Column | Hamilton's penalty is where F1 fails

28-07-2021 09:30 | Updated: 28-07-2021 11:01
Column | Hamilton's penalty is where F1 fails

Formula One has been a conflicted space in recent weeks, with certain instances creating less than ideal conversations about the sport and its future. Here's a dissection and some potential solutions available for the championship.

Penalty distribution & damages 

Penalty distribution controversy started up in Austria where they were awarded liberally by the stewards. Lando Norris and Sergio Perez were two standouts, where their robust defences earnt them five second penalties for each occasion. In the end, Norris came off significantly worse, earning penalty points (usually handed for dangerous drivings), which brought him two away from the 12 points required for a race ban.

The Hamilton-Verstappen incident at the British GP only made matters worse, the two coming into contact in spectacular fashion, taking the young Dutchman out of the race. This earnt the reigning world champion a 10 second time penalty, one which he was able to overcome to take the Grand Prix victory.

F1 cannot boast their aims for closer racing and wheel-to-wheel combat if they counteract it with heavy penalties. In complex and expensive machinery, one could be comfortable consolidating their position, not running the risk of expenses or penalties in the process. However, risk taking mustn’t be discouraged, as it’s necessary to put on a good show for the fans. Adding penalty points and other extreme measures will do nothing but deter the drivers and teams from going the extra mile and pushing for strong results.

Although, greater clarity will be needed from the stewards as to why certain penalties have been issues. The mixed verdicts on the  Hamilton-Verstappen incident were aggravated by the stewards ruling in the incident. If greater publicity is provided on the decision, in which the stewards and directors can publicly defend the ruling, it would be a more confident move, allowing all to receive a reasonable explanation.

Lack of rapid changes

The introduction of the Sprint Session in Britain seemed good for all of about five laps, where afterwards, drivers once more either defended their position strongly or got stuck in DRS trains. For a third of a race event, the championship point distribution seemed pitiful as well, with three being awarded to the winner, two for second and one for third. Thus, the racing spectacle was less than glamorous, with teams and drivers likely conserving their cars, knowing that risky moves would not earn them any major glory in the short term. In the end, fans came away with more mixed feelings, rather than being instantly wowed by the novel event.

Formula One has been notoriously hesitant with trialling new weekend formats or events in recent years. This is in contrast to many other championships who have quickly introduced different elements into their events. Formula E has introduced two trial factors in their races in this year alone: a circuit breakaway (akin to a ‘Joker Lap’) for Attack Mode in Mexico and eight minute long attack modes instead of four minutes for London.

Granted, Formula E has the benefit of being a younger and smaller championship, therefore the dissatisfaction quantity (if any) will be generally less than most. However, it is a golden standard which F1 needs to achieve. F1 is the pinnacle of motorsport, with the most eyes on it than any other championship in the world. While some moderation is necessary, organisers must be unapologetic in decision and not crumble under the demands of teams and other invested personnel. With this, F1 will be able to achieve greater interest, greater conversation and eventually, greater growth from pushing forward with new ideas and innovative methods to spice up the Grand Prix weekends.

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