Over the last year, Pierre Gasly has been the center of attention on numerous occasions, not only for his move from AlphaTauri to Alpine, but also for coming within ten penalty points on his licence.
In fact, according to the regulation, each driver has twelve points on his licence, which are deducted according to the infraction committed on the track. After twelve months, that infraction “expires” and the team bearer is re-assigned the points that were lost as a result of that penalty. However, if all twelve points made available by the regulation are lost, the penalty would be one of the important ones, i.e. forcing the driver to miss the next race on the calendar.
Since some of Gasly’s lost points came from minor infractions, such as exceeding track limits, his situation sparked a heated discussion last winter about the need to overhaul the licensing system.
Initially, in fact, the points license system was designed to prevent drivers from becoming protagonists of controversial episodes, such as accidents, while maintaining a cleaner and less aggressive drive. Over time, these points have been expanded to even minor infractions, but which, as they accumulate, have led to uncomfortable situations for Gasly.
As revealed by Motorsport.com, at the start of the 2023 season the FIA had decided to make changes to the way penalty points were awarded. From now on, instead of including infractions such as exceeding track limits, points will only be awarded for specific cases of dangerous driving, as the rule was originally intended.
This is important news, as it significantly reduces the risk that innocent mistakes lead them to complex situations to manage, where perhaps a driver cannot express himself to the maximum for fear of accumulating a penalty point in addition to a time penalty.
Pierre Gasly, Alpine A523
Photo by: Alpine
Something that Gasly himself had talked about last year, underlining the paradox of the story, given that only five of the ten points accumulated came from infractions such as accidents, while others were linked to situations such as having exceeded the distance limit of ten cars under the Safety Car or having exceeded the track limits several times in Austria. However, the transalpine does not seem to have welcomed the FIA’s decision in a particularly positive way: “I won’t even answer this question. The answer is what you want. But I don’t want to comment.”
Behind the Frenchman’s reluctance to openly comment on the matter is the fact that Gasly and his team believe that the change in the approach to infringements should have been applied retroactively to those who had already accumulated several driving license points. A proposal which, however, did not find the approval of all the teams.
“There are two elements to the rule. One: in the future, what should one receive penalty points for? And I think it’s only fair that penalty points are taken not for things like track limits, but for dangerous driving, which has always been the intent,” Otmar Szafnauer explained to Motorsport.com.
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W14, Charles Leclerc, Ferrari SF-23, Pierre Gasly, Alpine A523
Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images
“I don’t know why things like track limits or excessive distance from the Safety Car were included, because this is not dangerous driving. However, this is one thing and I agree with the [nuova] interpretation of the FIA”.
“Now, should it be retroactive? I always answer yes, mostly because I think it’s right. We should stand up, raise our hands and say we made a mistake: then let’s correct the mistake by looking backwards and not just forwards”, added the Alpine Team Principal, clearly referring to the situation of one of its two riders.
This question, in fact, also emerged during the last meeting of the F1 Commission, in which Szafnauer had brought forward the proposal to retroactively cancel those penalty points accumulated for minor infringements, not only with the start of the new season. An idea which, however, did not find the necessary support from the other teams, which is why it did not pass.
Speaking about his proposal, Szafnauer said: “I was in the minority. Probably three or four out of 10 teams backed it. Some of those who didn’t admitted that the reason they didn’t back it was because opportunistic reasons, hoping that something would happen to us”.
The French team boss admitted there is little hope of convincing rival teams to change their minds on the matter anytime soon. Gasly will only recover two points at the end of May, remaining at risk of exclusion for the next four Grands Prix.
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