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F1 Penalty Points Explained (Ultimate Guide)

Formula 1 is an extremely competitive sport. However, just like any other sport, there are rules that need to be followed. If drivers do not follow these rules, one of the more serious implications is that they can receive penalty points.

The F1 penalty point system was brought in to keep track of drivers’ behavior and racing standards. Drivers pick up penalty points for breaching the rules. These points last 12 months before they expire. If any driver receives 12 penalty points in 12 months, they will receive a race ban.

Formula 1 has some strict rules, and each incident is unique. Drivers can sometimes be given as many as three penalty points for an incident. Penalties are not always consistent in Formula 1, and this is one area that the Formula 1 community has been very critical of in the past.

What Are Reprimands In F1?

Reprimands in F1 are warnings from the stewards that a driver has infringed upon the rules. However, a reprimand doesn’t mean that the driver got away with their offense, and it’s more like a slap on the wrist. If a driver is given more reprimands, they could eventually be penalized.

Drivers can receive up to five reprimands before being given a 10-place grid penalty for the next Grand Prix. However, four of these reprimands need to be driving offenses in order for the grid penalty to be given (we’ll look at the difference between driving and non-driving reprimands below). This number increased from three reprimands to five in 2022.

Non-driving reprimands are a bit hard to pin down, but at the 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel and three other drivers were reprimanded for not removing their “We Race As One” T-shirts during the national anthem. Basically, these are given to drivers for things that don’t happen on track.

Driving reprimands are much easier to identify, and they’re usually given to drivers who have impeded another car during practice or qualifying (these can sometimes lead to time or grid penalties). They can also be given to drivers for defending too aggressively or in conjunction with a penalty for causing a collision.

What Are Time Penalties In F1?

Time penalties in F1 are used to punish drivers for breaking the rules during a race. Oftentimes drivers are penalized for an offense such as causing a collision or leaving the track and gaining a lasting advantage. Drivers will usually be given a 5 or 10-second penalty.

The first way these time penalties can be served is through a pit stop. Before the crew members are allowed to touch the car, the driver will serve their time penalty. This stationary time will cause the driver to “lose” time in the race which is a form of penalty that the driver can choose to take.

However, if the driver does not go into the pits (if they have already completed their pit stops or it’s near the end of the race) the time will simply be added on at the end of the race. In other words, if the driver is given a five second time penalty, they will need to finish at least five seconds ahead of the car behind them in order to keep their position at the finish line.

Different Kinds Of Penalties

Drivers don’t always serve their time penalties in the pits because if they were to go into the pits just to serve their time penalty it would be even more damaging to their race. They would lose up to 30 seconds (time penalty plus the time it takes to get through the pit lane) instead of just five seconds.

However, if a driver gets a stop and go or drive through penalty, they must go through the pit lane. For a stop and go penalty, drivers must commit serious offences, as they need to go to their pit box for no reason other than to stop for 10 seconds and then drive off again. Drive through penalties simply involve driving through the pit lane.

F1 penalties can be appealed, but these are only rarely overturned. Even then, the F1 appeals process takes place after the race, so the race result would rarely be changed much anyway even if the appeal was successful.

What Are Grid Penalties In F1?

Grid penalties in F1 are penalties that apply to a driver at the next race, setting them further back on the grid from where they qualify. F1 drivers usually receive grid penalties for using too many of a limited component, but they may also receive a grid penalty for other rule infringements.

These are some of the more frustrating penalties to be given as a driver because it destroys all of the hard work that you have done in qualifying, and it sets you further back on the starting grid for the Grand Prix.

Grid penalties are often given as either 3, 5 or 10 places, with some extreme cases warranting 15 place grid penalties. The most common reason a driver might be given a grid penalty is for using too many engine or gearbox elements throughout the season.

Drivers will also be given grid penalties for serious on track offenses that weren’t punished at the time. If the stewards state that an on track incident will be investigated after the race it’s likely that the driver will be given a grid penalty for the next race if they are found guilty of breaching the rules.

Drivers can also be given grid penalties for breaching the rules during Free Practice and qualifying sessions. If a driver blocks another driver that is on a timed lap for example, the stewards could decide to use a five place grid penalty as a punishment.

How F1 Penalties Are Decided

The way that penalties are decided in Formula 1 has been a focal point of controversy in recent years. That’s because there has been some inconsistency when it comes to the severity of the penalties that drivers are given for similar incidents that have happened previously.

The reason this happens is because of the stewards, who are essentially the referees. There are three stewards at each Grand Prix, but the stewards rotate for every race, so it’s never the same three stewards at every race. This means that a driver can sometimes be given a harsher penalty for the same incident.

If an incident occurs on track, the stewards will launch an investigation. They will take a closer look at the footage of the incident, including all the different camera angles and replays that are available to them, along with relevant telemetry where possible, before they make a decision on whether a driver needs to be penalized for their actions or not.

If the stewards are unable to make a decision, they can delay their investigation until after the race. In this scenario the stewards would acquire data from the teams, and they would dig deeper into the incident by looking over telemetry and new camera angles that were previously unavailable to them in order to make their decision on the necessary punishment.

What Are Penalty Points In F1?

Penalty points in F1 are used to keep track of a driver’s past infringements. This points system was set up to ensure that drivers are punished if they are consistently breaching the rules. This prevents drivers from driving too recklessly or getting away with the same incidents.

Penalty points go on the driver’s Super Licence. Penalty points can be given to drivers on top of an actual penalty. For example, if a driver impedes a faster car from setting a hot lap in the final minutes of qualifying, preventing them from making it into Q3, the driver that is guilty may be given a grid penalty plus two penalty points.

Drivers can be given one or more penalty points at a time depending on the severity of the incident. This means that if a driver is close to the threshold there is the risk of them being given three penalty points for one incident and exceeding the penalty points threshold.

The penalty point system has been used frequently, and drivers often pick up a point or two every now and then for forcing other drivers off track or causing collisions. It’s not uncommon to see every driver on the grid with at least one penalty point as they are not just given out for major incidents.

How Do F1 Drivers Get Penalty Points?

F1 drivers get penalty points for driving dangerously. Whatever the FIA deems to be dangerous driving can mean that a driver receives penalty points, which are added to their total tally of penalty points on their Super Licence. It’s usually for things like weaving or forcing drivers off the track.

The driver’s record of penalty points is monitored throughout the season because there is a threshold that they can reach, at which point they will be given a race ban. Drivers can be given penalty points for a variety of different reasons, and we have seen many different examples in the past.

A driver can be given penalty points for causing a collision on track, impeding a faster car, ignoring yellow flags, or even driving too fast in the pit lane. Oftentimes the drivers are given penalty points when they breach the rules, so this means that they will also likely be given a grid penalty or a time penalty in addition to their penalty points.

The stewards will decide on whether the driver deserves to be given penalty points for an incident. They will also make the decision on whether more than one penalty point needs to be given to the driver for the incident that they were involved in.

How Many Penalty Points Can An F1 Driver Get?

F1 drivers can get up to 12 penalty points on their Super Licence within 12 months before they receive a one-race ban. While no driver has ever hit this threshold yet, some have come close. This limit is designed to punish drivers that break the rules too many times.

Drivers can be given penalty points for dangerous driving incidents. However, these penalty points mean nothing if there is no threshold and punishment in place for the drivers to be wary of if they do it too often. The FIA is strict on safety in Formula 1, so the punishment for dangerous driving is severe.

If a driver reaches 12 penalty points in 12 months, they will be given a race ban. The driver will not be allowed to participate in the next Grand Prix, and if you’re fighting for the world championship, missing out on a race would be devastating for your title chances.

The team will then draft in their reserve driver to take the place of the driver who was given the race ban. This means that the team will not be disrupted as much as the driver, as they will still have two cars on the grid for the next Grand Prix.

Penalty points expire after 12 months, so if a driver can drive cautiously until they have a couple of penalty points that expire they will be in the clear. However, there have been some close calls in the past when it comes to the number of penalty points that a driver has to their name.

Has Any F1 Driver Ever Received 12 Penalty Points?

No F1 driver has ever accrued enough penalty points to be given a race ban. However, some drivers have been extremely close to having their Super Licenses suspended for one event. Several drivers have received up to 10 penalty points at one time, but nobody has accrued the maximum of 12.

When the driver’s total penalty points are in the higher range they need to be extremely cautious. Drivers can be given more than one penalty point at a time. For example, Lance Stroll was given three penalty points during the weekend of the Australian Grand Prix in 2022.

If a driver is on nine penalty points, one bad weekend could easily push them over the edge, and they would be given their one race ban. However, when the driver returns after their race ban their record is cleared and they start off on zero penalty points again.

Final Thoughts

Penalty points are given to F1 drivers if they have caused an incident and have been found guilty of dangerous driving. If a driver receives 12 penalty points in the space of 12 months, they will be given a race ban. When they return after their race ban their penalty points will be reset to zero.