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My Proposals For F1 Penalty Systems For 2012

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Thundery wintry showers


I've been quite a big critic of the F1 penalties for wheel-to-wheel incidents this year, although having recently seen the "Senna" movie, we are still in a much better position than we were a couple of decades ago, when inconsistency was rife, relatively minimal penalties like drive-throughs didn't exist and some drivers got away with a lot while others got banned for multiple races.

While the introduction of lesser penalties such as drive-throughs and time penalties are a positive thing, I think they've led to the rulemakers feeling compelled to give out penalties for the slightest infringements. I think this fails to acknowledge the fact that, if drivers are racing wheel to wheel and have to make split second decisions, there will always be the occasional misjudgement, and that while dangerous driving is unacceptable, a modest amount of controversial collisions helps to increase interest in the sport by generating talking points. There is also a lot of "penalising by result" going on, i.e. if you try a risky pass that might cause an accident if the other driver doesn't get out of the way, you get a drive-through if the driver refuses to give way, but nothing if he does.

The latest Hamilton-Massa incident, where Massa got a drive-through because "he could have avoided the collision by giving way", used to be known as a classic example of a "racing incident", even though Massa was primarily responsible for the collision, because traditionally if the other driver isn't fully alongside you, you aren't obliged to give way. The current drive-through regime appears to have led to a subtle change in that code of racing ethics. I wouldn't mind so much if it was just a one-off change, but in reality we are seeing a slow incremental tightening of the rules regarding what racing ethics are and aren't acceptable.

Thus, my proposals are as follows:

1. Dangerous and/or deliberate causing of collisions- grid drop for the next race, ranging from 5 place drop to starting from last place, open to stewards' discretion depending on the extent to which the incident was dangerous and/or deliberate.

2. Inadvertantly causing a collision without mitigating circumstances (e.g. not trying a pass and not slippery conditions)- drive through, plus one "penalty point" against driver's name.

3. Contributing to collision or inadvertantly causing one while trying a bold pass or during slippery conditions- stewards to take no action, but give one "penalty point" against driver's name.

4. If accident was not easily avoidable, no action and no penalty points.

5. More than a certain number of "penalty points" within a season- 5 place grid drop for the next race. I would suggest a total of 3 or 4. After a grid drop the counter is then reset to 0 and the process rinses and repeats to the end of the season.

The idea of this is to allow "racing incidents" to happen without resulting in a long series of drive-throughs, but to also ensure that drivers who get involved in a disproportionate number of them, in which they are at least partly to blame, face punishment after an accumulation of them. For instance, under my proposals, Lewis Hamilton might well have seen out the 2011 season with just one or two drive-throughs, but he would have amassed enough penalty points for two, maybe even three, 5 place grid drops. Michael Schumacher would probably only have seen one 5 place grid drop while the likes of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button would probably have seen out the season without any penalties at all.

I have no objections with the penalties for things like speeding in the pitlane and ignoring flags though.
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The main issue these days is that drivers dont tend to give the room and close the door if another driver is attempting to make a pass on too many occasions. Part of this is due to the fact that the driver attempting to make the pass will often be handed the penalty if there is a collision. Maldonado and Hamilton at Monaco was a prime example of this, where Maldonado turned in extremely early despite the fact that he undoubtably knew Hamilton was there. We've also seen drivers who accidentally ran into the back of someone else recieve a drive-through when their race is ruined because of having to pit for a new front wing anyway.

This handing out of penalties is only the tip of the iceberg though. We've seen situations in recent years where safety cars come in too late in rainy conditions, so much so that drivers almost immediately have to pit for intermediates as the track has little standing water. Im all for good safety but it has become so extreme (and tracks with massive concrete runoffs are another example) that it is taking away from the racing.

My suggestion is just to let the drivers race and stop giving penalties for everything under the sun. Theres been some howlers in recent years by the stewards such as Hamilton at Spa 2008 and Alonso's ridiculous penalty at Silverstone 2010 even though Kubica had retired. It would also help if the regs meant cars werent so reliable on aerodynamics for performance. Give the cars big wide tyres and ground effect aerodynamics and allow the cars to follow closely and race wheel to wheel. We wouldnt need any silly gimmicks like DRS then and drivers might not be so rusty when racecraft skills are required.

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F1 are set to clarify the blocking rule [url="http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/formula_one/16416932.stm"]http://news.bbc.co.u...ne/16416932.stm[/url]

I think stewards should be consistent, and this should also make it easier for fans to understand what is going on. I think that less penalties should be dished out generally as a lot of incidents are racing ones whihc maybe 50/50 or even 60/40.

I think the totting up procedure seems a valid one, and perhaps not so punitive as the current system.

My proposal would be linked to the effect of the incident in the race. A say driver A (4th) crashes with driver B (3rd) and it is drivers A fault.

If Driver A has a broken front wing and driver B continues, then driver has already been punished. then Driver A gets no further penalty.
If Driver A takes 3rd from Driver B, then driver A ordered to relinquish place.
If Driver A takes 3rd from Driver B,and driver B has a broken front wing, then Driver A order to drop back behind Driver B, even if it is 10 places.

Admittedly my proposal would be controversial, and would never be implemented however it would be interesting if it was.

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I find JACKONE's proposal very interesting, though I'm not sure what happens if Driver B retires, as with a couple of Hamilton's incidents at Monaco. If a solution was found for that, then it would probably be a better system than we have now, though as you say, rather controversial. The "if Driver A takes 3rd from Driver B then Driver A ordered to relinquish place" is reminiscent of what happens when someone overtakes by cutting a chicane, though of course we've seen huge controversies over that, e.g. when teams ask if a move is OK, they are told "yes" and then the stewards issue a penalty for it, as in Spa 2008.

One problem with the near zero-tolerance policy with drive-throughs is that consistency does indeed suffer, when stewards are mindful of the fact that a penalty could interfere with the race result. For instance, Michael Schumacher got a couple of warnings after blocking Lewis Hamilton, and while I agreed with the decision, I noted that Lewis Hamilton got a time penalty for the same thing earlier in the season. Similarly, Jenson Button's clash with Fernando Alonso in Canada got no penalty, but there have been similar "60-40" type incidents that did result in a penalty, such as Hamilton-Maldonado in Monaco.

I think it's good to see the rules clarified on one hand, but on the other, I can't help but notice that every clarification is either a tightening of the rules or no significant change. I think that's one major reason why I came up with the "totting up" procedure, as I think progressively tightening rules are best matched with a relaxation of the level of punishment for the smaller offences (especially in a sport where human beings have to make split-second decisions under pressure)- or else the trend towards drive-throughs being given for the slightest thing will continue. To me, it becomes a problem when penalties increasingly overshadow the actual race.

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If I driver were forced to retire would really set the cat amongst the pigeons, probably a drive through AND perhaps a grid drop at the next race.

The main crux to my suggestions is that a driver does not benefit from "causing an accident".

I also think that wherever possible the race result is final, and that any penalty would then be carried forward.

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Thinking about it, my main problem with this proposal would be the increased emphasis on "penalisation by result" (which I identified as a problem this season). We could get a driver in a 60-40 incident who sends the other into retirement and gets a heavy penalty, and a driver in a reckless 100-0 incident who gets lucky in the sense that the other driver just loses the one place.

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