Formula 1 officiating change already having a negative impact

Despite only three races of the 2024 Formula 1 season having been contested, the 10-second penalty for causing a collision has already substantially impacted the year.
George Russell, Mercedes, Formula 1
George Russell, Mercedes, Formula 1 / PAUL CROCK/GettyImages

Beyond the podium places, Formula 1 has given fans some good action to watch throughout the first three races of the 2024 season. However, the harsh penalties that have been given to drivers for causing collisions have proven to have a negative impact, as seen in Saudi Arabia with Kevin Magnussen and Australia with Fernando Alonso.

In Saudi Arabia, Kevin Magnussen’s early collision with Alex Albon resulted in a 10-second penalty which ultimately derailed his race. As such, it prompted Magnussen to overtake Yuki Tsunoda and essentially slow down the pack of cars behind him to help Haas teammate Nico Hulkenberg.

This strategy helped Hulkenberg secure a point, which could prove to be crucial towards the end of the season. But there was some controversy behind it, as RB were vocal on the fairness of how Haas instructed Magnussen to drive.

Deliberately slowing down the pack, Tsunoda specifically, seemed wrong to RB, which noted their intention to take the matter to the FIA for potential further action. In the end, the early 10-second penalty from Magnussen changed the race for nearly half of the grid.

What the FIA did not consider was how handing out a harsh penalty to a driver early on during a race can greatly impact those behind the penalized driver. With the previous five-second penalties, drivers would normally push harder to overcome those five seconds. However, a 10-second penalty all but instantly ruins a driver’s race. Whether this issue is addressed mid-season or for future seasons will be something to monitor.

Fernando Alonso’s blunder in Australia

Fernando Alonso was slammed with a 20-second penalty after the race ended for braking early and causing George Russell to crash into the barriers on the final lap of the Australian Grand Prix. This led to Russell’s car being flipped onto its side in the middle of the track. Sitting helpless in his Mercedes, Russell instantly pleaded for a red flag to prevent another crash.

Alonso backed his driving as safe, with the emphasis on the fact that not every lap can be driven the same way. With that in mind, the penalty was rather harsh, as the Spanish driver dropped down to eighth place and lost four points.

Considering it was his maneuvering on the track that led to Russell’s crash, 20 seconds seems rather harsh. No contact was made between the two and Alonso’s maneuver was not intentional, but the FIA continue to be a lot harsher with penalties this season.

While that harshness can be understood in terms of making the drivers more conscious of preventing collisions, some incidents are unavoidable, given the high-speed nature of Formula 1.

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In recent seasons, Magnussen’s crash with Albon would have commonly resulted in only a five-second penalty, and Alonso might have been given a 10-second penalty.