Here’s what’s wrong with Rosberg penalty

Nico Rosberg has been given a 10 second penalty for the team’s breach of article 27.1 of the Sporting Regulations that says the driver must drive the car alone and unaided. The stewards did find that the team relayed information that is permitted under technical regulations 014-16 but ran afoul of the regulation when telling Nico how to shift through his issues with the gearbox.

“Having considered the matter extensively, the stewards determined the team gave some instructions to the driver that were specifically permitted under technical directive 014-16.

“However, the stewards determined the team then went further and gave instructions to the driver that were not permitted under the technical directive, and were in breach of article 27.1 of the sporting regulations, that the driver must drive the car alone and unaided.”

If you consider that a 10-second penalty reduces his finishing position in the British Grand Prix to 4th and his championship points leads to just one, it was a harmful penalty but it took over three hours to render a verdict which Mercedes said they would appeal. The reason, it is said, that it took so long is that this is the first time a driver is facing this penalty so a precedent is being set. This is where my issue comes in to play with the penalty.

As you may have read in my Race Report here, I felt that this penalty should have already be decided and included in a handful of punitive actions Stewards could take if this regulation were to be breached…which the FIA surely knew it would be given how complicated these cars are and how prevalent the recent talk has been about it since Baku. When watching pundits discuss it in Baku, they seemed to suggest that a team would have to try it and see what the penalty is. Now they know.

After three hours, we’ve set a precedent going forward and this is where the issue comes into play. Mercedes typically has such a performance advantage that the 10-second penalty wouldn’t make much difference and this means that Merc can abuse the rule all they like for the remainder of the season while other teams would not be able to as they have less of an advantage over the field.

Let’s look at what this penalty would have done to Nico’s season so far if Mercedes would have ignored the radio ban at every race:

AUS- 1st to 3rd
BAH- still 1st
CHN- Still 1st
RUS- Still 1st
MCO- Still 7th
MON- 5th to 7th
BKU- Still 1st
AST- 4th to 5th
BRT- 3rd to 4th

It would have impacted three races with two of them a single position and only Australia the biggest hit. If this regulation remains, then going forward it could be any team that has a clear performance advantage and they will bake that in to their decisions when racing. Think of the Red Bull era or Ferrari domination—same issue as Mercedes now.

In the British Grand Prix, Nico most likely would have finished much lower had the team not told him what to do as team boss Toto Wolff said:

“It would have been stuck in seventh gear and that would have been the end, probably.”

So the consequence would have been much worse if they had followed the regulation. Perhaps a better solution might be a drive-through penalty or even a mandatory tire change to softest compound on offer that race weekend? Just spit-balling here but I am thinking of ways in which the punitive action fits the situation and demands a clear detriment to ignoring the rule.

This isn’t a popular rule, by the way, as Sky Sports F1 were apoplectic in Baku making news where there really wasn’t any and demanding a re-think of the radio ban because Lewis suffered under its weight. This weekend no one is screaming bloody murder that the radio ban is silly and that Nico shouldn’t be penalized as his car was in a serious state. Funny how that works. Radio ban is ok now and penalty is not enough as far as #TeamLH thinks.

I think the ban is silly too and I don’t think the penalty was enough either but for markedly different reasons—mainly as it is a precedent that Mercedes can absorb in most situations and other teams cannot. If Williams F1 and Force India were mired in battle and one of their drivers were given instructions, a 10-second most likely would impact them or it marginally may not but surely a drive-through would or a mandatory pit stop to change tires to softest compound on offer.

Nico’s team breached the rules. They rolled the dice and now we know that they will be able to absorb this penalty for the rest of the season. If you assessed a 25-second penalty to simulate a drive-through, that would be a deterrent but a mandatory tire change would add an element of slow stops and soft tires in which to try and negotiate your way back through the field. The drive-through or mandatory tire change would have to occur within two laps of the penalty and ignoring that would be a disqualifying action.

Those are my thoughts on the situation but I am sure you all have much better ones so let’s hear them in the comment section below.

Final result after penalty:


Pos Driver Car Gap
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1h34m55.831s
2 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Renault 8.250s
3 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 16.911s
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault 26.211s
5 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m09.743s
6 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 1m16.941s
7 Nico Hulkenberg Force India/Mercedes 1m17.712s
8 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso/Ferrari 1m25.858s
9 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m31.654s
10 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso/Ferrari 1m32.600s
11 Felipe Massa Williams/Mercedes 1 Lap
12 Jenson Button McLaren/Honda 1 Lap
13 Fernando Alonso McLaren/Honda 1 Lap
14 Valtteri Bottas Williams/Mercedes 1 Lap
15 Felipe Nasr Sauber/Ferrari 1 Lap
16 Esteban Gutierrez Haas/Ferrari 1 Lap
17 Kevin Magnussen Renault Gearbox
Jolyon Palmer Renault Gearbox
Rio Haryanto Manor/Mercedes Spun off
Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari Transmission
Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari Electrical
Pascal Wehrlein Manor/Mercedes Spun off


Pos Driver Points
1 Nico Rosberg 168
2 Lewis Hamilton 167
3 Kimi Raikkonen 106
4 Daniel Ricciardo 100
5 Sebastian Vettel 98
6 Max Verstappen 90
7 Valtteri Bottas 54
8 Sergio Perez 47
9 Felipe Massa 38
10 Romain Grosjean 28
11 Nico Hulkenberg 26
12 Carlos Sainz 26
13 Daniil Kvyat 23
14 Fernando Alonso 18
15 Jenson Button 13
16 Kevin Magnussen 6
17 Pascal Wehrlein 1
18 Stoffel Vandoorne 1
19 Esteban Gutierrez 0
20 Jolyon Palmer 0
21 Marcus Ericsson 0
22 Felipe Nasr 0
23 Rio Haryanto 0