Following farcical scenes in Monza and Spa where almost half the drivers suffered grid drop penalties for breaches of the power unit regulations, Formula One’s governing body is considering amending the engine penalty system. For this seasons 22 race schedule the teams are allowed the following components.
ICE: Each driver is permitted three internal combustion engines
TC: Each driver is permitted three turbochargers
ES: Each driver is permitted two Energy Stores.
MGU-H: Each driver is permitted three Motor Generator Units-Heat
MGU-K: Each driver is permitted three Motor Generator Units-Kinetic.
CE: Each driver is permitted two Control Electronics.
For the 2023 F1 season the allowances will increase by 1 due to the 24 race calendar.
The rules for calculating so many different grid drop penalties appeared to confuse the FIA stewards who took almost 4 hours following Monza qualifying to issue the official starting line up for the Sunday GP.
F1 overcomplicated engine rules
This sorry state of affairs created a paddock debate over whether the current rules for penalising teams is in fact over complicated and fit for purpose.
Mercedes realised in 2021 that Lewis Hamilton had taken his first power unit penalty and suffered a 10 place grid drop and that any subsequent ‘over the limit’ component would result in only a 5 place grid drop. So at altitude they took another penalty in Brazil and the difference in performance between Hamilton with a new PU and the rest of the field was remarkable.
Despite having played the system, Toto Wolff now thinks, “We need to reconsider when the engine cap kicks in.”
Having a tighter budget from Stuttgart these days Wolff realises an unlimited supply of power units is not acceptable.
“But still, we don’t want to have an arms race on engines being brought because whatever freedom they give us, we will do it and we will do it even more strategically,” said the Mercedes boss.
“If [a penalty] is only five or 10 places, we will blow an engine every race because it is going to be three-tenths [of a second] quicker than the one before. So there needs to be a certain deterrent,” he added.
The problem the FIA are considering is there is no financial penalty for excessive power unit spend. This was something Mercedes in particular resisted when the cost cap rules were created.
Yet new Toto appears to have had a change of heart.
“On the chassis side, we are cost capped. We weren’t before. On the engine side, we are not cost-capped yet. If there are no grid penalties, we would have qualifying engines – not five but 20. The big teams would spend what they want in order to have an advantage and that is why there needs to be a certain factor that avoids that. That is where it is coming from.”
F1 Penalties end up not being taken
The problem in Monza was certain penalties could not be taken.
Max Verstappen – 5 places
Esteban Ocon – 5 places
Sergio Perez – 10 places
Valtteri Bottas – 15 places
Mick Schumacher- 15 places
Kevin Magnussen- 15 places
Yuki Tsunoda – back of grid
Lewis Hamilton – back of grid
Carlos Sainz – back of grid
For example, Valterri Bottas 15 place grid drop saw him serve just a 3 place penalty due to others who had ‘back of the grid’ super penalties.
Even more perverse was Kevin Magnussen who qualified 19th, took a 15 place grid drop but started 3 places ahead of his qualifying slot in P16.
Ferrari boss Mattia Binotto believes the rules make no sense and need to be revisited.
“It took that long because there are different interpretations and the regulation is not clear enough,” said the Italian.
“That’s something we need to address certainly for the future. I think not only how we decide the grid position based on the penalties, but the amount of penalties we’ve got is too many as well. Maybe the three PUs per driver is too little for what we have achieved – maybe it needs to be reconsidered for the next seasons.”
TJ13 suggests the farcical nature of penalties not being served is more ridiculous than the complicated grid drop rules.
Simply, no matter how many race weekends it takes, the driver should be forced to take the grid drop penalties awarded.
In this example Keving Magnussen would still be required to serve his 15 grid drop places together with the benefit places he gained from others receiving bigger penalties than he did.
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