No consistency, too many penalties and only the consequences count

The stewards’ decisions are becoming increasingly discussed in Formula 1, and not just because Kevin Magnussen is about to be banned from racing. Before the race in Imola, three drivers, Fernando Alonso, Carlos Sainz and the aforementioned Magnussen, took a clear position. Their concerns are diverse, but important for sport.

Carlos Sainz: They punish the consequences, not the action!

“It’s sometimes very difficult for me to understand it,” said Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz in the press conference regarding the stewards’ decisions. And he is not alone in that. “Yes, the penalties were once again inconsistent from our point of view,” said compatriot Fernando Alonso. It’s not just about one thing, but a variety of topics.

Pole sitter Max Verstappen wins the start in the Red Bull.  Teammate Sergio Perez almost shoots Verstappen.
Sergio Perez received no penalty for a massive braking error in Turn 1, Photo: LAT Images

First of all, Sainz made a point about his own race in Miami: “Checo [Perez] braked completely at the start and almost took two people with him. We [er und Teamkollege Charles Leclerc, Anm. d. Red.] We were just lucky that we were able to avoid it and he left the track. There were no consequences in terms of a collision or anything like that, but it cost me a lot in the race. He didn’t get any punishment.”

Sainz himself, however, was later in the stewards’ crosshairs: “I slightly lost control of the car when I met Oscar [Piastri] overtook and unfortunately damaged his front wing. He lost 15 positions as a result and I got a 5-second penalty. I know we think we don’t look at the consequences of punishment. But in this case, from my point of view it was clearly the case. I am very sure that without the break on Oscar’s front wing I would not have received a penalty and everyone would be talking about a good overtaking maneuver.” It is not the action that is punished, but its consequences, that is the accusation.

Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz Jr. in the press conference
Carlos Sainz understands the stewards less and less, Photo: LAT Images

‘Let them Race’ was once upon a time: Magnussen wants IndyCar as a Formula 1 role model

Perez actually braked far too late in Turn 1, but escaped without a collision. In other cases, however, it seems that every small contact is immediately investigated and often punished. That didn’t go unnoticed by Alonso either. “We actually started the season with the motto ‘Let them race’,” sighed the two-time world champion. Collisions are usually a punishment in themselves anyway: “We try not to have any contact. We know how sensitive these cars are in terms of aerodynamics. Even if we go through the gravel bed – and they have increased that here in Imola – then that is “It’s almost like a failure because you damage the car and you’re just very slow. So contact on the track is the last thing we want.”

F1 sinners Kevin Magnussen agrees: “It’s getting too complicated and the consequences are too big. You have to leave a little room to go over the limit and then go back again.” The Dane recalled the origins: “We all come from karting and learned how to race against each other. The guidelines this year partly go against the natural dynamics of racing that we have learned since childhood.” Other racing series are a little ahead of Formula 1: “I raced in the IndyCar series and over there the rules are very simple but clear. And the racing is great.”

Simple solutions? They don’t always exist…

In the case of his numerous punishments in recent weeks, the Haas driver has a suggested solution: “As far as people stopping us and driving us out – i.e. the things for which I received penalties – that can be solved by simply telling us that “We should give the position back and if we don’t do that, then the punishment should be very severe.”

Other things will probably require more than a simple suggestion. “Everyone has to tackle this: FIA, teams and drivers have to agree on this, but often we as teams and as drivers do not agree and fight each other. That is the biggest difficulty, but hopefully we can sort it out,” he said Alonso. But even if the drivers and teams agree, nothing is guaranteed: “There have been a few cases, especially in the last two to three years, where both parties were in agreement, but the stewards thought otherwise. And that is something strange in this sport.” The topic of stewards will most likely not have been discussed for the last time in Imola.

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