Drivers call on FIA to make penalty point changes with Pierre Gasly nearing race ban

Michelle Foster
Mercedes' George Russell speaking with Pierre Gasly. Monza September 2022.

George Russell has urged the FIA to review F1’s penalty points system as Pierre Gasly closes in on a ban in a punishment that does “not fit the crime”.

Following Romain Grosjean’s 2012 one-race ban for causing a spectacular opening-corner crash at the Belgian Grand Prix, his seventh first-lap incident of that season, Formula 1 introduced a penalty points system.

Drivers incur penalty points on their Super Licence over a rolling 12-month period and any driver that hits 12 points during that period is banned from the next race.

Gasly is currently on 10, the AlphaTauri driver’s crimes ranging from exceeding track limits, dropping more than 10 cars back during a Safety Car period to twice spinning an Aston Martin.

Russell, a director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, does not believe it is right the Frenchman receives a race ban for actions that were not dangerous.

“The penalty doesn’t fit the crime, especially in Pierre’s case,” Russell told BBC Sport.

The Mercedes driver revealed the FIA will discuss the matter in the off-season but with two races to go before then, Gasly could yet be banned for Abu Dhabi if a transgression in Brazil earns him another two points.

“They have expressed that we will have the conversation in the off-season and review all of this,” Russell continued.

“There is a lot to review this season in many different regards, so the FIA will definitely have a busy off-season.

“In sport, you have to be ready and able to adapt. You have regulations in place and it only takes one incident to recognise maybe the regulation isn’t quite right.

“We need to have the capability to change things and take penalty points away afterwards if we all agree it was incorrect.”

Points should only be awarded for dangerous driving

Russell defended Gasly in the face of his 10 points, saying nothing on his list indicates a driver who is either reckless or dangerous.

“He has some for Safety Car infringements and incidents in practice sessions,” he explained. “If anything were to result in a race ban, it needs to be for something pretty reckless and dangerous.

“I personally don’t associate Pierre with being a reckless or dangerous driver.”

Sergio Perez agrees, saying anything not related to bad driving should not be counted.

Speaking in Thursday’s press conference at the Sao Paulo circuit, he said: “I definitely feel like there are things that are not even related to his driving. And we get points for that.

“So I think when it’s not related to bad driving or mistakes, there shouldn’t be a penalty and it will be really bad if he ends up losing a race for that.”

Alex Albon is the third closest driver to a race ban, the Williams man with seven points on his licence with only two of those awarded for colliding with another driver.

“I think I have three points on my licence and they are down to track limits, which is something which isn’t dangerous at all,” he said.

“I’m not harming any other driver or myself in that situation.

“I think I’ve another two points for a collision with [Lance] Stroll in Jeddah, which I think at the end of the race, we, as drivers, deemed wasn’t my fault. So there are a lot of points on my licence which I don’t think I deserved.

“And I think…we are discussing it. I think there will be a change. Firstly, we’ve already got the points on our licence. So what happens then? Because even if we do make steps forward into next year, do the points we just got for previous races, do they stay on or whatever? So, I think we need to do something about it.

“I don’t think any of us are dangerous drivers. I do understand, of course, you should punish drivers if they do dangerous things, but I think a lot of the points everyone has right now aren’t because of dangerous things.”

Read more: Do Pierre Gasly’s crimes justify being on the brink of a F1 race ban?