Carlos Sainz Jnr, Ferrari, Red Bull Ring, 2022

F1 grid penalties face rethink over teams’ “strategic power unit changes”

2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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The FIA is re-evaluating the grid penalty system which governs power unit use in Formula 1 amid concerns over its effectiveness.

Each driver is limited to a maximum of three power units per season. If they exceed that limit, grid position penalties are incurred.

However seven drivers have used twice as many power units as the rules envisaged, including both Ferrari drivers. Only five drivers – a quarter of the grid – have used no more than the limit of three.

The matter was discussed in a recent meeting of the F1 Commission in which concerns were raised that “the current system is not a strong enough deterrent to teams to make strategic power unit changes and encourages the change of more elements than needed once a driver has accumulated more than a certain level of penalty.”

The excess use of power unit parts “ultimately causes higher parts costs and undermines the PU element annual restrictions,” the FIA noted.

F1’s power unit penalty rules have been changed several times since the current V6 hybrid turbo engines were introduced in 2014. The FIA is considering further changes. “This will continue to be discussed at the Sporting and Power Unit Advisory Committees for further analysis and refinement,” it noted.

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The FIA also indicated on Friday it will reconsider its plans to ban tyre blankets from the 2024 season. Maximum tyre blanket temperatures were reduced this year in a first step towards the change but several drivers raised safety concerns over the proposal after testing tyres which were heated to lower temperatures at the United States and Mexican grands prix.

“The objective of the FIA and FOM remains to remove tyre blankets for 2024,” said the FIA in a statement following a meeting of the F1 Commission. “However following numerous discussions and driver feedback, the Commission decided to delay any final decisions until July 2023, allowing for additional data gathering and testing feedback to fully inform the conclusions.

Other changes discussed by the commission include revisions to the parc ferme rules for sprint race weekends. As the parc ferme restrictions on car changes come into effect a day earlier at sprint rounds they “place additional operational requirements on the FIA due to the significant increase in parc ferme requests between qualifying and the sprint,” it noted.

The damage allowance teams receive for sprint races will also be revised and simplified from 2023. Each team will be entitled to claim a fixed amount per sprint event, the number of which will double to six next year.

Following criticisms over the complexity of aspects of its regulations and some decisions which were taken during this season, he FIA’s F1 sporting regulations for 2024 will undergo a “comprehensive review”. The FIA will consult teams and Formula One Management on the rules. The governing body will also review its judicial process for 2024.

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2022 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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24 comments on “F1 grid penalties face rethink over teams’ “strategic power unit changes””

  1. Is power unit component cost part of the cost cap? If not, maybe set a high scale of charges to discourage overuse.

    1. The issue isn’t that. It’s clear that the limit on components are too low. Enough that it’s a struggle for most to stick to. Should be increased to 4

      1. Not sticking to the limits for strategic reasons is quite often a choice.
        Teams can run their engines in lower performance modes to increase reliability – but instead many choose to run them harder and and take a penalty for new parts at certain races where they know they can over take (with more power from the new engine).
        That’s the aspect that is being targeted. Not inherent reliability – which is a trade-off with performance (and the only aspect manufacturers are supposed to be able to improve, but which has actually decreased).

        3 is plenty – provided the teams have enough incentive to stick to the rules.

    2. The teams closest competitor gets to choose at which of the remaining races they must serve the penalty…

  2. They definitely need to balance out the rules for using too many components. If it’s worth the penalty to have an extra engine then the rules are too soft.

    On the flip side, it’s already harsh on drivers who get crashed into and have to take a penalty because of that. If it’s going to be made harsher, something needs to be put in place to protect drivers who need a new gearbox (for example) because of something that is another driver’s fault.

    1. I agree they have to find a good balance between those different reasons for needing a new engine. Or maybe we don’t need engine limits and just add these components to the cost cap.

  3. This is silly. We are in the first year of an ICE freeze, with the FIA allowing only upgrades to improve reliability.

    Under these circumstances, you were always going to have PU suppliers going into the season with their highest-power, low-reliability spec and fix it later.

  4. While tactical penalties indeed undermine the original intention, I’m somewhat indifferent as I haven’t minded about them.

    Guess what common feature the quintet still within their PU element allocations share, a Mercedes PU.
    What a coincidence.

    1. Guess what common feature the quintet still within their PU element allocations share, a Mercedes PU.
      What a coincidence.

      Better build quality to try and remove the need to replace (and exceed allowance) at more frequent intervals than other teams.

      Of course for teams where budget is no barrier the tactical replacement isn’t an issue.

      1. @SteveP True, although Norris has exceeded allocations besides the works team duo.

    2. Guess who used most PU components in ’21 and ’22 together, not because they were failing, but for performance reasons only? Only allowing PU replacements if they’ve failed is also not going to work: they’ll start to suddenly fail in FP1 or FP2’s.

      1. They get away with overspending and get away with pre-planned additional units introduced at Spa and Monza.

        For a top team the penalties – aren’t.

  5. They should do away with grid penalties for exceeding the maximum number of PU components. Instead, there should be drive through penalty for each additional PU component taken for a race

    1. At each race thereafter.

  6. ” FIA’s F1 sporting regulations for 2024 will undergo a “comprehensive review”. The FIA will consult teams and Formula One Management on the rules. ”

    In the wind-less (or is that Win-Less) doldrums between Dec. 1st and testing in the spring, it will be interesting to follow the revisions to the Sporting Regs.
    It would also be entertaining for Keith to set up a Contest based on the outcome of the “updates”.

    A – no change in the number of regulations. Double points for this selection as it is sooo improbable.
    B – a reduction in the number, and by how many.
    C – a net increase in the number, and by how many
    D – date or time period selected for when will we stop counting ..?

    Standard approach when answering multiple choice questions, first choice C and second, the longest offered option.

  7. How does the FIA prove that an engine is not about to fail.

  8. Now that the cost cap is in place it doesn’t really make much sense to have the penalties at all. The whole point was to reduce the spiralling costs of replacing engines every race or 2.

    Just include all engine costs in the cap (if not already) and bob’s your uncle. This could have the knock on effect of bringing prices down on engines for the non-manufacturing teams. For example if the manufacturers want to reduce the prices of their engines so they can use more within the cap. Just need a clause about the engine cost considered under the cap being the market value of the engine.

    If teams want to spend more on a less reliable engine, don’t see why they shouldn’t be allowed to, asking as they adhere to the cost cap…

    1. As long*

    2. Agreed. Give them more engine allowances or eliminate the rule altogether. Cost cap will regulate any negative effects.

      The penalty system is fine and there is no issue with teams using the system tactically. The problem is the 3 engine rule for 23 races. It’s absurd when you think about how hard it is to actually achieve this over 100 official sessions per year.

      More engines in use may allow for a slight weight reduction also, as parts won’t need to be so robust.

  9. Spread the penalty over the next 5 races (or whatever is left). 5 place penalty means 5 x 1 place grid drops. 20 place penalty means 5 x 4 place grid drops. All of a sudden no one wants to take a tactical new engine if they qualify at the back or if overtaking is easy.

  10. I get the rationale behinds the replaced equipment penalties.

    But it’s a good idea done badly. The drivers, and the fans, are being punished because the FIA keeps adding races ad infinitum to the schedule. In order to “save costs”, the constructors have to spend millions of dollars on ensuring the reliability of their engines. Then, to further “reduce costs” because the engines are so expensive, the number of engines you’re allowed without penalties is reduced.

    Sooner or later, the penalties will be steep enough the teams will simply sit out the race weekend, due to a lack of engines.

    I’m looking forward to the fireworks.

  11. If you have a DNF in the current race, you can take a new engine for next race.

    If you are using a new engine without a DNF, your points for the first race of that engine will not be counted.

  12. The whole point of the rule was to cut waste and costs. Make sure the engine cost is part of the budget and randomise when the grid penalty might apply so teams can’t choose when to take it. So if you take a extra component at race 10, you draw a lot for the 13 remaining races to see where you’ll be penalised. Would be nice if the most reliable power unit provider got a bonus somehow too.

  13. 3 PUs is just not enough. Make it 4 and put the extra units above that in the cost cap.

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