As with any other sport, Formula 1 teams and drivers can be subjected to penalties for various reasons. There are times when there has been a clear breach of the rules, but some rules are very much up for interpretation and a team or driver may utilize the F1 appeals process.
The F1 appeals process isn’t quick and easy. The team or driver must present new evidence to show they have not breached the rules and the stewards have made the incorrect decision. Following an official hearing, a final decision will be made, and the penalty will be upheld or reduced.
An appeal won’t always be successful in Formula 1, and in many scenarios the penalty will stand. However, there have been some instances where the team has had a reduced penalty or has even had their appeal succeed against the FIA. In the article below, we’ll discuss the appeal process for F1.
What Is The Appeals Process For In F1?
The appeals process in F1 is something that happens when a team does not agree with a penalty they have been given. The teams can appeal the penalty and have it reduced or reversed. This can be beneficial to a team, especially if they are in a championship battle where every point matters.
However, a team needs to be sure the penalty they were given was unjust. They can’t simply appeal a penalty to try and get away with it. If a team is given a penalty, it must have a valid reason to appeal. As long as the team has evidence the penalty given was too harsh or was unnecessary, they have the right to appeal the decision.
Allowing teams to appeal every penalty and punishment would result in endless appeals and an even longer process. At the end of the day, the FIA has the final say, so the decision on reversing the penalty falls to the same people who imposed the penalty in the first place.
How Do Appeals Work In F1?
The appeals process isn’t quick and easy. It can take a long time, depending on the case being argued, for the FIA to reach a decision on the appeal. Some appeals are sorted out within a week or two, but we have seen decisions being changed months after the incident has taken place.
If a team does not agree with a decision that the FIA has made against them, they can take the decision to appeal the penalty or punishment that was given. They must inform the FIA of their intention to appeal, at which point they have 96 hours to gather evidence.
The team will have to present “new and relevant evidence” to the FIA that was not available to the stewards at the time the decision was made, which is essentially their side of the argument. This can come in the form of telemetry or onboard footage of the incident.
The team will then meet with the FIA’s International Court of Appeal to discuss the new evidence and present their case to a board of stewards. After presenting their information the FIA will take time to analyze their side of the argument and then make a final decision that cannot be changed.
Presenting New Evidence
Presenting new evidence to the FIA can come in different forms. We’ve certainly seen some interesting arguments in the past teams have used to change the outcome of a penalty. The most recent of these appeals was the Red Bull appeal for the FIA to impose a harsher penalty on Lewis Hamilton following his crash with Max Verstappen at the 2021 British Grand Prix.
Hamilton was given a 10-second penalty following the first lap incident between him and Verstappen. Red Bull felt he deserved a harsher penalty for taking their driver out of the lead of the race on the first lap. In the days and weeks following the Silverstone Grand Prix, Red Bull took one of their older cars and test driver Alex Albon to the circuit for a filming day.
During the pre-planned filming days, Albon was instructed to recreate Hamilton’s racing line at the same corner in order to prove that Hamilton would not be able to make it around the corner and stay on track. They presented this evidence to the FIA who ultimately decided not to change the penalty that was imposed on Hamilton.
Protesting In F1
Aside from formally appealing things, F1 teams may also protest issues regarding the race or their competitors. This essentially draws attention to the issue at hand, and the stewards then look into these issues to see if they are worth pursuing further. We saw this in 2020 when several teams protested Racing Point’s Mercedes-like brake ducts, which earned the team a fine and a points deduction.
How Often Are Appeals Used In F1?
In most cases, teams only appeal issues regarding the sporting regulations, like the one described above. These rules can be open for interpretation more so than technical regulations. However, the team must be able to produce new evidence and have an argument as to why the decision was too harsh or not necessary.
The appeals process is important to have in Formula 1 because it gives teams and drivers an opportunity to have their voices and opinions heard. However, it’s also important for the FIA to have control over the teams and not be pushed around by them.
As such, the appeals process can’t be used for every single penalty and punishment that is given out by the FIA. Teams and drivers are only able to appeal decisions where there is room for interpretation within the rulebook and where a decision on the same incident has gone a different way in the past.
Technical vs Sporting Regulations
Formula 1 has two major rulebooks that are separate from one another. The technical rulebook is more “black and white” with little room for interpretation and no grey areas. This governs how the cars can be built and set up, among other things. The sporting rulebook is more open and can be interpreted in different ways, and is essentially the rulebook the teams and drivers follow at the track.
The technical regulations are the strict rules that teams must follow. This includes rules such as the amount of fuel that must remain in the car after a session and the overall design of the car. Teams can appeal penalties for breaching these rules, but in most cases, the decision will not be changed.
The sporting regulations are the rules that are appealed most often. This involves incidents that take place on track, such as when the driver goes off the track and gains an advantage, or if the driver causes an incident. These regulations are more open to interpretation and therefore have a better chance of a successful appeal than technical regulation infringements.
An Example Of A Technical Regulations Appeal
A recent technical regulation breach was at the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix when Sebastian Vettel managed to finish in second place. However, he was unable to make it back to the pits at the end of the race because the team instructed him to stop his Aston Martin on track.
It was found that Vettel did not have enough fuel in his tank for it to be tested at the end of the session. The rules state that the car must have at least 1 liter of fuel at the end of the race. Vettel’s Aston Martin had just 0.7 liters.
The team appealed, stating they could extract the required 0.3 liters of fuel from the engine and the fuel lines, and that the lack of fuel was caused by a leak. In the end, Vettel remained disqualified from the race and his second-place finish was taken away.
An Example Of A Sporting Regulations Appeal
Appeals on the sporting regulations are more common, but they are still not as frequent as you might expect in Formula 1. Aside from the Silverstone incident in 2021, another recent sporting regulation appeal came from Ferrari in 2019.
During the 2019 Canadian Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel went off the track while leading the race and rejoined in front of Lewis Hamilton in what was deemed to be an unsafe manner by the stewards. Vettel was given a five-second penalty that resulted in him finishing second despite crossing the finish line first.
Ferrari notified the FIA of its intention to appeal. However, in the end, they decided to withdraw their appeal as they were not able to gather any substantial evidence to support their case against the evidence available to the stewards on duty at the time.
Abu Dhabi 2021 Controversy
Perhaps the most controversial incident in recent times that sparked debate about the F1 appeals process came at the end of 2021. This involved the manic last lap that saw Max Verstappen win the world championship ahead of Lewis Hamilton, as a result of a controversial decision from race director Michael Masi regarding lapped cars.
Mercedes originally launched two protests, and then were given 96 hours to decide whether or not they wanted to lodge a formal appeal. In the end, they decided against this.
Has F1 Ever Reversed A Penalty After An Appeal?
There have been several instances in Formula 1 where a decision was reversed after an appeal, and it has had an impact on the results. While it might seem like presenting a case to the same people that punished a team is a bit pointless, this is not always true.
Perhaps the most famous successful appeal happened in the 1976 season. Niki Lauda and James Hunt were locked in a fierce battle for the World Championship. Hunt won the Spanish Grand Prix with a massive margin of more than 30 seconds over Lauda. However, Hunt’s car was found to be 1.5 centimeters too wide in the scrutineering following the race, and he was disqualified.
Hunt’s team was quick to appeal the decision, stating that the car being 1.5 centimeters wider had a negligible effect on performance. Two months after the Spanish Grand Prix, the appeal was successful, and Hunt’s victory was reinstated. He went on to win the World Championship in the same year by just 1 point.
Has F1 Ever Increased A Penalty After An Appeal?
Although it’s rare for a team to appeal a decision against them and the FIA punish them even further for it, it has happened in the past. The 1994 Brazilian Grand Prix saw Eddie Irvine driving for Jordan and Jos Verstappen driving for Benetton and they were coming up to lap Eric Bernard.
Irvine moved to the left, forcing Verstappen off the track. As the Benetton hit the grass, Verstappen lost control and spun across the track into Irvin, Bernard, and Martin Brundle just ahead of them, forcing all four of them to retire from the race.
Irvine was given a $10,000 fine and a one race ban for the incident. Jordan appealed the decision as they believed that it was too harsh, but the FIA then changed to a harsher penalty, which was a three race ban instead.
The appeals process is an important part of F1. It allows teams and drivers to have a say if they believe a penalty was too harsh or unnecessary. In order to appeal, the team must present new and relevant evidence to the FIA. The FIA will then decide whether the penalty should be changed or not.