Back in 2014, F1 introduced a penalty points system which would see drivers given points for driving offences. Rack up 12 points in a 12-month period and you’ll be banned for a race.
It sounds like a great idea in theory, where a driver is punished for making repeat errors as opposed to a slam-dunk incident like we saw at Spa in 2012, when Romain Grosjean was given a race ban for causing a turn one crash, a punishment that I don’t believe fitted the crime.
However, I’ve always been a cynic when it comes to the idea that a driver would be banned for reaching that magic 12 points, something we’ve not seen happen in the eight and a bit seasons since penalty points were introduced.
Drivers have come pretty close to the 12-point mark, in fact the last two champions have – with Lewis Hamilton receiving eight penalty points in 2020 and Max Verstappen getting seven last year which still stand at the time of writing.
Say Verstappen or Hamilton found themselves on 10 or 11 points, are we REALLY going to see them banned for the next offence? I mean, just imagine it being something as small as holding up another driver in qualifying or even crossing the white line in the pitlane.
Recent events have shown that the stewards might start to be a little more lenient when a driver has consumed a lot of penalty points.
Lance Stroll was on eight and didn’t get penalised for blatantly forcing Valtteri Bottas off the road in Australia, which would have moved him onto 10, and then there’s what happened at Imola in F2.
Rookie Amaury Cordeel went into the Imola weekend with four penalty points and left with a further five in the feature race for multiple track-limit infringements.
However Cordeel also sped in the pitlane… twice, something you think would be clearly earn penalty points, but no. Perhaps going 3.2km/h over the limit is only marginal (something he got a five-second time penalty for) but the other speeding offence was for going a massive 99.2km/h in a 60km/h pitlane yet there was not a penalty point insight.
I can’t help but feel stewards are being too lenient when a driver has more penalty points racked up, when surely it should be dealt with without taking any previous offence into account?
Only the legend Mahaveer Raghunathan managed to hit 12 points and get a race ban, but even then he did it twice and managed to still race anyway due to a regulation loophole.
This could age badly when one day we see a driver banned from penalty points in F1, but I really am convinced they’ll do everything they can to avoid a driver getting those dreaded 12 penalty points and the inevitable embarrassing press F1 would receive if one of their star drivers had to sit out a race weekend.