Could this be the end of drive through penalties?

With the change in regulations next season, the common Engine Control Unit (ECU) will have more channels of data.  Currently the activation of DRS is controlled by the FIA from the pit-lane, only allowing drivers to activate it in the race in the activation zone(s) once the driver is less than one second behind the car in front at specified detection points.   The ECU is also used to control the maximum time KERS can be activated per lap (currently 6.7 seconds).

From 2014 the amount of energy stored in the Energy Recovery System (ERS) and the length of time it can be deployed for are to be increased dramatically.   This will effectively make up for the loss of power in going to a rev limited 1.6 litre turbo over the current 2.4 litre normally aspirated engine.  However it also has a potential by product, the opportunity now exists for the FIA to dispense with pit lane drive through and stop-go penalties. Instead they could reduce the amount of ERS that the offending driver could deploy until the penalty was deemed to have been served.

At first glance this means that decisions could be implemented sooner (no longer would the teams have to be instructed to bring the driver in to serve the penalty), so offences could be penalised almost immediately, and the order the cars cross the finishing line remains in the results with no post-race penalties ever needing to be applied.  If a driver cuts a chicane, then cut his ERS for a defined period as he accelerates away from the corner, much fairer than calling him in for a drive through several laps later.  It should also make the race easier to follow with penalties applied much quicker after the offences occur.   No repeat of Michael Schumacher taking a penalty on the last lap of the British GP, or of drivers having to serve a drive through because the driver they passed by straight-lining a chicane has been called in for a tyre change by their quick thinking team.

Unfortunately there is also a down-side. While the penalties could be notified to the teams and or drivers concerned, and the more alert TV commentators would let the global audience know what was happening, how do those people who have paid good money to sit beside the track know if a pass they watch is the result of genuine racing, or because Charlie Whiting has his finger on a button?  At least with DRS it is possible to see when the following car has the wing open and to make an assessment of the difficulty of the pass.

Also, how would you ever penalise a driver with luck like Mark Webber (his DRS seems permanently broken).

So what do you think? Could such a system be implemented, and how would you like to see it work.  Or is the current penalty system working and doesn’t need changing.  Let me know your thoughts below or over in the forum.

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