The starting grid penalties for changing engine parts in Formula 1 always take on greater relevance on weekends in Belgium and Italy, as the vast majority of teams try to take advantage of the overtaking opportunities that these circuits offer and, due to to it, they change their power units.
In last weekend’s race at Monza, there were as many as nine drivers who received a penalty for various reasons, such as engine changes, additional gearboxes or too many accumulated reprimands.
That caused a lot of controversy on Saturday, when fans and teams were left ‘in the dark’ for almost four hours after qualifying, as no one had explained how the starting grid for the Italian Grand Prix would be set up. 2022 of Formula 1.
This situation caused some teams and experts to ask the category for a change in the system for grid penalties for changes in engine components.
But Toto Wolff , whose driver Lewis Hamilton started from 19th after fitting a new power unit at Monza, sees no better way to deal with the situation.
“We have to remember why we have that rule,” he said of the engine penalty system. “Chassis-wise, we have a cost cap, and we didn’t before. Engine-wise, we don’t have that cost cap yet.”
“If there were no grid penalties, we would have qualifying engines every weekend. Not five, but 20! The big teams and the original manufacturers would spend everything they could to get an advantage.”
“So obviously there has to be a factor that limits and prevents that, and that’s where that rule comes from. But has it gotten too complicated? Without a doubt,” he added.
One of the options that have arisen would be to simply discount points in the constructors’ championship to each manufacturer that exceeds the limits stipulated by the regulations in terms of changes in the power unit and, in turn, that the drivers can keep the positions on the grid based on qualifying, but Wolff is skeptical of that idea.
“One of the negatives could be that the drivers’ championship would be the only one that counts, and some would throw away the constructors’ championship to win the championship with a driver mounting a new power unit every race,” he said.
The Mercedes driver also admitted that the excessive number of changes that teams have been forced to make this year is enough to at least debate whether the current limit of three main components per season and driver is too little.
However, he states that, whatever the number, teams will always push themselves to the limit to try and maximize their competitive chances.
“I think we have to reconsider when the cost cap for the engines comes into force, and then all that [penalties] will go away. But still, we don’t want there to be an arms race in that regard.”
“Whatever freedom they give us, we will all go to the limit and even exceed it in the most strategic way, because it’s only five or 10 positions on the grid.”
“We have to prevent someone from saying ‘we’re going to blow an engine every race because it’s going to be three tenths faster than the old one’. So obviously there has to be something to prevent that,” concluded the German team principal.