F1: New Power Unit Grid Penalties Set To Shake Things Up

German Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel leaves the Red Bull pit. (Photo: Getty Images)

The latest 2014 Sporting Regulations outline shows just how complicated the grid-penalty procedure will be if drivers face reliability issues.

Previously, it was pretty straightforward as drivers were allowed eight engines per season before use of a ninth led to a penalty. Under the new rules, they are allowed not five engines, but five sets of six key elements. These can be used in any combination, but once a sixth example of any of those components is used, the penalties start to kick in.

Intriguingly, grid penalties can also be carried over to the next event. For example, if a driver who qualified 20th gets a five-place penalty and only goes back two places, he will have to serve the remaining three at the next race. However, this only carries over once.

The rules state: “For the purposes of this Article 28.4, the power unit will be deemed to comprise six separate elements: the engine (ICE), the motor generator unit – kinetic (MGU – K), the motor generator unit – heat (MGU – H), the energy store (ES), turbocharger (TC) and control electronics (CE). Each driver will, therefore, be permitted to use five of each of the above six components during a championship season, and any combination of them may be fitted to a car at any one time.

“Should a driver use more than five of any one of the elements, a grid-place penalty will be imposed upon him at the first event during which each additional element is used.”

The penalties are outlined as follows:

Replacement of a complete power unit: The driver concerned must start the race from the pit lane

The first time a sixth of any of the elements is used: 10-place grid place penalty

The first time a sixth of any of the remaining elements is used: Five-place grid penalty

The first time a seventh of any of the elements is used: 10-place grid penalty

The first time a seventh of any of the remaining elements is used, and so on: five-place grid place penalty

The rules add: “A power unit or any of the six components will be deemed to have been used once the car’s timing transponder has shown that it has left the pit lane.

“If a grid-place penalty is imposed, and the driver’s grid position is such that the full penalty cannot be applied, the remainder of the penalty will be applied at the driver’s next event. However, no such remaining penalties will be carried forward for more than one event.”

The stewards also have the power to impose grid penalties for an unsafe release, either for that event for an offense in practice, or for the next if it happens in a race. This will put a premium on teams ensuring that they send cars out with their wheels securely tightened.