Horner: Engine penalties confusion will only get worse

Christian Horner

Red Bull F1 team chief  Christian Horner has called for Formula 1 drivers to be allowed more engines per season to reduce the rash of starting grid penalties that reached farcical levels at the Italian Grand Prix.

Mercedes’s championship leader Lewis Hamilton, who took a record 69th pole position, was the only driver at Monza on Sunday to start from where he had actually qualified.

Behind him, nine of the 20 drivers took penalties for engine and gearbox changes.

Drivers are allowed four power units, divided into six component parts, per season before penalties are incurred. Next year’s allocation will be reduced to three while the calendar expands from 20 to 21 rounds.

“For me that should be number one on the agenda for the next strategy meeting,” Horner told reporters.

“I tried to get it changed at an earlier meeting in the year but there was no support for it. I would hope that would now perhaps be different with teams incurring and staring down the barrel of further penalties between now and the end of the year.”

The engine restrictions were introduced as a cost-saving measure, and to reinforce the sport’s energy-efficient credentials, but Horner said that objective was not being achieved.

“It’s not saving the cost because the engines are going on a world tour anyway, they’re being used and you’re just incurring penalties as a result. Perhaps we need to get back to a more equitable balance,” he said. “Maybe five engines is the right number rather than four going to three.”

Some, including Formula One’s managing director for motorsport Ross Brawn, have suggested changing the penalty system.

“I hate the fact that we’re having to affect the racing because of the technical issues,” Brawn said ahead of Monza.

But others operating on tight budgets, such as Force India, are against easing the restrictions.

“In the old days, before we had a set number of engines per driver, you could use one engine per race and that cost a lot of money,” said Force India’s chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer.

The spate of penalties puzzled even paddock insiders at Monza.

Horner was one of them, with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo qualifying second and third fastest but collecting 20 and 25 place grid drops respectively before starting 13th and 16th.

Ricciardo finished fourth in the race, with Verstappen 10th. Without the penalties at least one could have expected to be on the podium.

“Even going to the grid we were trying to work out whether we were going to be 12th or 13th because (Force India’s Sergio) Perez had picked up a penalty but he’d picked it up before or after somebody. It’s too confusing,” said Horner.

”I think it needs a serious look at to see whether there’s a better way of penalizing a manufacturer… as opposed to messing around with the grid. I think it will only get worse. It would be a shame to see this championship decided on grid penalties.”

Big Question: Does Formula 1 need to revise or ditch engine penalties system?