Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

It's only fair - what if F1 did redress? // Should drivers be recompensed for incidents caused by others?

Published by Will Davies

The stewards in Formula 1 are very keen on keeping (or at least try the hardest to keep) the sport fair – the level of precision used when scrutineering the cars, the unbending application of the rules, and the number penalties that are handed out; all to ensure that drivers do not gain the tiniest fraction of advantage. However nothing is done to ‘compensate’ drivers who are the ‘victims’ of ‘accidents’. I don’t feel that being forced out of the race (due to no fault of their own) is the same as retiring through (e.g.) mechanical failure or your own driver error.

Where there's blame, there's a claim

It’s been nagging at me for a while, probably since Valencia, and then in particular since Spa: how can it be fair for drivers’ races ruined and championship challenges be seriously affected by the stupidity or inept driving of others. We’ve had Pastor Maldonado’s ‘overtake’ on Lewis Hamilton in the European Grand Prix, Romain Grosjean’s start in Belgium as two high-profile examples of these incidents.

Wanna be startin' something
Wanna be startin' somethingCredit: LAT Photographic

I’m not talking about crashes that are classed as racing incidents, where neither driver was at fault, but the type of crashes where the stewards apportion blame, and issue penalties. It would be nice if there was a method to bring redress to those who have been unfairly ‘penalised’ by such events, like there is in other sports.

Take for example sailing (a sport that I know a lot about, and the one that gave me this idea): a sailor can protest for redress for, amongst other things, “if physical damage [occurs] because of the action of a vessel that was required to keep clear” or “if their finishing position has been made significantly worse by a boat against which a penalty has been imposed or disciplinary action has been taken”.

This works by essentially replacing the results that have been unfairly affected by an average points-score

The idea being that you can’t illegally destroy someone else’s race ‘on behalf’ of a 3rd party, or do it yourself, and the only action taken is the awarding of a penalty that the offending parties can ‘afford’ to receive – the victim is allowed a fair amount of correction in the scoring system. This works by essentially replacing the results that have been unfairly affected by an average points-score (from the races that have been fairly completed.) Complicated? Yes, slightly. A little too much maths and calculation for the average fan? Yes, probably, but a darn site easier than the maths in my Quali speculation. Beyond the wit of the FIA? No, and to be honest, I can’t see them ever taking an idea like this up, but it’s nice to wonder what it’d look like if they do.

Don't hesitate to compensate

For the sake of considering what would happen if this rule existed in F1, I’ve used incidents where a driver has unfairly been eliminated from a race (only); i.e. not Sebastian Vettel’s puncture in Malaysia, nor Alonso’s retirement from Japan. Looking back through the race-result-logs, the list of penalties issued, and the highlights reels to remind myself and be one-hundred percent sure, I came up with this list of drivers, races and points, and this convenient table. (A high average, suggests that a driver ‘on average’ would’ve finished high up the points in those races and this amount of ‘compensation’ is applied.)

DriverRacesWDC TotalAverage *Redress **New Total
AlonsoBelgium1941414208
HamiltonEurope/Belgium1521224176
PérezBritain/Belgium6651076
SennaSpain252227
VergneEurope/Singapore81210

* Average points from races other than those mentioned.

** Average points multiplied by the number of affected races.

The Average and New Total have been rounded to the nearest whole number (for obvious reasons), and the table is correct as of Japan, as the averages will change after each round – depending on finishing position in the race. (I can make my workings available to anyone who wants them, but putting them here would by far confuse the issue.)

Standings
CurrentTotalAlternateTotal
ALO194ALO208
VET190VET190
RAI157HAM176
HAM152RAI157
WEB134WEB134
BUT131BUT131
ROS93ROS93
GRO82GRO82
MAS69PER76
PER66MAS69
KOB50KOB50
MAL46MAL46
DIR44DIR44
MSC43MSC43
HUL37HUL37
SEN25SEN27
VER8VER10
RIC7RIC7

Being knocked out of races is akin to being penalised in the Championship, so the correction puts those 5 drivers on better points-totals, and we can see what their seasons ‘should’ look like. We can see that not much movement happens towards the bottom of the table – due to the small differences and the relatively large gaps between drivers; and mid-table Sergio Pérez’s correction allows him to move up one place from 10th to 9th. However, the biggest movement comes at the sharp-end: Alonso has an 18 point lead in the Championship, rather than just 4, and more significantly, Hamilton moves ahead of Räikkönen and back in touch with the leading pair – now being only 32 points behind Fernando.

With Fernando’s lead somewhat restored, he would have more chance of surviving the renewed challenge from Vettel in his resurgent Red Bull, and Hamilton’s new total would put him rightfully in a position of serious title-contention. The resultant three-way battle for the next five races might be more representative of the way the season has actually played out. Who knows what other impact this added ‘fairness’ would have had – maybe Lewis would’ve been feeing happier about things and not decide to leave McLaren. #ButterflyEffect

I know that this method for redress may not seem fair – as it does not take into account the exact situations in each race; but it does use a drivers’ average performance over a whole season – which is essentially what the WDC does already. Who can say if this would’ve been the case without the incidents, but it seems a fair way to make up for the number of unfair eliminations that we’ve seen this season.

It could be possible to go further, and apply even more redress – for non race-ending incidents, however that would be very hard to do retrospectively (and especially from this position), and would definitely cross a line, with the stewards doing too much meddling. Additionally, it could possibly mean that drivers would drive too much within themselves. This amount of redress could feasibly be applied, but would raise bigger issues – the biggest one I feel would be drivers who are having a bad race looking for an incident to put them out, in order to cheat themselves average points.

At the end of the day, there is very little likelihood that this would ever be an option for the FIA, but it is interesting to see what would happen in that case. I’ll update it as the season goes on as I’m intrigued to see whether the actual winner of the Championship ‘would’ be affected.