Formula 1 penalty system to get an overhaul

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    Prisoner Monkeys

    Just saw that one as well. Its a big one for me, although the article does not nearly tell us enough of what they are looking at.

    Sure enough its badly needed to have a better look at it. Sometimes the wrong guy gets punished, or its unclear why, or the penalty is far to severe, or lackluster, or handed for something that would have been best put down to a racing incident.
    Worst is though, is that the FIA have never consistently made good on their promise to publish not just single line confirmations of the penalty but actually give the reasoning and information a desicion was based upon.

    What Warwick says sounds quite promising:

    “We had a council meeting in Paris which I headed with Charlie [Whiting] and came away with some good ideas,” Warwick told AUTOSPORT at the FOTA Fans’ Forum at the Williams factory on Tuesday night.
    “There is a code out there but I don’t always agree with it – a drive through is too harsh a penalty for some incidents and not harsh enough for others. There is still room for tweaking.

    Prisoner Monkeys

    I’m anticipating a lot of people rushing in here and shouting “They need to be more consistent!” without actually reading the article. But I think Derek Warwick raises and excellent point in it – the difference between the circuit can often mean penalties have different effects. Michael Schumacher as given a stop-go penalty for a collision with Kobayashi at Silverstone last year because the stewards felt that the short pit lane (compared to the extended section of circuit) meant that a simple drive-through penalty would have been meaningless – and that he could have potentially gained an advantage from it.

    I think the first thing the FIA needs to do is create a reference guide. Define each offence in board terms, and assign a recommended penalty. They should also include a list of factors that can influence how severe the actual penalty is. This is not to give them a bit of wriggle room so they can mete out whatever penalty they feel like, but so that they establish a precedent that may explain why two drivers receive different penalties or similar offences.

    Secondly, I think Formula 1 needs a probation system. If you cause an avoidable accident, you are given a drive-through penalty and notice of monitoring. If you cause another avoidable accident within the next three races, you are given a drive-through penalty and further notice. And if you cause a third avoidable accident within six races, you get black-flagged, summonded to the stewards and asked to explain yourself. Race bans may follow on from there.

    Finally, they definately need some transparency. This really paid off at Canada last year when Hamilton and Button collided. A lot of people thought the stewards were simply targeting Hamilton and that Button should have been penalised instead, but they released a statement explaining exactly why Hamilton was penalised – Button had consistently followed the same racing line through that section for the entire race, and it was a racing line that the driver immediately in front (Michael Schumacher) had also followed. Not only did this explain why the stewards gave Hamilton that penalty, but it also offered some insight into how the stewards approach each incident. Transparency would also go a long way in quelling the internet masses – when Maldonado hit Perez in Monaco free practice, there were a lot of people (both here and on the wider internet) that judged Maldonado to be guilty, accused him of deliberately crashing into the Sauber and demanded a race ban before the stewards even had time to review the incident. Transparency would have helped a lot there, if only because it would have given us something to break down and try to figure out the reasoning for the penalty as it was applied.

    I’m not certain about the drivers’ representative, though. When he was first introduced, we saw drivers getting away with a hell of a lot that the likes of Alan Donnelly (thank the stars they got rid of him!) never would have allowed. Watching Hamilton and Vettel try and out-drag one another down the Shanghai pit lane was fantastic (and we have Johnny Herbert to thank for not intervening), but these days, the penalties seem to be applied at the same rate in past. Maybe it’s just that there are a lot more obvious incidents out there, like Sergio Perez cutting across Kimi Raikkonen to get into the Monaco pit lane.


    “I thought Schumacher should have been banned [following his move on Rubens Barrichello at Hungary 2010] but that wasn’t the vote of the stewards.”

    but warwick has no problem with webber doing the exact same thing. the more things change, the more they stay the same.

    Prisoner Monkeys

    Webber didn’t do the “exact same thing” as Schumacher. He never has. Schumacher forced Barrichello to within an inch of the pit wall at high speed – when did Webber ever do that?

    And even if he did, the stewards clearly review these things on a case-by-case basis. The fans are very quick to point out these so-called “inconsistencies” in the way penalties are applied, but Warwick raises a very good point in that article – that the same penalty applied at two different circuits will have a very different effect. A drive-through at Montreal will not be the same as a drive-through at Abu Dhabi, because the Montreal pit lane is considerably shorter. It would be less of a penalty. So if one driver took the exact same penalty for the exact same offence in Montreal and Abu Dhabi, how is that in any way consistent?


    Webber didn’t do the “exact same thing” as Schumacher. He never has. Schumacher forced Barrichello to within an inch of the pit wall at high speed – when did Webber ever do that?

    Webber against Massa, Japan 2008. He didn’t even get reprimanded for it. But then again, stewards generally go easier on drivers who aren’t named Schumacher or Hamilton.

    Prisoner Monkeys


    stewards generally go easier on drivers who aren’t named Schumacher or Hamilton

    This ties in with what I was saying earlier about harsher sentences for repeat offenders.

    Let’s say Schumacher got a drive-through penalty for that incident with Barrichello in Hungary, but then did the exact same thing to, say, Kamui Kobayashi two races later at Monza. Would a drive-through penalty for Schumacher be justified here? Certainly. But would it be appropriate? Certainly not. Schumacher did something stupid in Hugary and got penalised for it. When he does it again in Italy, it’s obvious that he didn’t learn his lesson the first time around, and so a harsher penalty is needed.

    The stewards don’t target Hamilton and Schumacher because they are Hamilton and Schumacher. Lewis Hamilton is one of the most-aggressive drivers in the sport, and he is involved in more incidents than any other driver on the grid. Since all racing incidents are investigated, the stewards aren’t targeting Hamilton. He’s just involved in most of them. One has to ask why that is, so the stewards are taking a hard line against him because he’s a repeat offender. And the same goes for Schumacher – he is one of the most ruthless and uncompromising drivers the sport has ever seen. Like Hamilton, he gets himself into a lot of incidents, and so gets harsher penalties because he is in and out of the stewards’ office on a pretty regular basis.

    To draw an analogy, I have a year 7 class at the moment who can be particularly disruptive. I usually have them before recess or before lunch, which has led to me introducing a system with them: for every minute of time that they waste, I take back a minute of their recess or lunch, and keep them in after the bell has rung. They can earn their minutes back by completing their work (and completing it quietly), but they all have to work together in order to get out of class on time. Conversely, it only takes one person misbehaving to get more minutes added to their tally. Yes, it’s deliberately stacked against them, but the point of the exercise is not to keep them in after the bell. The point of the exercise is to get them to realise that they need to complete all of their work and complete it quietly if they want to go to lunch. If the bell goes and there are minutes on the board, then they stay back, but most of the time, they pull themselves together, get through their work, and leave when the bell goes.

    It’s the same thing here. The stewards aren’t giving Hamilton and Schumacher harsh penalties for the sake of penalising them. They’re handing out harsh penalties to get the drivers to realise that they need to pull themselves together.


    I think the driver steward thing needs to be looked at too. It’s inconsistent, in that sometimes you have Alain Prost, and sometimes you have Nigel Mansell. They obviously have different values which to them is within acceptable boundaries.


    Having the same steward in the panel will expose favoritism which is worse than awarding inconsistent punishments.

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