The current system is hurting the sport and should be revised. Not saying removed or binned – but made more appropriate and to the point.

    If you take away all incidents where a driver got penalty point or could have, as well as all the turn 1 discussions about who was to blame – you end up with nothing! – Because it is no longer motorsport.

Comments are closed.