The current Formula One season has seen grid penalties handed out for all sorts of reasons, from gearbox changes to causing collisions to impeding drivers during qualifying. At this weekend’s Korean Grand Prix, Marussia’s Charles Pic becomes the first driver to receive a grid penalty for an engine change.
Each driver is permitted to use eight engines per season, and may choose freely when to use each available engine. For every additional engine used, however, the driver will incur a ten-place grid penalty for the race at which it is first used. Pic will use his ninth Cosworth engine of the season on Sunday, and therefore receives the prescribed penalty.
For a front-runner, a ten-place penalty would be extremely damaging. For Charles Pic, however, the penalty will have very little impact. A qualifying position of 14th or lower will result in the Frenchman starting last on the grid. Considering that his best qualifying result of the year so far is 19th, Pic’s only task in qualifying is to be within 107% of the fastest time in Q1, which should not be a problem even on the prime tyres – on option tyres in Q1 for last week’s Japanese Grand Prix, Pic was three seconds quicker than the 107% time. He can therefore save an additional set of supersoft tyres for the race.
Despite the lack of impact on Charles Pic’s weekend, penalties for engine changes are likely to become topical in the next few weeks, particularly among the front-running teams where grid position could have a material effect on the outcome of the championship. Fernando Alonso or Sebastian Vettel would be very unhappy to have an extra ten cars to pass at the start of a race.
After being hauled in front of the stewards to explain their engine maps, Red Bull will be relieved to have no action taken against their drivers for today’s German Grand Prix.
FIA technical delegate Jo Bauer had examined the RB8 engine maps and found evidence that suggested that Red Bull were attempting to gain an aerodynamic advantage by blowing more air through the exhaust than was required to produce the demanded torque at full throttle at mid-range revs.
Christian Horner was surprised to hear that his team was being investigated, and his confidence in the legality of the RB8 proved justified as the stewards decided not to impose any penalties on the Red Bull drivers.
Sebastian Vettel will start second, with Mark Webber eighth after qualifying third and receiving a five-place gird penalty for changing his gearbox.
Red Bull have been referred to the stewards at the German Grand Prix for having illegal engine maps.
FIA technical delegate Jo Bauer examined the engine maps on both RB8 cars and considered them to be in breach of Article 5.5.3 of the 2012 Formula One Technical Regulations as he found the maximum torque output in a certain range of revs to be significantly less than the engines are known to be capable of producing.
In addition, Jo Bauer considered that the illegal engine maps would also alter the aerodynamic characteristics of the cars, which is illegal under this season’s regulations.
The stewards are currently looking into the potential breach, which could result in penalties for Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber. If the cars are found to be illegal, Vettel and Webber may be excluded from the results of qualifying and demoted to the back of the grid. They may even be required to start from the pitlane, as they would be required to change the engine maps for the race, which would put them in breach of parc ferme regulations.
It seems unlikely that the Red Bulls will not be allowed to race.
James Calado goes into this coming weekend’s German round of the GP2 series with a ten-place grid penalty for the Feature Race after being found guilty of causing a collision with Max Chilton at the last round in Great Britain.
In the Sprint Race at Silverstone, Calado and Chilton spent the race moving towards each other from opposite ends of the starting grid.While running tenth on the penultimate lap, Calado had a much better run than Chilton out of Copse corner and drew partly alongside on the way into Maggotts. On the exit of the corner, the cars touched, causing both to spin out of the race.
It was an ambitious move from Calado, which almost succeeded due to the awareness of Chilton, who allowed Calado just enough room make it through the corner on track. The contact was unfortunate, but was it really enough to earn a grid penalty for Calado?
GP2 is the primary feeder series for Formula One, which means that these drivers could find themselves at the pinnacle of motorsport a year or two from now. With that in mind, it seems logical that they should be encouraged to race each other to the limit, in order to provide the most entertaining and competitive racing possible. In this case, the move was unlikely to succeed, but it displayed opportunism and good aggression. Those are desirable qualities in a racing driver. Calado would have done better to stay as close as possible to Chilton through Chapel corner and attempt a pass into Stowe, but it is easy to come to that conclusion with the benefit of hindsight. In the race, he saw an opportunity and went for it, and it didn’t work out.
If anyone is to blame, it is Calado, simply because of how little chance he had of making the move work, but a ten-place grid penalty seems rather harsh for what is really just a racing incident.