The rarity of driver suspensions in Formula 1


The biggest racing news this week wasn’t inside Formula 1. NASCAR Cup Series driver Bubba Wallace found himself suspended for one race after his crash with Kyle Larson at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Larson had directed Wallace into the wall and Wallace retaliated by snagging the defending champion at right-back, sending him into a dangerous crash. This retaliatory behavior is often tolerated in NASCAR, sometimes even encouraged, and seeing drivers walk out of races because of this mindset is not uncommon.

Although suspension is somewhat rare, the event is reminiscent of the way F1 tracks are guarded, the safety of cars, the way teams manage their drivers and the sport itself. Races can be littered with in-race penalties, kicking drivers out of the race and points is like being parked or earning a DNF. The stewards offer an extended penalty system that enforces discipline in the equivalent of real time.

Driver suspensions are rare because there is often no need for them.

F1’s last driver suspension came in 2012. The incident happened at Spa-Francorchamps when Romain Grosjean acted as the catalyst for a multi-car wreck. He started by eliminating McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, then continued by sending McLaren’s second driver out of the race, Fernando Alonso, who then held the drivers’ lead. Sergio Perez and Kamui Kobayashi also saw their days end early thanks to Grosjean misguided and desperate maneuver.

The clip (see link above) shows how Grosjean became a directionless missile as soon as he clipped Hamilton. The ensuing carnage is cause for concern, but so is the fact that Grosjean ended up rolling on the roof of another car. Incidents like these are why the sport has pushed to implement the Halo to ensure driver safety.

The reason for the suspension came not only because Grosjean was driving like an idiot – he was – but because he “eliminated contenders for race champions.”

An aside on Grosjean. He had gained a reputation for being reckless in the 2012 season, and his sinking at Spa wasn’t the only questionable moment in the decision-making. By the time he found his way to Haas in 2016, his aggressiveness had been tempered by uncompetitive cars, and he seemed like a somewhat benign track presence. The key word is somewhat, because there are crashes highlight coils from the Swiss driver, and he has again taken on the role of bumping into the others since joining IndyCar.

Either way, quick math indicates that a decade has passed since the FIA ​​was forced to take a stand regarding driver etiquette and safety.

Moreover, the last time an F1 driver was suspended for a race was in 1994, when the sanctioning body imposed suspensions on three different drivers. From a refereeing perspective, 1994 looks like an aberration, but there is another way to look at these judgments. The sport found itself in need of asserting its control and appealing to rowdy personalities, including Michael Schumacher, who earned himself a two-race vacation for ignoring black flags.

But since 2012, there have been no more suspensions for driver stupidity in F1. Drivers racked up points during the season that nearly resulted in suspensions, including Lando Norris, who nearly took a seat last year, but they still avoided doing so.

One of the ways to think about driver safety and suspension in sport is that F1 and the FIA ​​have done well to get their message across on driver labeling. Of course, there is still debate about what this etiquette is, when it should be followed, and whether or not some drivers ignore it.

Consider the Max Verstappen – Lewis Hamilton crash at silverstone in the 1st round of the 2021 British Grand Prix.

We see the two collide. We know Verstappen crashes and is taken to hospital for further checkup.

But who’s at fault, and why, are just as subjective as determining a favorite flavor. Bias is a challenge in this respect.

The difference between F1 and NASCAR, even with a dodgy incident like the one above, is that F1 tries to judge its races at the time.

During the 15-minute red flag period, the FIA ​​imposed a 10-second penalty on Hamilton. This type of race penalty is usually a killer and would relegate one to likely out of the points. (However, in this case, the red flag period allowed the mechanics to resolve any issues with Hamilton’s car from contact, which was then followed by Hamilton taking a dominant car and tearing up the field to score his eighth British GP.)

The wreckage has become enough of a problem for Red Bull to even consider taking legal action against Hamilton, Toto Wolff and Mercedes. Despite all the comments, social media comments and opinions from inside the sport, nothing else came of the matter. Hamilton suffered no further penalties. Neither did Verstappen when he parked his car at the top of Hamilton in Imola.

The sport seems to assume that the cars are safe enough, the drivers smart enough, and the wrecks not problematic enough to warrant monitoring in a way that drives a driver away from their car as a discipline.

Of course, there is a slight, or perhaps big, difference between Verstappen and Hamilton playing the smash derby: their madness, believe it or not, manifested itself in the form of racing incidents.

Although retaliation was surely in play in some respects, due to a kind of levity that holds on to each other, they weren’t just randomly slamming or punching each other outside the box. track. In fact, Grosjean, for all his terrible driving, never chased a driver the way Wallace did, or many other NASCAR drivers did.

The reality is that F1 avoids these incidents on several levels. The danger is too real. The costs of the car too big. And his position in the sport can be so precarious. Retaliation goes through other methods and avoids the absurdity of “Boys, go ahead”.

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