Formula One’s grid penalties are meant to punish teams for having reliability issues, but one former driver says the system also has various adverse side effects.
Former Red Bull Racing driver Mark Webber recently told Motorsport.com that, while handing racers grid-spot penalties does handicap teams, the sanctions unfairly punish drivers, and negatively impact “the show.” F1 issues such penalties when a team exceeds its allotment of power unit components, largely as a cost-control measure.
“There have been so many ridiculous penalties over the last five years that the driver has had nothing to do with, and it’s had a big impact on how the weekend would have been in terms of entertainment,” Webber said.
The idea behind forcing somebody to start further down the grid is that they also likely will finish further down the order than they otherwise would, which costs their team constructor points. As a result, though, the driver also walks away with fewer championship points, despite the fact that their car’s reliability is out of their hands.
There admittedly are instances, such as an ill-timed downshift, in which a driver error could be responsible for damaging components, but the majority of mechanical failures aren’t preventable.
“If a mechanic has put a brake disc in the wrong way, and a driver is at the back of the grid,” Webber said, via Motorsport.com.
The Aussie reportedly suggests this not only impacts the driver championship, but also the viewership experience.
“A lot of people don’t watch qualifying, they turn on (a race) and are like, ‘why is my favorite driver at the back of the grid?’ and so we lose people for that,” Webber said.
So how does Webber think F1 can get rid of the current system, while still providing punitive motivation to make reliable cars? By simplifying the sanctions themselves.
Rather than dropping a driver down the order in the hopes of reducing the team’s points haul, just dock them constructor points and move on.
Thumbnail photo via Red Bull Content Pool