Casual Formula One fans will no longer be left trying to figure out the grid order whenever they tune into a race in 2018.
The FIA decided Wednesday to amend F1’s grid penalty system for the 2018 season, according to Motorsport.com. The system, which punishes drivers for exceeding their allotted number of power unit components, has been criticized by teams, drivers and fans alike.
With a designated grid-spot penalty for each component, drivers’ total penalty often results in them docked more positions than there are physical grid spots. McLaren drivers Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso, for example, were docked 105 spots at the 2015 Belgian Grand Prix.
Fans as a result often have been left confused as to why certain pilots weren’t starting the race where they qualified. The revised system is much easier to follow, with penalties being capped at 15 positions.
“The change to the power unit penalty system was also approved, whereby if a driver incurs a penalty exceeding 15 grid places he will be required to start the race from the back of the starting grid,” the FIA said in a statement. “If more than one driver receives such a penalty they will be arranged at the back of the grid in the order in which the offenses were committed.”
The wording of the FIA’s statement leaves us uncertain as to whether the system also has been altered such that component usage is assigned to a specific driver, rather than a car. Competitors currently inherit the usage history of the car they’re driving, which admittedly only has posed a problem at the 2017 United States Grand Prix.
The race at Circuit of the Americas was Brendon Hartley’s first with Scuderia Toro Rosso, yet he incurred a 25-spot penalty.
Hartley, though filling in for Pierre Gasly, piloted the car that started 2017 in Daniil Kvyat’s hands. Kvyat, however, was himself racing for Toro Rosso at COTA, stepping in for Carlos Sainz Jr., who had left for Renault.
Given that Kvyat was racing with the same team he had been all year, many assumed he would be penalized for the power unit change. But because Kvyat technically was in Sainz’s car, and Hartley technically was in his car, Hartley ultimately was dropped down the order.