Mattia Binotto: Too many penalties, three engines are not enough

Michelle Foster
Carlos Sainz leaps from his burning Ferrari. Austria July 2022

Carlos Sainz leaps from his burning Ferrari as a marshal comes to extinguish the blaze. Austria July 2022

Mattia Binotto says the number of engine penalties on today’s F1 grids is “too much”, and he’s not only referring to Ferrari’s tally.

With six races remaining in this year’s championship, both Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz have already been hit, not once but twice each, with engine penalties.

And Ferrari aren’t the only ones.

Only five drivers have escaped them so far this season, the two Aston Martins, the Williams drivers and Daniel Ricciardo.

Eight drivers were penalised at the Belgian Grand Prix and nine at Monza, the sheer number of engine-related grid demotions requiring the stewards to decipher the sporting rules.

It took them four hours to do so at Monza, teams and fans left scratching their heads with Helmut Marko saying even Red Bull’s brains’ trust some times has a difficult time figuring it all out.

Binotto says part of that is because the rules aren’t black-and-white.

“The reason why it took so long is that there are certainly different interpretations and the regulation is not clear enough,” he said.

“That’s something we need to address certainly for the future.

“I think not only how we decide the grid position based on the penalties, I think the amount of penalties we’ve got as well is too many.”

The team boss says the solution for that is to give the teams more engines as they are currently limited to three before the drivers begin to incur penalties.

“Maybe the three PUs per driver is too little at that stage for what we have achieved,” he said. “Maybe it needs to be reconsidered for the next seasons.”

Next season Formula 1 could have as many as 24 grands prix, two more than this year’s, and at present there is no talk of increasing the number of penalty-free engine components.

But what F1 doesn’t need is a free-for-all

Being penalised because a part breaks doesn’t seem fair, not by sporting standards, but in today’s world it is the only way to keep costs down for the teams.

Formula 1 of yesteryear is gone, the world where teams could throw $400 million into a championship no longer exists. That’s a simple truth.

From a time when some teams in the 1980s were said to run ‘qualifying’ engines, a PU that had better horsepower but wasn’t built to last, Formula 1 has taken steps to become more sustainable – for the environment and the bank account.

In 2009 the sport limited teams to eight engines per car with the driver penalised if he needed a ninth. That number has since dropped to three for the Internal Combustion Engine, Turbo Charger and MGU-K and two for the Energy Store and Control Electronics.

It does seem completely unfair that a driver pays the price for the team not designing parts that can go the distance. It can cost them a race win, it can even cost them a championship.

But if that weren’t the case you can bet your last pound there’ll be engine manufacturers deliberately building engines that are super powerful but can only cover a race weekend or three.

If there’s no punishment then there’s no reason not to do it. And that’s why engine penalties are a necessary evil.

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