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Stewards’ inconsistency and leniency towards recklessness.

The stewards as of late, have not been dealing with careless racing acts appropriately. There has been too much variation in the penalties that have been awarded for these carless acts. Let's have a look.
Monday, October 15, 2012

October 14th, 2012 (F1plus / Gabriel Polychronis).- Recklessness is becoming more apparent in Formula One, and the stewards have been unable to consistently deal with this.

Formula One is widely recognized as a showcase of the highest quality of engineering and driving skill. Formula One technology and engineering capabilities is continuing to progress and it is no doubt that Formula One is still arguably a stage of supreme engineering, however, with this progress there has been a noticeable change in driving styles of certain drivers. This is mainly because of the safety of the cars. The safety of Formula One cars is revolutionary and this does of course change the way certain drivers approach corners and attempt overtaking manoeuvres.

The 2012 Formula One season has proven to be a prime example of the recent change in driving styles we have witnessed.
Most of the experienced drivers on the grid still show immense respect for their vehicles and other drivers around them and drive with nothing but precision and an understanding of what risks they can and can’t take. Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel, to name a few, can be placed in this category. When observing these drivers battle for position with another driver on the grid, you will see nothing but respect for both their car and the other driver as well as precision and shear driving skill.

There is a raft of examples that show these traits. A recent example can be taken from the 2012 British Grand Prix. In the dying stages of the race, Mark Webber lurking behind Fernando Alonso managed to move on the outside of Alonso as they approached Brooklands. Mark Webber came within inches of Alonso’s car, as he knew he could trust Alonso not to do anything drastic since Alonso fully understood the current situation and was able to react accordingly. Supreme driving skill from both drivers.

This season has also shown many examples of reckless driving and utter disrespect. To cut to the chase, the two drivers that almost everyone would think of when talking about recklessness and disrespect would be Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean. During free practice three at Monaco, Maldonado was seen carelessly turning into Sergio Perez at Portier corner. Maldonado showed no respect for what was around him. 10 place grid penalty.

At the Belgian Grand Prix, Maldonado racked up a total of three penalties during the race weekend: one for impeding Nico Hulkenberg during qualifying, jumping the start and causing a collision with Timo Glock after the restart.

Another reckless incident courtesy of Maldonado was in Valencia. On the penultimate lap, Lewis Hamilton was defending his position from Maldonado. Maldonado was essentially forced off the track at turn 13 and tried to re-join the race. He re-joined straight into the side of Hamilton’s McLaren. Twenty-second time penalty. For these offences, there needs to be harsher penalties awarded rather than just grid penalties and time penalties. We are talking about putting other drivers’ lives at risk.

Romain Grosjean’s recklessness was first noticeable at the Belgian Grand Prix as he was the supplier of a horror first lap incident. One race suspension. After coming back to the Japanese Grand Prix, fresh from his suspension he caused another first lap crash, as he foolishly collided with Mark Webber. Ten-second stop-go penalty. This time, the result was not quite as drastic as the incident at Spa, although for Romain Grosjean to only get a stop-go penalty is still extremely disappointing.

These two first lap incidents should be treated the same. The same dangers were present in both these incidents. Just because no cars were launched in the air at Japan, it shouldn’t mean that different penalties should be awarded. Grosjean should have been heavily punished. Especially because he just returned from a suspension regarding a similar offence. An adequate punishment for his reckless act at Japan would be to revoke his racing licence for an extended period of time. There is simply no place for recklessness, irresponsibility and disrespect in Formula One.

Pastor Maldonado is in a similar boat as Romain Grosjean. His accident he caused involving Lewis Hamilton at Valencia should of resulted in a suspension, rather than a miserly 20-second time penalty. If he is to repeat a similar offence after the suspension, his racing licence should be revoked.

Kobayashi too-early big miscalculation cost Button and himself the Korean race.

The most recent example of reckless driving was at the most recent Grand Prix – the Korean Grand Prix. Kamui Kobayashi recklessly collided with Jenson Button at the entry into turn 3. Kobayashi showed no care, no respect and as a result, caused an incident with potentially serious repercussions. Drive-through penalty. This collision that Kamui Kobayashi caused posed the same dangers as the first lap incident Romain Grosjean caused in Spa. So, why didn’t Kobayashi receive a suspension? Or why didn’t Grosjean only receive a drive-through penalty?
There must be consistency with penalties.

This trend of reckless driving is mainly due to the astounding safety qualities of modern Formula One cars. Certain drivers, such as Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado drive without thinking of consequences. The possibility of dying would be the last thing they would be thinking about when racing, which takes quite a bit of poise and respect out of the way these drivers race.

There has not been a death in Formula One since 1994, which of course was Ayrton Senna’s unfortunate death at Imola. Of course this sounds rash, but if a driver was to suffer life threatening injuries or even die on the racetrack, the racing style of many drivers will significantly change. We would see less thoughtless and wild acts and more caution, which would of course lead to more control.

It is however, undeniably exciting to see big crashes in Formula One, but it is more frustrating than exciting to see that it was caused by a foolish racing act. Even more frustrating, is to see that driver walk away with just a grid penalty or a time penalty.

Suspensions need to become a more favoured mean of punishing drivers; otherwise we will still see drivers racing without thinking of consequences. If the stewards don’t feel the need to suspend drivers, then there at least must be consistency with whatever penalties they may award for reckless driving.

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