The Mystery of Ferrari’s differing penalties

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Across the spectrum of human reason, emotion and revelation, we could argue that all of us would have varying degrees of intersection on certain issues. Take a Formula 1 penalty for example. Two weeks ago, Sebastian Vettel was given a 5s penalty for locking up into a turn and hitting Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas impacting the Finn’s race.

Fast forward two week and Sebastian’s teammate, Kimi Raikkonen does the same thing but he is given a 10s penalty for his efforts—which he admitted was his fault, just as Sebastian did two weeks ago. Some felt Vettel’s penalty was not enough given the impact he had on Valtteri’s race and other thought it wasn’t an incident worthy of a penalty. Some feel that Kimi’s penalty was too much, given it was 5s for the same infraction just two weeks ago.

When you factor in bias and the gravity of the persons involved and the impact of the incident, you start to diverge even more with your fellow human…of at least you certainly can. In many cases, due to biases and other factors, an incident can be a parallax and depending on where you view the incident from, it may look slightly different.

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For Kimi’s 10s penalty, FIA race director, Charlie Whiting, had very little insight:

“I’m not the stewards, I can only think they have felt it was a little more serious than what Sebastian did in France,” said Whiting.

“I can’t really comment as I don’t know the thought process that went on there, but I do know there was widespread criticism of the leniency of the penalty given in France. So maybe that affected them.”

Chief concern here is that the criticism of the Vettel penalty may have played a role in Raikkonen’s penalty as an amends or desire to avoid being criticized for their decision. This results in a discussion over the lack of consistency in the penalties but Mercedes boss, Toto Wolff, disagrees and says there is consistency due to the options given for each infraction based upon precedent:

“I think there is consistency on the penalties,” said Mercedes’ team principal. “They are what they are and there’s a certain arsenal of penalties the stewards have available – a five-second penalty, a 10-second penalty or a drive-through and then they look at the precedents.

“What we need to discuss among all of us is if certain incidents occur and they have a massive outcome in terms of what’s happening maybe around the race win and what the consequences would be, that’s a different story.

“On the penalty itself, they are like the rulebook says. So it is what it is.”

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The idea of punishing outcomes of incidents rather than the actual action has become very popular since the French Grand Prix but it is not a new topic in F1. It’s been kicked around for some time now. Mario Andretti bemoaned the Vettel penalty because of the impact it had on a driver battling for a championship. Others felt that Vettel still finishing ahead of Bottas was wrong and therefore the punishment should be based on the outcome to ensure that Vettel had a worse race than Bottas. Was Kimi’s penalty more because it was Lewis Hamilton who was the victim at his home race and in his battle for the title? What if Bottas would have hit Vettel in France, would Valtteri get 5s or 10s?

The FIA penalties available are for infractions that have been defined by the sporting regulations and to advance that even further and divine outcome-based penalties is a bridge too far. With all respect to Toto, this is the kind of thinking I advise my daughters to stay away from in large part because of my opening sentence.

Who would define all the permutations of an outcome for every penalty in the FIA rule book? Who decides the varying levels of bad outcomes and based upon what criteria? Was Valtteri’s race hurt by Vettel’s action? Yes. How badly was it hurt? Did it hurt his championship title aspiration? Oh, he’s not considered a title contender? By who’s measure? Certainly not Valtteri’s.

Was Lewis Hamilton’s championship bid damaged by Kimi’s actions? Yes. How bad? Was the 10s penalty ok because Kimi finished behind Lewis? He may not have been had they pitted Lewis for fresh tires but as it was, they left him out and he managed to stay ahead such was his pace. What if Lewis would have retired the car, then what penalty should have been given to Kimi even after serving the 10s penalty? Another 10s penalty, loss of points, hand Kimi’s finishing position to Lewis? Where is the end of this parsing of outcomes? How bad is bad and how outcome-correct is good?

Opening the F1 penalty system to outcome-based penalties is not a good move but neither are varying levels of punitive action for the same infraction if you’re looking for consistency. I have argued for some time that F1 isn’t suffering because of its lack of outcome-based penalties but the consistency of their application. I’ve argued for a permanent stewarding team but that flies in the face of the chotchkies that the FIA hand out to local motoring club dignitaries for their financial support and votes.

What we have is a stewarding team that Whiting says was potentially swayed by the criticism over the lack of severity for Vettel’s penalty in France. To right that wrong, perhaps they increased the penalty for Raikkonen. Is that fair? Kimi got a harsher penalty because the stewards didn’t want to lose face or face the blowback? That’s a relatively thin base to stand upon is it not? If Wolff is right, then the most recent precedent was Vettel’s 5s penalty, not a 10s penalty for an opening lap incident.

Like I said, we all have varying degrees of intersectionality on any one issue and we might argue that our sense of right and wrong differ because of that. That’s a difficult issue in F1 right now that is exacerbated by the lack of consistency driven by precedent. If we now think we are ready to tackle all the externalities of an incident that determine their outcome and make prompt penalty decisions on those presuppositions, then I really am concerned about F1’s ability to govern itself.

Hat Tip: Sky Sports F1

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Lars Nielsen

To add to that; Grosjean locking up and hitting KMag on the opening lap and tearing chunks of carbon of his floor was just considered an incident. Where’s the consistency in that?

Schumie Toronto

Thank-you …. I said the same thing yesterday! Kimi got 10 sec. because it was Lewis that he hit! PERIOD!


What we need is a fan vote after every penalty. Then the majority will be happy! I’m kidding of course, the only way to get consistency in the penalties is a permanent stewardship. I can believe the FIA isn’t there yet.

“that the FIA hand out to local motoring club” probably has more to do with the varying penalties than anything else.

Meine Postma
Schumie Toronto

HA HA HA! Good one!


Consistency is key. Can’t we just have a guideline that says if you hit a competitor through your own mistake, it’s an X minute penalty. Period. Forget how significant the consequences were to the competitor. There is so much luck involved in F1 and yet we try to put everything into a rational narrative. If you get bumped, depending on what happens next, your race may be over or you may just lose a couple seconds. The authorities should not be trying to accommodate the role luck plays in those outcomes. The Baku case from last year was a good… Read more »


I was with you until Baku. Vettel intentionally hit Hamilton, that was in no way a racing incident. The time penalty given seems very modest compared to what Ferrucci is facing for a similar type of incident (disqualification from the race and a 6K Euro fine). Where’s the consistency there. Agree also that 10 seconds sounds about right, maybe Vettel got off easy last time. I would also go a step further though and make all penalties be applied at the conclusion of the race. There are times, due to SC for instance, that a penalty gets nullified. Applying them… Read more »


I hear you on the Baku penalty. That was too light.

I think your end of race idea is an interesting one. Like you say, would avoid those situations where it’s effectively nullified. But could also be overly harsh in others, maybe? Like if it ended under safety car and the field compressed. I guess they could experiment with how to execute it, but at least start with a consistent number of seconds for a given infraction.


yeah, pros and cons either way.

Also, the intentional hit from Vettel I was referring to above was referring to when he pulled up beside Hamilton, not the initial contact in the rear which I saw as a racing incident (Vettel got caught out to a slowing Hamilton)

Jeff R.

I think the fact that Hamilton’s incident occurred at Silverstone, his home grand prix, had to play a factor in Raikkonen’s harsher penalty. You see “homer-ism” at play in all sports, F1 is no different in these circumstances.


I just had an actual look at the language used for the Vettel v. Räikkönen penalties. I don’t know if it was on purpose or not (since we don’t have consistent stewardship), but in the Kimi case the word significant was added to the decision. (Emphasis mine) Vettel: Reason; The Stewards reviewed video evidence, in particular the aerial view. Car 77 clearly left room on the inside of Turn 1. Car 5 collided with Car 77. Decision; 5 second time penalty. (2 penalty points awarded, 5 points in total for the 12 month period) Räikkönen: Reason; The Stewards reviewed video evidence. Car 44 clearly left significant room on the… Read more »

Schumie Toronto

I had to Google “chotchkies”! LOL!

Rich Felton

Why does everything require a penalty these days? Whatever happened to racing incidents, which in my mind both of the were. Because of Bottas getting Lewis on the inside, Lewis went wide. With Kimi having such a head of steam already, he saw the opening and went for it, with Lewis closing the door late in the turn, Kimi had no choice but to slam on the binders. No way in my mind does that deserve a penalty. And, for LH to claim that it was a strategy decision by Ferrari to run him off the road boggles my mind.… Read more »


Lewis has since walked back that comment;

“It was a racing incident and nothing more. Sometimes we say dumb shit and we learn from it.”


I had not heard that, bravo for LH, he’s maturing and it shows.


Possibly been taking humility lessons from the Mercedes strategist?


What lesson can be learned from this incident? Don’t botch the start, especially when you’re on pole.