FIA grid drop rule change for US GP

The governing body of Formula One has sought to clarify the highly complex grid drop penalty system most frequently applied for drivers’ exceeding the legal amount of power unit components. At the Belgium GP and 2 weeks later in Italy, around half the field had grid drop penalties making the final classified starting order for the Gp on Sunday confusing for the fans.

Yet in classic FIA fashion, whilst they’ve cleaned up the in the margins, substantive nonsensical penalties still apply. 

A driver qualifying P15 can receive a 10 grid drop penalty and because others ahead of him are receiving back of the grid or 15 place grid drop punishments, he can end up not serving his grid drop penalty at all and starting even ahead of where he qualifies.



FIA attempt to make F1 grid drops easier to understand

No matter. The FIA has now decided on a new approach to calculating the grid following penalties. This has been ratified and will come into effect from this weekends GP in Austin.

Here are the cold hard rules.

a) Classified drivers who have received 15 or less cumulative grid penalties will be allocated a temporary grid position equal to their Qualifying Classification plus the sum of their grid penalties. If two or more drivers share a temporary grid position, their relative order will be determined in accordance with their Qualifying Classification, with the slowest driver keeping their allocated temporary grid position, and the other drivers getting temporary grid positions immediately ahead of them.

b) Following the allocation of temporary grid positions to penalised drivers in accordance with (a), unpenalised classified drivers will be allocated any unoccupied grid position, in the sequence of their Qualifying Classification.

c) Following the allocation of grid positions to unpenalised classified drivers, penalised drivers with a temporary grid position, as defined in (a), will be moved up to fill any unoccupied grid position.

d) Classified drivers who have accrued more than 15 cumulative grid position penalties, or who have been penalised to start at the back of the grid, will start behind any other classified driver. Their relative position will be determined in accordance with their Qualifying Classification.

e) Unclassified drivers who have been permitted to participate by the Stewards will be allocated grid positions behind all the classified drivers. Their relative positions will be determined in accordance with Article 39.3 (b).



15 grid drop penalties now start behind non penalised drivers

It appear the most significant change in the grid drop allocations system is those with a 15. Place penalty will now in fact start behind any classified driver with no grid drop.

15 or more grid drops will start ahead only of those drivers’ with a “back of the grid” penalty.

The new method is equally as convoluted as the previous one.



Is this FIA rule change any easier?

Translating the FIA speak we believe the system will establish first a “temporary grid position” for drivers who have been penalised with a 15 place grid drop or less.

If drivers in the “temporary grid” end up sharing a position, the quicker driver in qualifying will move one place forward.

Back of the grid penalties mean exactly that – back of the grid.

So after the “temporary grid” is calculated, the non penalised drivers will slot into place.

If their qualifying position is occupied by a penalised driver they will move forward to the first free place on the “temporary grid”.



Actual F1 penalties often not served in full

The problem is when multiple teams decide to take power unit penalties at certain circuit where overtaking is much easier, most drivers never serve their actual penalty in full.

Other motorsports series force drivers to take their unfulfilled grid drops over as many races as is required so the full penalty is in fact served.

This feels like another FIA ‘need to act’ following the confusion at Spa and Monza, though with further consideration an overall better grid drop penalty system could be introduced.

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5 responses to “FIA grid drop rule change for US GP

  1. Grid drop penalties should be applied in Q1. So if you have a 15 place penalty but are 2nd fastest in Q1… you are dropped to p17 and do not make Q2. So you don’t even go out.

    That way if the top 5 have penalties, at least the bottom have a chance to shine in Q2 and maybe Q1 with less traffic on the track.

    • It are grid penalties, not qualifying penalties. It is an interesting alternative though. Personally i think the grid penalties should be converted to time penalties. For instance 5 seconds for every place grid penalty. The ‘5’ is something you can tweak during the season.

  2. I believe the new rule only applies if there is an ‘r’ in the month, unless there are 5 Wednesdays in the month after. This is to make it easier to remember.

  3. I agree that something like a 5 second penalty added to there qualifying time would be fairer and easier to implement.

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