Penalties and driver protocol

What the sporting regulations say:

  • There are strict rules governing on-track behaviour and 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 of the race, causing an avoidable accident, unfairly blocking another driver, impeding another driver while being lapped, and speeding in the pit lane.

  • In addition, drivers must make every reasonable effort to use the track at all times and may not deliberately leave the track without a justifiable reason. 

  • Unless it is clear to the stewards that a driver was wholly or predominantly to blame for an incident no penalty will be imposed.

  • The most common penalties stewards issue are a drive-through penalty, a five-second time penalty and a ten-second time penalty.

  • Under a drive-through, the driver must enter the pit lane and proceed down its length, before directly rejoining the race. For the time penalties, they must drive to their garage and then stop for five/ten seconds before they are able to rejoin.

  • There are two different versions of the ten-second penalty. One is mandatory, meaning it must be taken without exception. The other allows a driver to finish the race and take a ten-second time penalty, provided they do not pit again between the issuing of the penalty and the chequered flag.

  • Drivers are also permitted not to stop if they receive a five-second penalty, provided again that they do not pit before the race’s finish. In this instance, five seconds will be added on to their time.

  • 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.

  • If the penalty is issued in the last three laps of the race, the driver is permitted to complete the race and take a time penalty. Five seconds will be added in lieu of a five-second penalty; 10 seconds for the optional ten-second penalty; 20 seconds for a drive-through; and 30 seconds for a stop-and-go penalty.
  • 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; impose time penalties; reprimand a driver; exclude a driver from the results; or suspend a driver 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 Licence. If a driver accrues 12 penalty points in a 12-month period they will have their Super Licence suspended for one race.

  • In addition to issuing driving penalties, the stewards can also issue penalties for technical infringements or when a driver uses more than his allocation of power unit components or gearboxes.

  • Every unscheduled gearbox change will require a driver to drop five places on the grid at that meeting. 

  • Meanwhile, each driver is permitted to use only a limited number of power unit elements – of which there are six types – during a single season. The limits are three ICE (internal combustion engine), MGU-H (motor generator unit-heat) and TC (turbocharger), and two ES (energy store), CE (control electronics) and MGU-K (motor generator unit-kinetic). Should a driver use more than this, a grid penalty will be imposed.

  • The first time a driver uses an additional element over and above the prescribed limits, a ten-place grid penalty will be given. If he then uses other additional elements a five-place penalty (or penalties) is imposed. Use yet a further example of any given element and another ten-place penalty is received – and so on.

  • During any single event, if a driver introduces more than one of a power unit element that is subject to a grid penalty, only the last element fitted may be used at subsequent events without further penalty.