James From Official Merchandise
Penalties, they have been a hot topic in Formula 1 for some 3 seasons now, and to many fans dismay, continue to become more and more inconsistent – this year being a prime example of this. It is here that I decided to team up with Rosie Baillie and battle the subject, not only evaluating past incidents (what I will be covering) but also possible solutions (What Rosie will be covering).
Penalties in 2012
This 2012 F1 season has certainly gave way to some interesting stories off the track, the biggest of which was solved last Friday when Lewis did indeed finally state he would be moving off to Mercedes for 2013. However the action on track (more importantly the incidents) have definitely caused conflicting opinions by many sets of fans, however all seem to be in agreement over one subject; that being the inconsistency still of penalties.
The two main culprits for this season have been the ever under fire Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado and Lotus driver – Romain Grosjean. The two most talked about incidents from these two are of course the incident in Valencia where Pastor Maldonado collided with McLaren’s Lewis Hamliton late on and Grosjean’s Grand Prix flight over Alonso at La Source. Now while Romain’s move across the track at the start of the Belgian Grand Prix was slightly rash and did cause a substantial collision, did it really warrant a 1 race ban, remember this a punishment that has not been handed out in 18 years? Especially when we consider that many fans think Pastor’s move, across the turn 11 chicane at Valencia, was extremely cynical yet only warranted a 20 second time penalty after the race.
What is incredibly interesting however is the reputation that Maldonado has achieved over his GP career. He is considered a far greater danger to his competitors than the French driver – a reputation that has stuck with the Venezuelan for over 10 years now from all feeder series. How could a driver that has purposely driven into another competitor during a session (Spa 2011 with Hamilton) not receive a ban ahead of a driver whose actions were one of no malice intent?
Schumacher Loves Singapore
Now of course the most recent decision was that from Singapore where we saw Michael Schumacher fly over the back of the Torro Rosso of Jean Eric Vergne going into Turn 14. It eerily echoed an incident of some 12 months ago where he flew over Sergio Perez going into Turn 7 in similar circumstances, and one which was incredibly similar to that of his and Senna’s collision in Barcelona where he decided once again to take up flying lessons.
Now on face value it does seem that 10 place grid drop for Japan does seem a bit harsh considering the German held his hands up and admitted it was his mistake, however I think stewards looked to his previous incidents not only with Senna during the Spanish GP earlier in the season, but also with Perez the previous year in Singapore. From that point of view you could argue the stewards had no other choice to make, but when you consider a 10 place grid drop has been given for numerous cynical collisions by Maldonado, it does beg the question – where is the consistency?
Did Schumacher’s collision with Jean Eric have the same malice intent as Maldonado’s? I don’t think so and it is there where I feel we have a problem. Schumacher’s was a clear mistake yet much greater incidents with signalled intent yield the same penalty?
So how can we solve this problem of the same penalties being awarded to drivers who have warranted it far less than others? Well It is something that Rosie will go on to explain in her section below.
Rosie Baillie From Niawm
Last weekend under the floodlights of Marina Bay, Michael Schumacher locked up his breaks going into Turn 14 and careered into the back of Jean-Eric Vergne, instantly ending his race.
Following the race, Schumacher received a 10 place grid penalty for next weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix, which seems a little harsh for an accident, so what should be done to drivers who make silly mistakes?
Schumacher and Vergne’s incident was a daft mistake on Schumacher’s part, but once his brakes were locked up there wasn’t really a lot he could do to avoid running into the back of Vergne. I was impressed with the sportsmanship Vergne showed when he dealt with it, and as he said, there’s no point getting angry over it, it wouldn’t change anything.
I think a 10 place grid penalty was far too harsh, especially when you consider the amount of stupid mistakes Pastor Maldonado’s made and has only gone on to receive 5 place grid penalties.
For daft mistakes, which I constitute as one a driver could have easily avoided, by slowing down or moving out of the way, they could be handed a 3 place grid penalty.
I think for mistakes which end the race of another driver, there should be more serious consequences, such as knocking their finishing position down by two or three places.
We’ve seen drivers such as Pastor Maldonado continuously make silly mistakes, which makes many people wonder how on earth he deserves a drive in Formula 1.
What can be done to try and make F1 drivers make less stupid mistakes.
We’ve seen Maldonado make mistake after mistake over the past two years, with many drivers stating that he doesn’t learn from his mistakes.
At the moment steward inconsistency means that drivers don’t really know what the consequences of their actions could be. It could be anything from a grid drop for the next race, or a post-race 20 second time penalty, which may not even make a difference to their finishing position, or they may get away with it entirely.
In the UK when we take our driving test, we have a score card and if we make one serious mistake (known as a major) we automatically fail the test and we are allowed 15 ‘minor’ mistakes before we fail the test.
Perhaps a similar thing can be implemented in Formula 1?
Drivers would be given a ‘report card’ as such, and over the season any reprimands or penalties they are given would be marked on as ‘minor’ or ‘major’ mistakes.
A major mistake would be something extremely dangerous, serious or deliberate, such as Pastor Maldonado’s move across Lewis Hamilton at last year’s Belgian Grand Prix. Drivers would be allowed two of these before they started to receive race bans or even a year long ban from the sport.
Minor mistakes would be the kinds of things we usually see drive through penalties or grid drops for, such as Schumacher and Vergne’s incident. Drivers would be allowed a certain number of these, for example 10 minors over a season. If they reached 10 minors, they could then be reviewed for a race ban or large fine for making too many silly mistakes.
This isn’t instead of drivers receiving penalties, it’s alongside it to keep a tab on which drivers are continuing to make silly mistakes and ensure they are penalised correctly.
Formula 1 is supposedly the pinnacle of motorsport, and while drivers are only human and will of course make mistakes occasionally, we shouldn’t be seeing drivers making the same mistakes race upon race.
I would like to thank Rosie for her continued support in the Official Merchandise blog by contributing some fantastic work to share; these joint articles provide me to compare opinion between two seasoned Formula 1 followers for the enjoyment of you the readers.
To follow Rosie’s fantastic blog please visit:http://www.niawm.co.uk/
To follow her on Twitter: @Rosie_Niawm