Here’s what’s wrong with Rosberg penalty

Nico Rosberg has been given a 10 second penalty for the team’s breach of article 27.1 of the Sporting Regulations that says the driver must drive the car alone and unaided. The stewards did find that the team relayed information that is permitted under technical regulations 014-16 but ran afoul of the regulation when telling Nico how to shift through his issues with the gearbox.

“Having considered the matter extensively, the stewards determined the team gave some instructions to the driver that were specifically permitted under technical directive 014-16.

“However, the stewards determined the team then went further and gave instructions to the driver that were not permitted under the technical directive, and were in breach of article 27.1 of the sporting regulations, that the driver must drive the car alone and unaided.”

If you consider that a 10-second penalty reduces his finishing position in the British Grand Prix to 4th and his championship points leads to just one, it was a harmful penalty but it took over three hours to render a verdict which Mercedes said they would appeal. The reason, it is said, that it took so long is that this is the first time a driver is facing this penalty so a precedent is being set. This is where my issue comes in to play with the penalty.

As you may have read in my Race Report here, I felt that this penalty should have already be decided and included in a handful of punitive actions Stewards could take if this regulation were to be breached…which the FIA surely knew it would be given how complicated these cars are and how prevalent the recent talk has been about it since Baku. When watching pundits discuss it in Baku, they seemed to suggest that a team would have to try it and see what the penalty is. Now they know.

After three hours, we’ve set a precedent going forward and this is where the issue comes into play. Mercedes typically has such a performance advantage that the 10-second penalty wouldn’t make much difference and this means that Merc can abuse the rule all they like for the remainder of the season while other teams would not be able to as they have less of an advantage over the field.

Let’s look at what this penalty would have done to Nico’s season so far if Mercedes would have ignored the radio ban at every race:

AUS- 1st to 3rd
BAH- still 1st
CHN- Still 1st
RUS- Still 1st
MCO- Still 7th
MON- 5th to 7th
BKU- Still 1st
AST- 4th to 5th
BRT- 2nd to 3rd

It would have impacted three races with two of them a single position and only Australia the biggest hit. If this regulation remains, then going forward it could be any team that has a clear performance advantage and they will bake that in to their decisions when racing. Think of the Red Bull era or Ferrari domination—same issue as Mercedes now.

In the British Grand Prix, Nico most likely would have finished much lower had the team not told him what to do as team boss Toto Wolff said:

“It would have been stuck in seventh gear and that would have been the end, probably.”

So the consequence would have been much worse if they had followed the regulation. Perhaps a better solution might be a drive-through penalty or even a mandatory tire change to softest compound on offer that race weekend? Just spit-balling here but I am thinking of ways in which the punitive action fits the situation and demands a clear detriment to ignoring the rule.

This isn’t a popular rule, by the way, as Sky Sports F1 were apoplectic in Baku making news where there really wasn’t any and demanding a re-think of the radio ban because Lewis suffered under its weight. This weekend no one is screaming bloody murder that the radio ban is silly and that Nico shouldn’t be penalized as his car was in a serious state. Funny how that works. Radio ban is ok now and penalty is not enough as far as #TeamLH thinks.

I think the ban is silly too and I don’t think the penalty was enough either but for markedly different reasons—mainly as it is a precedent that Mercedes can absorb in most situations and other teams cannot. If Williams F1 and Force India were mired in battle and one of their drivers were given instructions, a 10-second most likely would impact them or it marginally may not but surely a drive-through would or a mandatory pit stop to change tires to softest compound on offer.

Nico’s team breached the rules. They rolled the dice and now we know that they will be able to absorb this penalty for the rest of the season. If you assessed a 25-second penalty to simulate a drive-through, that would be a deterrent but a mandatory tire change would add an element of slow stops and soft tires in which to try and negotiate your way back through the field. The drive-through or mandatory tire change would have to occur within two laps of the penalty and ignoring that would be a disqualifying action.

Those are my thoughts on the situation but I am sure you all have much better ones so let’s hear them in the comment section below.

Final result after penalty:


1Lewis HamiltonMercedes1h34m55.831s
2Max VerstappenRed Bull/Renault8.250s
3Nico RosbergMercedes16.911s
4Daniel RicciardoRed Bull/Renault26.211s
5Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1m09.743s
6Sergio PerezForce India/Mercedes1m16.941s
7Nico HulkenbergForce India/Mercedes1m17.712s
8Carlos SainzToro Rosso/Ferrari1m25.858s
9Sebastian VettelFerrari1m31.654s
10Daniil KvyatToro Rosso/Ferrari1m32.600s
11Felipe MassaWilliams/Mercedes1 Lap
12Jenson ButtonMcLaren/Honda1 Lap
13Fernando AlonsoMcLaren/Honda1 Lap
14Valtteri BottasWilliams/Mercedes1 Lap
15Felipe NasrSauber/Ferrari1 Lap
16Esteban GutierrezHaas/Ferrari1 Lap
17Kevin MagnussenRenaultGearbox
Jolyon PalmerRenaultGearbox
Rio HaryantoManor/MercedesSpun off
Romain GrosjeanHaas/FerrariTransmission
Marcus EricssonSauber/FerrariElectrical
Pascal WehrleinManor/MercedesSpun off


1Nico Rosberg168
2Lewis Hamilton167
3Kimi Raikkonen106
4Daniel Ricciardo100
5Sebastian Vettel98
6Max Verstappen90
7Valtteri Bottas54
8Sergio Perez47
9Felipe Massa38
10Romain Grosjean28
11Nico Hulkenberg26
12Carlos Sainz26
13Daniil Kvyat23
14Fernando Alonso18
15Jenson Button13
16Kevin Magnussen6
17Pascal Wehrlein1
18Stoffel Vandoorne1
19Esteban Gutierrez0
20Jolyon Palmer0
21Marcus Ericsson0
22Felipe Nasr0
23Rio Haryanto0


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Being that Mercedes figured it would be better to ignore said article and fix the driver’s issue suggests they are or were aware that either the penalty would not be very severe (respective to their dominance as you put), or that they were not in breach of anything, or that not fixing it would have certainly led to no classification. I take the point in that the precedent would be set, but also that decisions should be made in-race (drive through/stop-and-go would have sufficed). Adding such small penalties (again, in respect to performance) is like the talk of fining HAM… Read more »

Alianora La Canta

The pit radio rules also affect the pit boards, and any methods of pit-car communication anyone may choose to utilise. The precedent of Austria implies that Race Control was being as strict as you suggest, to the detriment of Force India and possibly also Mercedes. I see this as Mercedes deciding the strict interpretation as over-strict and deciding to do things their own way. They’ve just been heavily rewarded for it.


absolutely true … I am curious to see what will hapen for a apeal, Mercedes use that communication to maintain Nico second in the race, not realy for safety or mecanic reasons .. breach to the spirit of the rules. if the FiA dont want to loose crediblity after a fist verdict based on the form and the 10″ penality, they need to judge the appeal on the spirit of the rules … and it as to be strong … this is a reality. After the last judgment on the Pirelli test where Mercedes was declared not guilty, FiA can’t… Read more »

Alianora La Canta

There is no “spirit of the rules”, only what is the letter of the rules. There’s an intention from the FIA, but none of the FIA courts are allowed to use that in judgment.


@Alianora In every debate that has ever been argued in the Stewards room, you will hear “spirit of the rules”, from both sides of the fence. To say that is not relevant in the argument is naive.


clearly, the rules text is wrote to describe what FiA intend as an “help from the pit to the driver of the car” Mercedes explain to the stewarts that it’s for a reason exposed in the rules as an exception that they communicate some informations to Nico … They accept that and expose that the communication was extended to a non acceptable help to the driver, not in line not legal. If Mercedes apeal to that decision, the commission who will judge the case can change the Stewarts apreciation. Over the fact that sanction are not defined by the rules… Read more »


here we are .. no more appeal for Mercedes who accept THE INTERPRETATIoN of the stewarts …


You have a valid argument there, but the soft tire thing is a bit iffy IMO. What if soft tires are what the situation actually calls for? What if it is raining? Anyway, something needs to be done.

Negative Camber

Yeah, I agree but I’m just throwing out a few suggestions to make it a more punitive event. Clearly you got my point but I agree, the tire change may be a bit iffy.

Ian Holloway

I think that if the 10 seconds had been served as a stop go penalty DURING the race then that definitely would have been more appropriate than the 10 seconds served after the fact, HOURS after crossing the line. Possibly more than 25 seconds in total? If so then 4th rather than 3rd maybe? If it’s too late to be served during the race then it has to be a minimum 25 second penalty as you suggest. Not sure about the enforced tyre change though.

Alianora La Canta

A 10-second stop/go would be two degrees of severity above a 10-second time penalty (I think you are thinking of adding 10 seconds to a stop). Even 30 seconds (the equivalent to a 10-second stop/go in post-race parlance) wouldn’t have changed anything, because it would still have been 15 points in Nico/Mercedes’ pocket instead of 0, and knowing this in the race wouldn’t have made it any fairer.

Negative Camber

I think a drive-through would be enough. The only reason I suggest changing tires is to add an element of chance and to give the driver a fresh set to race back through the field. It’s not a great idea, admittedly, but I’m just spit-balling here.


Brits have ruined this sport. Let’s start the British GP under a SC, heaven forbid Hamilton has to fight Rosberg on the 1st lap. And we will top it off with a BS penalty by the British stewards for Rosberg. And it was a borefest btw

Alianora La Canta

The stewards will have been from 3 different countries, as the regulations require the 3 regular qualified stewards to each be from a different nation. The real problem is in the regulation itself: it was never enforceable due to the ease with which coding can be introduced undetected, and only a disqualification would have put the team in the same position as it would not had been had the rules not been broken.

Nigel Cass

“Brits have ruined this sport”? Easy on that crap, ok? Please think decorum & civility before you push the “enter” key next time. Thanks.

Kat Schidt

Starting races under safety car is common safety procedure, Hamilton still had to fight Rosberg (and was much faster), and the stewards aren’t all British.

Want to try again?

Zachary Noepe

I stand against the tone of Smee’s attack on the British, but I too smell a rat in starting a pole sitting home hero and poor starter under the safety car, juust to make sure he gets tucked into place with no incident and can scoot away. Especially since it meant there was zero race to watch with regard to who might win. The whole event was basically nullified by that one decision.


Kat Schidt


That decision is made by the race director, and it’s bog standard safety protocol. It happened earlier on in the season. And there’s no guarantee he would have made a bad start anyway, at Austria he made what appeared to me to be the best start of the top 5 cars.

The thing that nullified the event was Lewis Hamilton’s inherent speed advantage over his rivals. Even if he’d lost places at the start he would have had no trouble gaining them back.

This is just silly conspiracy theorising from sore losers.


I don’t think it was a conspiracy but it was BS. I don’t live in the UK and so can’t comment on what it’s like but I have watched enough top gear to hear Jeremy Clarkson complain about “health and safety”. This is the same thing (same as the US BTW). Yes, there was a downpour that soaked the track… then the sun came out BEFORE THE RACE STARTED. I was screaming at my TV. Safety car for 5 laps???? When it’s not raining. Yes, there were some puddles. These are professionals, they race in the rain and on wet… Read more »


Most of the cars were scraping the ground with the front part of the floor (as visible by the sparks being generated not under braking but also through Beckets). With standing water on the track it is not only the tyres that aquaplane, but the floor of the car is lifted off the track. It doesn’t matter how skilful the driver is at that point, as steering nd throttle will have little impact on where the car goes until the tyres make contact with the ground again. A regulation change to prevent the extreme rake angles used most teams would… Read more »

Zachary Noepe

Wait ten minutes. That’s the alternative.

Zachary Noepe

It’s not who won or lost that bothers me, it’s that there was no point watching the race once they settled it into a nice organized line with everyone in his place. The only part that might have been interesting was removed by the organizers, who could have just waited ten minutes, swept the track a bit, or, God forbid, just allowed professional race car drivers to decide how fast they could safely navigate a wet track on the tires they did have.


Vettel revealed the extreme wets have no pace in them. That means the drivers would inevitably dive into the pits and switch to the intermediates as soon as they could. Whiting’s plan of a 5 lap parade on full-wets displaced enough water to support racing on intermediates without a bunch of cars sliding off the road or piling up at turn 1.

I’m a big fan of the 22 car drag race but fully understand this decision.


Considering what happened to many drivers immediately after SC was IN (particularly on Turn 1), it was the right decision to start the race under SC.

Alianora La Canta

So if you are 10 seconds ahead of 11th place, breaking the regulations on purpose to avoid a DNF is the right thing to do from a performance perspective – no matter what the performance advance. One rule for the front half of the grid and another rule for everyone else.


OK my thoughts on this. It’s not a case of ‘oh it’s Nico so he shouldn’t be told anything but with Lewis in Baku he should have been’. I’m not buying the favouritism card one bit even that it was the British GP. Lewis won regardless. In Lewis’ case, he had a technical issue on the car that the team could have told him how to fix but told him they couldn’t. In Nico’s case he had a technical issue on the car that the team has no hesitation in telling him how to correct. Mercedes were permitted by the… Read more »

Negative Camber

My point is that few in the press were calling this penalty nonsense because the ban is nonsense. The narrative out of Baku was Lewis’s issue and Sergio’s issue (or was that Austria I think) and Kimi’s issue. They slated the ban and called it nonsense and that it needed changing. Now we have the first penalty handed out over something they clearly felt was an anathema and yet few are continuing the call for a re-think of the ban. You would think the rebel in them would say kudos to Merc for ignoring the ban and doing what is… Read more »


To be fair, Martin Brundle at Sky F1 had a few choice words to say when it was announced there was going to be an investigation into the radio calls. I don’t remember his exact words, but he did make very clear he thought it was completely daft.


The radio ban is nonsense to a point. I do think driver coaching should be outlawed and strictly enforced, but issues with the car or that of safety or reliability should be ok providing that teams don’t use those messages as code for other messages (which we know they will do). But as the radio ban is in place and the rules are clear, the penalty is valid imo. Also it makes up for that pathetic so-called penalty Rosberg got in Austria. Of course other people would be upset if the roles were reversed, but that doesn’t change anything, the… Read more »

Negative Camber

BTW, Charlie White over on our Facebook page had a good suggestion that I hadn’t thought about but what if Constructor Points are at play too? It’s a team issue so maybe docking them points is good as well. Problem there is, Merc has that and change too.

Bacon Wrapped Sushi

Steve Matchett had theorized the FIA could have reduced constructor points during F1 Extra. Why punish Nico for what should be the team’s mistake?


It’s the same discussion we have when the team lets the car leave the pits in an unsafe condition – why should the driver be penalized for the team’s mistake? I get that argument, but also realize it goes both ways, since the driver benefits from when the team does things right. Otherwise, why should the team get constructor’s points when it’s the driver that wins? You win as a team, and you lose as a team. The two can’t be separated.

Negative Camber

And I agree. The drivers are going to ask but the team doesn’t have to say. It’s a team issue, not a Nico issue.

Chuck C

Remember …. the annual entry fee is X+(Y*Constructor’s Points). If a team is docked Constructor’s Points as well, they FIA is just screwing themselves out of tens or maybe hundreds-of-thousands of Euros. They won’t let that happen!


I’m afraid this instance is just a snapshot of what F1 has become. We now have cars that are, in fact, too complex to operate at their maximum level without assistance from a group of hundreds of engineers. Just think about that…this is not an exaggeration, this is fact. Today’s F1 cars are the answer to a question that nobody asked. None of the fans, who in reality are the only reason it exists at all, were asking the what ifs that brought us to this complex machine that is called an F1 car. Who asked, what if we could… Read more »

Richard Piers

Think you’re viewing the past through rose tinted glasses. There have always been good and bad races, good and bad seasons. First race I ever went to Silverstone 1958 won at a canter by Peter Collins plus Ferrari and who died a couple of weeks later at Nurburgring such was the way in those days. Mike Hawthorn won his world championship without a win, Stirling Moss won 3 but finished runner up. Very rare to have truly close racing in F1 even without the aeroplane bits.


And I think you completely missed what I am saying. F1 used to be exciting to watch, always. I suppose I could belive you went to a race in 1958. However, from my view, you didn’t comprehend what you were seeing. You didn’t grasp the difficulty of driving the beast that was F1. It’s too bad for you that you didn’t really understand what you were seeing. But, perhaps it’s better this way. You don’t notice the changes that have come, or what F1 has evolved into. We won’t agree, and that’s ok. Wasn’t it something about arraigning the deck… Read more »

Richard Piers

Blimey ! That’s pretty patronising. I was a driver what about you ? Oh and I won my first race and others. You ??


Yes, currently make, have made my living in professional Motorsport for over 35 years. Drove, yes, professionally. Didn’t win my first race, finished 2nd.


Agree with you. 1. Situation is different from Baku, because Lewis car was not on the verge of breakdown and the new engine mode was performance enhancing. 2. Nicos car here was “broken”, so they told him how to fix it, which is apparently ok. But then within that communication to punish him for clarifying about shifting through 7th gear, which is also clearly not really performance enhancing and part of the fix, seems harsh. 3. I always do not like, when they change rules (or their enforcement) in the middle of the season. Had same rules applied, Lewis would… Read more »


Totally see your point on 2. The distinction drawn by the stewards is nonsense.

Negative Camber

This makes me wonder if telling Lewis that his issue was a engine mapping setting was actually a breach just like saying shifting through 7th is? The team told Lewis, yes, it’s just an engine setting, Lewis. I wouldn’t think so but given that they felt the affirmation of Nico’s solution was…who knows? It’s a grey area at some level. In Baku, Lewis identified that it was an engine setting and the team just affirmed that. Seems fair enough to me but is the affirmation of Nico’s proposed solution also fair? I guess that’s what Merc will appeal.