The number of penalties being issued to Formula One drivers continues to grow year-on-year. The total number of penalties issued last season exceeded 100 for the first time.
This came about largely due to a substantial increase in the number of penalties issued for power unit component changes. The two McLaren drivers collected a total of 310 grid place penalties over the season chiefly for this reason and the Red Bull drivers received 125.
The number of penalties issued because of driving infringements was largely unchanged compared to the previous season:
F1’s stewards have become much busier over the previous five years. Last season 163 incidents were investigated, more than two-and-a-half times as many as there was during 2011.
Unsurprisingly the leading causes of driver penalties is incidents with other drivers: causing a collision or forcing them off the track. Other leading causes of penalties are speeding – past yellow flags, in the pits or behind the Safety Car – leaving the track and impeding.
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The rise in penalties has prompted criticism from some, notably Fernando Alonso who at the end of last year compared F1 unfavourably with other motor sports after being penalised in Abu Dhabi. “I think these kind of decisions they need to make a little bit more sense than what they are doing now,” he said, “because I don’t see this in WEC, in Moto GP and other categories that are much more fun than us.”
However while penalties have become more commonplace they have arguably become more lenient and more consistent as well. In recent seasons stewards have been given new powers to issue more lenient penalties than they used to, and they have increasingly taken advantage of them:
This could be seen as a step forward in two respects. The time taken to drive through the pits is much higher at a track like Singapore (24.7 seconds) than Spa (17.4 seconds), so the impact of a drive-through penalty is much greater at some tracks than others. A five or ten-second penalty is not only less damaging to a driver’s race, it is consistent in severity from event to event.
And while there will always be complains from drivers, teams and their fans about rulings on specific incidents, there have been fewer alarmingly contentious decisions of late than there was in some late-2000s races before driver stewards were introduced.
A good example of this is the rise in incidents being settled informally by drivers being advised by the race director to relinquish a position which was gained by going off the track – something the previous FIA president insisted was not possible following one especially controversial decision.
Over to you
Are too many penalties being issued in F1? Should drivers receive penalties due to problems with their cars that are beyond their control? Have your say in the comments.
You can find a full breakdown of investigations and penalties during 2015 here:
Notes on the data: Minor, non-racing infringements such as fines for pit lane speeding during practice not included.
2015 F1 season
- How a secret Mercedes engine mode helped pressure Vettel into a race-ending puncture
- Over 100 driver penalties issued in record-breaking 2015
- Part-time racer? The facts of Hamilton’s ‘jet-set lifestyle’
- A unique atmosphere: Going to the Italian Grand Prix at Monza
- The Complete F1 Fanatic 2015 season review