Tag Archive | penalty

Maldonado’s unfortunate penalty

Pastor Maldonado has been handed a ten-place grid penalty for today’s Brazilian Grand Prix after receiving his third reprimand of the season from the stewards. The reprimand was issued after Maldonado missed a call to the weigh bridge as he entered the pits during yesterday’s qualifying session.

The weigh bridge is there to ensure legality of the cars during the competitive sessions. An underweight car would be a huge advantage, particularly in qualifying where the cars are already running as light as possible. The officials conduct random checks on cars during Q1 and Q2, and all cars taking part in Q3 are weighed after the end of the session. The procedure for calling a driver to the weigh bridge during a session involves a red light at the pit lane entrance and an official indicating which way the car should go. If the driver does not see the light or official – bear in mind that the driver is approaching the pitlane at considerable speed, not always in a straight line, and sometimes (as in Brazil) while cresting a hill – he will receive a reprimand. Three reprimands during the season earn the driver a ten-place grid penalty.

The problem with calling a driver to the weigh bridge during qualifying is that it costs time, which puts that driver at a disadvantage compared to his competitors. In the case of Maldonado, he was 13th in the session with only seven minutes remaining in Q2. He would have been acutely aware of the need to get back to his pit garage, put some new tyres on, let the team make any changes or add fuel if necessary, and get on with the business of delivering a quick lap. A delay at the weigh bridge would have cost him valuable time, particularly if the team needed to make any minor changes to the car.

While the weigh bridge serves an important purpose, the way it is currently used results in random drivers being disadvantaged in the name of scrutineering. There is also an obvious communication problem, which clearly needs to be resolved. A simple call to the team to inform their driver over the radio that he must report to the weigh bridge seems quite logical and could completely avoid the need for petty penalties.

Nonetheless, the rules are clear, even if the mode of communication is not. Maldonado missed the weigh bridge, earning him a third reprimand, and resulting therefore in a ten-place grid-penalty. He will now start the race 16th, after qualifying an impressive sixth.

Hamilton takes pole, Vettel excluded from qualifying

Red Bull may have dominated the last four races, but in qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, they had no answer to the raw pace of Lewis Hamilton, as he took pole position by a third of a second from Mark Webber. Sebastian Vettel was third, but that was all about to change as he stopped his car on track at the end of qualifying which led to an investigation by the stewards.

Hamilton’s pole position was not entirely unexpected. The McLaren has looked quick on the Yas Marina track all weekend, particularly so in the hands of Lewis Hamilton. He topped the first and third practice sessions, and was second to Vettel in the second Friday session. On his pole lap, Hamilton even had a couple of small oversteer moments, which would have cost him time. In other words, he could have gone even faster.

Hamilton’s weekend may be going well, but for Sebastian Vettel everything seems to be going wrong. The reigning World Champion was stuck in the Red Bull garage for most of FP3 with a brake problem, which seriously curtailed his qualifying preparation. In qualifying, Vettel could only manage the third fastest time, behind his own team-mate Mark Webber and pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton.

But when Vettel’s car came to a halt on track at the end of Q3, his third place was immediately in jeopardy. The regulations are clear. A fuel sample must be available from each car at the end of qualifying, and each car must return to the pits under its own power unless the team can prove a case of force majeure to the stewards.

It was Renault, Red Bull’s engine supplier, who had requested that Vettel stop on track. The stewards accepted that there was a genuine case of force majeure and did not penalise him for stopping. However, it turned out that there was insufficient fuel left in Vettel’s car to provide the required fuel sample, and Vettel was accordingly excluded from the results of qualifying, in accordance with the regulations. He is therefore demoted to the back of the grid, and Red Bull have confirmed that they will elect to start Vettel from the pit lane, which allows the team to make setup changes to the car.

Vettel’s woes play straight into the hands of Fernando Alonso. Red Bull look comfortably quicker than Ferrari at this stage of the season and that makes a straight fight between Vettel and Alonso fairly predictable. Alonso therefore needs some Red Bull misfortune, and that is precisely what has occurred this weekend. Alonso has a 13 point deficit to overturn if he is to win the title, and he is perfectly placed to do just that in this weekend’s race.

For Formula One fans, both at the track and at home, Vettel’s penalty provides the promise of a thrilling race. Vettel has a quick car, he is the current double World Champion, and he has the motivation to fight for a good result. All of that means that viewers will likely be treated to a unique and inspiring drive from the Red Bull driver tomorrow. No driver in history has won from 24th on the grid. Could Vettel be the first?

Pic gets first engine change penalty of 2012

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.

Vettel’s penalty was deserved

After Sunday’s German Grand Prix, in which he crossed the line second, Sebastian Vettel had 20 seconds added to his race time for an illegal pass on Jenson Button. The penalty pushed Vettel all the way down to fifth in the race results.

The incident happened on the penultimate lap, on the exit of the Spitzkehre hairpin. Vettel had drawn alongside Button before the corner with the aid of DRS. Button held the inside line, and reached the corner exit fractionally in front of Vettel. It became obvious that Vettel would run wide on the corner exit, which he did, to the point where all four tyres of the Red Bull were outside the white line that defines the limits of the track. Vettel kept his foot down, and managed to rejoin the track in front of Button.

A driver may not gain an advantage from running off the track. That much is very clear in the rules of Formula One. Had Vettel not run off the track, he would have had to back out of the throttle and fall into line behind Button. It was clear that the pass could not have been completed without the use of the run-off area. Vettel had obviously gained an advantage, and he was duly penalised.

It seems a little strange that Red Bull did not get on the radio to Vettel to tell him to let Button back past. They should have known immediately – as Button, McLaren, the BBC commentary team and the viewing public knew – that Vettel would likely receive a penalty that would cost him more than just the one position. If he had surrendered the position, no action would have been taken against him.

At this stage of the championship, with Alonso so dominant at the front, 15 points for third place would have been invaluable. Instead, Vettel walked away with only ten points, and fell even further behind the championship leader.

No action taken against Red Bull

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.

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