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Could a Report Card System prevent repeat incidents in Formula 1?

During the 2012 season we’ve seen some drivers make the same mistakes over and over again; therefore, let's explore a possible solution.
Friday, October 12, 2012

October 12th, 2012 (F1plus / Rosie Baillie).- At the Japanese Grand Prix we saw Romain Grosjean cause yet another first lap incident, bringing his total to seven.

What can be done to stop repeated incidents and make drivers think carefully instead of ploughing into people going into the first corner?

Repeat Offenders

We’ve seen two ‘repeat offenders’ this year, in the form of Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado. To be fair to Maldonado though, he hasn’t caused any incidents during the past three races, so perhaps he’s learning.

Grosjean on the other hand, is not. It’s becoming clear that other drivers are beginning to get irritated by him ruining their races, with Red Bull’s Mark Webber branding Grosjean a ‘first-lap nutcase’ following the Japanese Grand Prix. He even suggested that perhaps he ‘needs to go on another holiday’; referring to his one race ban which he received earlier in the year for the dangerous move he pulled at the beginning of the Belgian Grand Prix.

After the Japanese Grand Prix, Sky presenter Simon Lazenby and former drivers Martin Brundle and Johnny Herbert spoke about what should be done with Grosjean as nothing seems to be getting through to him.

Herbert, perhaps not harshly, suggested that he should be sacked and he’d sack him in an instant if he was driving for him.

They later roped in Red Bull Team Principle, Christian Horner and asked him what he thought should happen, he suggested that the FIA hadn’t done their job as Grosjean had failed to learn and said that perhaps now was the time for other drivers to sit him down and talk to him.

Even Bernie Ecclestone got in on the action, and suggested that perhaps Grosjean needs an eye test as ‘there might be something wrong with his peripheral vision.’

The existing penalty system clearly isn’t enough to deter the likes of Grosjean, make him think twice and consider his poor driving. Therefore something needs to be put in place to make drivers think and ensure they’re punished correctly if they keep making the same mistakes.

A Report Card System

In a joint blog post for Official Merchandise last week, I suggested a report card system could be the solution.

This wouldn’t be instead of penalties; it would be alongside existing penalties. It would be a way of keeping tabs on drivers and dealing with the drivers who make the same mistakes over and over again.

In the UK when we take our driving test, any mistakes we make are marked as ‘minor’ or ‘major’.

Minor mistakes are, as the name suggests, minor mistakes, and you get these for doing things like doing less than the speed limit (I should know, I got one for that) and you can make a few ‘minor’ mistakes before you will fail your test.

‘Major’ mistakes include things such as speeding or driving dangerously, and you fail your test instantly if you get one ‘major’.

So how could this work in Formula 1?

Each driver would have a report card, and if they caused an incident it would be marked on their card as a minor, major or instant ban.

Minors

Drivers will receive one ‘minor’ point for things such as; clipping someone, speeding in the pit lane, ignoring blue flags or minor incidents which don’t end or destroy the race of another driver.

Over the season, a driver will be allowed 10 minor points. When they exceed this number, they will be referred to the FIA and will receive a serious penalty, such as a race ban or a hefty fine.

Majors

More serious incidents, will of course receive more serious penalties.

If a driver ends the race or ruins the race of another driver, regardless of whether they stand a chance of winning the title or not, they will receive one major point.

Drivers will be allowed three of these before they are referred to the stewards, where they will receive a fine and/or a race ban.

However, in order for a driver to receive a major point, it needs to be clear and the stewards need to agree that the driver was indeed at fault, and it wasn’t simply a racing incident.

Instant Bans

If a driver makes a malicious move, such as Maldonado’s move on Hamilton at the Belgian Grand Prix last year, or an incident which was serious enough to injure another driver, they will receive an instant one race ban, with the option of extending it if necessary.

What if this had been implemented this year?

If the report card system had been used in Formula 1 this year, this is how the drivers report cards would look.

Driver Instant Ban Majors Minors
Pastor Maldonado 1 - Incident with Perez in Monaco FP3. 3 6
Romain Grosjean 1 - Belgian Grand Prix first lap crash. 2
Michael Schumacher 2 2
Narain Karthikeyan 2
Sebastian Vettel 5
Jean-Eric Vergne 3
Charles Pic 3
Kimi Raikkonen 2
Kamui Kobayashi 2
Sergio Perez 2
Bruno Senna 2
Vitaly Petrov 2
Mark Webber 1
Jenson Button 1
Felipe Massa 1
Nico Hulkenberg 1
Heikki Kovalainen 1
Pedro de la Rosa 1



Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, Nico Rosberg, Paul di Resta, Daniel Ricciardo and Timo Glock haven’t received any penalties this year, and would therefore have no points so far.

As you can see, both Maldonado and Grosjean would have had instant one race bans and would have also been referred to the stewards for another one race ban or hefty fine. None of the other drivers are anywhere close to racking up the total of 10 minors.

Feeder Series

The same system could be implemented into the feeder series too, with the option of preventing a driver from progressing through to the next series.

For example, if a GP2 driver exceeds the number of minors or majors they will not be allowed to progress to Formula 1 if they had the opportunity to.

Implementing this kind of system in the early series would teach drivers that they couldn’t just drive rashly and without consequence, which would hopefully teach them to control their aggression.

Conclusion

Perhaps my choice of what constitutes a minor and a major is harsh, that could be refined, but the principle is clear, I hope. Drivers are allowed so many minor or major mistakes before receiving a ban or large fine and any malicious moves receive an instant ban.

While drivers are only human and will of course make mistakes, making continuous and dangerous mistakes isn’t acceptable, even with the brilliant safety measures we have nowadays.

Not only are there safety issues, but repeated mistakes affect and can ruin other drivers races and title chances.

What do you think, could a report card system work in F1 and the feeder series?

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