Martin Brundle sees grid penalty mess as ‘unacceptable situation’ for F1

Henry Valantine
The drivers go to the first corner. Monza September 2022.

Charles Leclerc leads the field down to the first chicane at the start of the race. Monza September 2022.

Almost half of the grid took penalties ahead of the Italian Grand Prix – and Martin Brundle thinks it is not acceptable to have such uncertainty about how the grid would shape up after qualifying.

With so many drivers having been penalised before Saturday’s running, question marks remained as to how the final grid would take shape for Sunday.

Such was the amount of work that went on behind the scenes to clarify what the starting order would be, there was an almost four-hour wait before the final grid was released.

George Russell is among those to have called for a “rethink” in how penalties are calculated, and 158-time grand prix starter Brundle did not mince his words about how the post-qualifying confusion played out.

Brundle wrote in his Sky Sports column: “With seven cars choosing to, or mostly forced to, take penalties for new power-unit components and other misdemeanours, for the second time in three races the grid didn’t remotely represent the qualifying order.

“This is an unacceptable situation because when the fans turn up trackside or switch on their TV sets to watch qualifying, they should reasonably expect they are watching the race grid being formed.

“Instead, we waited for several hours for the tortuous and complex process of how penalties were applied.

“We need solutions here because this is a bad look for F1. The initial concept is necessary to stop teams throwing new power units and ancillaries at their cars.

“Options might include simply giving each driver more power units per season, applying an in-race penalty such as a pit-lane drive-through to be taken at some point in the race, or giving the teams commensurate financial and championship points pain rather than the drivers having to carry the burden through no fault of their own.

“A mixed-up grid can make for an interesting race observing drivers making their way through the field, but better still is when the six cars with a realistic chance of winning the race are wheel to wheel in the correct grid places.”

Formula 1 needs to find full clarity in future races

Taking ‘tactical’ grid penalties is a feature of Formula 1 that is becoming increasingly prevalent and as Brundle further pointed out, for the limits placed on the parts teams are allowed to use they will have plenty more in reserve – albeit not quite as much as in previous years.

But any measures that come in need to discourage such a practice, including a disqualification from taking part in qualifying for back-of-the-grid penalties, or enforced pit-lane starts.

These ideas, if implemented correctly, would clear up who will start where on the grid, while putting in a heavier penalty for the drivers affected.

Stopping them from leaving the pit lane in qualifying in the first place would also have the effect of clearing up any teamwork from faster cars by offering tows to those behind, for example.

There are ways in which the FIA can act to discourage penalties being taken almost deliberately in certain cases, but while the parts are having to travel further and further, the teams should be well enough equipped to continually try and improve the durability of their power units, keeping them more powerful for longer, rather than taking fresh units for the sake of a few more horsepower.