Red Bull may have served a time penalty with the ‘retired’ car of Sergio Perez at Suzuka, but the FIA won’t look to close the loophole in the regulations.
The Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday had several retirements throughout, due to incidents on track, but Red Bull patched up Sergio Perez’s retired car to send him back out on track 25 laps after his race had ended.
The Milton Keynes-based team took the unusual decision to send their retired car back out on track in order to ensure they wouldn’t pick up a grid penalty at the next race, the Qatar Grand Prix.
Why did Red Bull send Sergio Perez back on track?
Perez had picked up a five-second time penalty for causing a collision with Haas’ Kevin Magnussen, tagging the left-rear of the Danish driver’s car at the hairpin to pitch him into a spin.
However, Perez had not served his time penalty when Red Bull brought him in to retire from the race – the Mexican driver’s car having been put through the mill with two collisions and having gone through three front wings in the first 13 laps.
According to the Sporting Regulations, Article 54.3 (d), “If a penalty is imposed upon a driver, and that driver is unable to serve the penalty due to retirement from the sprint session or the race, the stewards may impose a grid place penalty on the driver at his next race.”
As a result, Red Bull consulted with the FIA and found that it was within the rulebook for them to send Perez back out on the track (provided the car was in safe condition), do a single lap to pit, and serve his five-second penalty, and then retire once again.
Which is exactly what they did. 25 laps after ‘retiring’, Perez was back out on track, served his penalty, then returned to the garage – clearing him from having a grid penalty for the Qatar GP.
Why Sergio Perez ‘loophole’ furore began
Of course, the legality of the scenario was pulled into focus after Red Bull’s exploits, and a suggestion was made by Sky F1’s Ted Kravitz afterward that the FIA would seek to close off the ‘loophole’ that allowed Red Bull to clear Perez’s name before the end of the race.
“I can tell you that the FIA, now having seen this loophole, are rather minded to close it off quite quickly for the next race,” he said on his Ted’s Notebook broadcast after the Japanese Grand Prix.
“And say that, for certain infringements, if the penalty has not been served, then it has to be a grid penalty at the next race.
“They’re not going to let Red Bull get away with gaming the rules.
“Don’t get me wrong, it was really clever. If I was the team manager, I would be like, ‘’Yeah, definitely do it’. It was genius.
“If you’re competitive, never mind the spirit of the rules, ‘Let’s do it!’ I’d have been laughing into my microphone. But the FIA apparently aren’t too happy about it.”
However, PlanetF1.com understands that Kravitz’s interpretation of the situation is incorrect, and the FIA are not seeking to close the loophole in any way.
As the wording of the Regulations is clear-cut, there is nothing to stop a car from re-joining the race provided it meets safety standards and the technical regulations (without breaking the usual rules regarding parc ferme) – there have been plenty of occasions where cars have been sent back out in order to get in some extra ‘testing’ time or even just to give a driver some extra time behind the wheel.
As Perez’s car didn’t require extensive repairs but was merely damaged sufficiently to prevent it from having a representative race, there was no reason Red Bull couldn’t send back out their car 25 laps down in order to complete the event if they had so desired.
In addition, a rule change for such an occurrence would require the issue to be put before the F1 Commission for a vote before going up the chain for ratification into the Regulations.