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No real alternative to "confusing" engine rules

NEWS STORY
31/10/2021

As engine penalty rules leave some fans confused, team bosses believe the current systems is the best for now.

Some GP weekends we publish a starting grid guide due to the numerous penalties handed out, especially in the latter stages of the season.

Fact is, the penalties are not straightforward, with some confused as to why one driver drops 5-places, another 10, and a third is demoted to the back of the grid.

Of course, while the size of the grid drop depends on the amount of new components taken on, it is complicated by the fact that in terms of the ICE, Turbocharger, MGU-H and MGU-K the first additional component nets a 10-place drop whilst further components only warrant a 5-place penalty.

While it is a lot better than the old system that saw drivers handed grid drops of 30 or 40 places, many feel it is unnecessarily complicated and uneven.

However, team bosses feel it is the best of a bad lot.

To further add to the confusion, as has been the case at a couple of recent races, teams have opted to take on new components, and the consequent penalty, for strategic reasons.

"The penalty system on power units is pretty robust," says Toto Wolff. "What we need to avoid is that we are building power units in a way that they perform at peak performance for only a few races."

Since the introduction of the rules, some have argued that the penalties, which are all about reliability, should be incurred by the teams as opposed to the driver.

"If you change regulations, and you say ‘okay, there is no grid penalty for the driver, but just constructor points', it will still mean that teams, if you're in a fight for a driver championship, will just throw engines at that car," argues Wolff.

"If we come up with good solutions definitely it is worth looking at," he adds. "It's confusing for the new fans why, out of the driver's responsibility, an engine penalty puts him at the back of the grid, or ten or five-places away, and that's clearly not great, but I haven't got the solutions."

The Mercedes boss is also not in favour of a flat penalty regardless of the number of elements used.

"When you are in a situation that it's just going terribly wrong and you need to change engine parts or complete power units, you shouldn't be penalised every single race to go to the back of the grid or lose 10 places," he told Speedcafe.com. "It's almost an anti-embarrassment regulation and I think that's okay, but obviously we need to look at that, how we do it in the future."

"I obviously get the point that it is not ideal having all these penalties," said McLaren's Andreas Seidl. "But to be honest, I do not really see a straightforward solution to that because for example if you will decide let's go to four engines engine instead of three. We will end up all with five engines, because we would just crank up the engines.

"In the end, it just shows that all the manufacturer teams are pushing each other so hard that we all push the technology we're using to the absolute limit or beyond and that's what ends then in issues or problems. So we simply have to accept that at the moment, and get on with it."

"I've never been a fan of two engines or three engines," admits Christian Horner, as Red Bull prepares to enter the sport as a manufacturer.

"For me, you end up using four pretty much in a season anyway, so it's something we need to look at for the future."

From next year until the introduction of the new engine formula in 2025/2026, power unit development is frozen, which is another reason the manufacturers and teams are risking penalties as the current season comes to an end.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by kenji, 02/11/2021 0:14

"@ Rock Doc... Sorry to say but that's wrong, IMO. It's two championships. WDC and WCC and as long as that is maintained then F1 cannot be correctly described as a team event. There is no better example of this than when drivers are given swap orders that favor one particular driver even if they are running one 1/2. If it was a genuine team event then there would be no individual WDC just a team Championship and all drivers for that team are accorded a WDC result if they win...similar to WEC where it works very well indeed. That system ensures that all drivers at all times are really team drivers as it becomes self defeating if they are not. Time for change....but the old timers would object."

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2. Posted by Rock Doc, 01/11/2021 13:02

"As regrettable as it is this is essentially a team sport so the driver and the team should be linked. It's unfortunate but if you take the driver out of the equation the teams would be more likely to swap out engines.

The penalty should be felt by the whole team and the driver is part of the team.

Personally I think they cut the number of engines too much. Also any crashes incurred as a result of another driver should result in a free engine change."

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3. Posted by kenji, 31/10/2021 23:35

"I would favour some sort of penalty linked to constructors points, that way the drivers are not penalised but the teams are. The only flaw with that system though is that not every team is a manu. Also what about the teams at the bottom of the grid who never actually get into double figures at all? That wouldn't really matter as even with new engines they never feature anyway...yes, deduct constructors points and see what happens. It couldn't be worse than it is ATM."

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