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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Grosjean's Race ban and the imposition of penalties

Banned in Belgium! Smashed in Singapore! Romain Grosjean suffered more than Michael Schumacher
at the hands of the Race Stewards
Copyright Lotus F1/LAT Photographic 

From my perspective, each GP race is a unique event within the overall season and whatever penalties are imposed at that track on that weekend should not affect any of the following races.  The only exceptions are penalties imposed for changes of engine, gearbox changes, race bans or grid penalties imposed on the back of serious incidents.

Once bans or penalties have been imposed that should be that, they should not be revisited for the purpose of imposing harsher penalties at a later date.

The question of imposing appropriate penalties has been seething and simmering away in my head since it raised its head again in the new FIA magazine Auto.

In that new E-Magazine publication Garry Connelly, a regular chairman of race stewards at GP meetings, makes numerous statements in respect of what the race stewards look at before they make decisions.

The Sinner and the sinned against: Maldonado had a crash history last season while Senna found himself the innocent
party on a number of occasions. Did Pastor's punishment fit the crime? The Race Stewards would appear to think so.
Copyright Williams/LAT Photographic
After reading the article the whole approach to imposing on-track penalties, and in particular the Romain Grosjean race ban, would appear to be relatively unrelated to the actual incidents which took place.  Take the following quote for example:
Take a driver who has caused a collision, typically the offence is punishable by a drivethrough, but more recently there have been a couple of occasions where a stop-go has been imposed. That has typically been because the offence has been a second one or more by that driver during the season. So you do look at the driver’s recordWe also now take into account the consequences of the penalty. This wasn’t done previously and it might lead people to think that there are inconsistencies, but if someone is coming third in a race by 50 seconds, then giving them a drive-through is not a penalty, potentially.
You’ve also got to look at the consequences of their action. To relate this to a civil situation, if I throw a punch at you and miss, I’m probably going to get charged by the police with attempted assault or something like that. But if I connect and break your jaw, I’m going to get charged with assault causing bodily harm or something like that. That could lead me to suffer more dire consequences. It’s the same action, but the repercussions are much different each time.
From my perspective as a long-time fan this is not a fair manner in which to approach the imposition of a penalty on a driver in a Grand Prix.  Racing is about what happens on the track, on the day.  If you must race someone differently because he is a championship contender that is discrimination and hands contenders a significant unfair advantage over the other teams and drivers in the field.
No wonder Michael jumped out of the way of Sebastian Vettel in Brazil: and there I was thinking he was doing Vettel the favour!

Take Connelly's statement in regard to the Grosjean incident:
But what Romain got the extra penalty for was not that, or at least not wholly for that. When you’re a relatively new driver to Formula One and you have the privilege of driving in a potentially winning or podium finish car, you’re mixing it with a group of drivers who have many years more experience than you do at the sharp end of the field. It therefore behoves you, in our view, to exercise greater care and attention because you are, with all due respect, the new kid on the block and maybe a little out of your league compared with the guys around you at that end of the grid.
Pardon me but this is bulls#*t of the highest order.  What great driver in the history of the sport has ever given other drivers one single iota of respect on the basis that they've been around for a while?  If you come into F1 you're not in there to crash at Turn 1, but as I said in an earlier post relating to the Grosjean Race Ban, you're not in there to hold back into Turn 1 if there are places to be made up.  If you do then you simply shouldn't be in the car.  You're in F1 to win.

Now take the Race Steward quote after Belgium:
The stewards regard this incident as an extremely serious breach of the regulations which had the potential to cause injury to others. It eliminated leading championship contenders from the race.
Championship contenders are in the same race as all of the others. If you want to protect them maybe we should have a second race every weekend where only the top 4 in the championship race against each other - the excitement of Indy 2005 springs to mind.  If you wrap the championship contenders in cotton wool you automatically handicap all other drivers in that they cannot race at 100% when attacking or defending their position from these three or four guys.  Completely contrary to the spirit of motor racing.  All the drivers are out there to win and to help the team they drive for win.

Amazing really that MSC didn't get a race ban after rear ending Senna and then Grosjean, but then I guess Michael doesn't fit the above profile in that he was the older driver in F1 and was mixing with drivers who had many many years less experience than he did, so he doesn't have to exercise care and attention.

We can now assume that Michael got favourable treatment because he was not a young driver
Courtesy Mercedes AMG
It's time for the race stewards to forget about a driver's history and deal with every incident on a case by case, GP by GP basis.  I would remind Connelly that in a civil situation a defendant is only charged and sentenced on the particular crime they have committed.

Let's get back to determining a penalty on the act itself rather than on a driver's history or who the victim was.