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Licenses, driving protocol and penalties

Red Bull are to be investigated by the stewards for a possible unsafe release as Webber has a near miss with Massa in the pits Pit lane exit light.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 4, Turkish Grand Prix, Preparations, Istanbul Park, Turkey, Thursday, 5 May 2011 Pastor Maldonado runs into Lewis Hamilton in the battle for third and the Englishman is out of the race on the penultimate lap

All drivers must have an FIA Super License to be able to compete in Formula One racing and the only way to get one is to meet strict performance standards.

There are strict rules governing on-track behaviour and race stewards have the power to impose various penalties on a driver committing an offence during a race or practice session. Offences include jumping the start, causing an avoidable accident, unfairly blocking another driver, impeding another driver when being lapped or speeding in the pit lane.

Drivers may not leave the track without a justifiable reason, i.e. cutting a chicane on reconnaissance laps or in-laps to save time and fuel, and more than one change of direction to defend a position is not permitted. If a driver has moved off-line to defend a position, they may move back towards the racing line but must ensure there is at least one car's width between his own car and the edge of the track.

The two most common types of penalty in a race are the drive-through penalty, the five-second time penalty and the ten-second time penalty. In the case of the former, the driver must enter the pits, drive through the pit lane at the pit-lane speed limit and rejoin the race without stopping. Depending on the length of the pit lane this can cost a driver a significant amount of time.

More severe are the five- and ten-second time penalties (also commonly known as a stop-go penalties) where the driver must not only enter the pits, but must also stop for five/ten seconds at his pit before rejoining the race. During this time the driver’s team are not permitted to work on the car or change the car’s tyres.

In the case of all three penalties, a driver has three laps from the time his team is notified in which to enter the pits. Failure to do so may result in a black flag and the driver being excluded from the race.

The only exception is when the penalty is awarded during the final three laps of the race. In this case the driver may continue and complete the race. Five seconds will then be added to his total race time in lieu of a five-second time penalty, 20 seconds for a drive-through penalty, or 30 seconds in place of a ten-second time penalty, all of which are likely to drop him considerably in the final race standings.

In extreme cases stewards may choose to enforce tougher penalties. They can drop a driver any number of grid positions at the next Grand Prix (so, for example, if the driver in question goes on to qualify on pole, a ten-place penalty would for drop him to 11th). They can also impose time penalties, reprimand a driver, exclude him from the results, or suspend him from the next race.

Any driver receiving three reprimands during a season will automatically receive a ten-place grid penalty for the current or next event, but only if two or more of the reprimands were for driving infringements. The stewards may also impose penalty points on a driver’s Super License. If a driver accrues 12 penalty points in a 12-month period they will have their Super License suspended for one race.