Mercedes driver George Russell urged FIA-appointed Formula 1 race officials to apply common sense when handing out penalties for infringements where visibility and other factors are a real problem for drivers.
Russell, a director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association (GPDA) spoke after Aston Martin veteran Fernando Alonso was handed a five-second penalty, by the FIA Race Stewards for lining up slightly out of position on the starting grid for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on Sunday.
Stewards again handed the Spaniard a further 10-second post-race penalty, overturned on review, when the rear jack touched his stationary car before the five-second penalty had been fully served in the pits.
Alpine’s Esteban Ocon collected penalties at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix for the same reasons, eventually retiring after a third sanction for speeding in the pitlane.
Drivers have also had lap times deleted in qualifying after their cars’ wheels touched painted lines at the pit lane entry and exit.
“I feel like some of these penalties have been a little bit too extreme. I think a little bit of common sense needs to be shown,” Russell told reporters in Jeddah who was briefly promoted to third place before Alonso, Formula 1 most experienced driver with a record 357 starts, was reinstated for his 100th career podium.
Visibility from an F1 cockpit at night is really tough
The Briton added: “I think he (Alonso) was a bit to the left (at the start) … he gained nothing from this. Perhaps a five-second (penalty) is too much. And then with regard to his pitstop … a 10-second (penalty) is too extreme in that case again.”
According to Russell there had been conversations through the weekend and “we all need to come together and just find a common centre ground” and added “we’re sat so low and, to put some perspective, we only see probably the top four or five inches of the tyre.
“So, you can’t actually see the ground itself. I can’t even see the yellow line, let alone the white lines determining your lateral position. It’s really, really tough so that’s why I think in this regard we need to show a little bit more common sense.”
Red Bull’s race winner Sergio Perez agreed: “It’s good that there is a rule in place, but at the same time, sometimes it’s like luck, to be honest, where you position yourself.
A spokesman for the governing FIA said in the case of Alonso’s second penalty there were conflicting precedents for what constituted “working on the car”.
He said that would be discussed at a Sporting Advisory Committee meeting on Thursday and a clarification issued before the next race in Australia. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin)