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Analysis: Should yellow cards be used to discipline F1 drivers?
Posted By: James Allen  |  05 Sep 2012   |  7:48 am GMT  |  120 comments

One of the collateral effects of the one race ban on Romain Grosjean for causing the startline pile up at Spa, is to ask questions about how Pastor Maldonado has so far avoided a similar ban.

Maldonado again firmly found himself under fire for his driving in Belgium with the Williams driver picking up penalties for three separate offences over the Spa weekend. It has raised questions about whether F1 should move towards a system of yellow cards, as in football, where an automatic ban is imposed once a certain number of yellow cards have been accrued.

While Romain Grosjean’s one-race suspension somewhat served to overshadow the severity of Maldonado’s own triple whammy of punishments, both drivers’ latest examples of wayward driving has served to opened up the debate surrounding the driving standards being diplayed by the latest generation of young guns entering F1 and in the junior series’.

Maldonado has been a persistent offender in that regard since the start of the season, and in his 2011 debut year to an extent, and research conducted by JA on F1 into the decisions handed down by the FIA stewards’ in 2012 is certainly rather damning. The Williams driver has now been punished for 10 separate offences across the 12 GPs to date with the most recent nine out these meted out in the seven events since his brilliant maiden win at the Spanish GP in May, a period in which he has also scored no points.

In total Maldonado has come to the attention of the stewards on 11 occasions and in only one of those instances was the respective charge not upheld. Since Monaco he has been in the stewards’ office at every event.

Here’s the full rundown:

China – Reprimand for impeding Heikki Kovalainen in qualifying.

Monaco – Ten-place grid penalty for colliding with Sergio Perez in final practice.

Canada – Cleared following accusations that he impeded Kimi Raikkonen in Q1.

Europe – €1,400 fine for speeding in the pit lane during final practice. / Twenty-second time penalty for colliding with Lewis Hamilton.

Britain – €10,000 fine and a reprimand for crashing into Sergio Perez.

Germany – €1,200 fine for speeding in the pit lane during first practice.

Hungary – Drive-through penalty for colliding with Paul di Resta.    

Belgium – Three-place grid penalty for impeding Nico Hulkenberg in qualifying. / Five-place grid penalty for the Italian GP for jumping the start. / Second five-place Italian GP grid penalty for causing a collision with Timo Glock.

In addition Maldonado has also taken three further five-place grid drops for gearbox changes – two of which, in Monaco and Canada, were more than likely self-inflicted owing to the fact they were preceded by crashes in final practice and qualifying respectively.

Unlike the football model, F1’s decision to ban Grosjean for Monza is the first example since 1994 of the sport’s authorities standing a driver down for a race or throwing them out of an event completely as punishment for a major driving offence.

Mid-way through last season a totting up procedure for reprimands was inserted into the sporting regultions to give that rebuke some official value, with Article 18.2 stating thatany driver who receives three reprimands in the same Championship season will, upon the imposition of the third, be given a ten grid place penalty at that Event” or following event if the indiscretion takes place during the race. Maldonado is therefore one more reprimand away from a further 10-place grid drop, but given he has picked up four qualifying penalties already this season, few would regard this as a meaningful punishment should it have to be applied in a bid to try and change his ways.

Maldonado did certainly serve notice of his erratic style through the junior ranks and so therefore provides an example of what both Stefano Domenicali and Fernando Alonso have spoken about since Sunday’s first-corner pile-up at Spa that more needs to be done to lay down the law to junior drivers before they get to F1. Their driver’s style is certainly a quandary for Williams who, irrespective of the large budget Maldonado brings with him from PDVSA, knows it has a potential star on its hands but one whose actions on track is consistently costing the team vital points in the battle for valuable constructors’ championship positions.

Given Maldonado, albeit in his fourth year in the feeder series, comfortably beat the very highly-regarded and potentially future Ferrari driver Sergio Perez to the 2010 GP2 title the raw talent certainly is there, but it may be down to Williams to try and curb his aggression before the FIA  is eventually forced to act with more severity.


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Something needs to be done. This is F1, for feck’s sake – it’s the pinnacle of motorsport on this blue marble of ours, and the drivers should be held to a higher standard than anywhere else.

Otherwise, you end up with the likes of the Indycar series, where it’s obvious several drivers have zero respect for those around them. Sure, some of the old hands in the series are very fair, but there are a bunch that just don’t give a crap.

Look at the number of collisions in the Sonoma race a few weeks ago (at turn 7, if memory serves me), one of which punted Ryan Hunter-Reay (one of this year’s championship contenders) out of a solid point-scoring position. What a joke.


Drivers should be exposed to single race bans especially if they are considered at fault for two serious incidents. This would not only serve as a deterrent for drivers who put the lives of their competitors and marshals at risk and for the role of third driver to mean something.

it would also give the teams a chance to test new talent in race conditions whilst honouring season long contracts, I’m sure Pastor would change his ways quickly if Bottas had done a couple of races and proved far less error prone or temperamental behind the wheel.

Also wouldn’t it be great if Mclaren could give Parfett a race or one of the Torro Rosso drivers got a weekend in a Red Bull or Perez had one race for Ferrari…

A move like this could really provide some interesting chances for young and development drivers to showcase their talent and add some real spice to the championship (not that it’s needed this year)


James what do you think? There could be an interesting article in who could have replaced who in which races due to their various discretions …


James, do you believe that the Stewards would have had a quiet word to Frank Williams by now that would say something along the lines of “another major incident and you will be suspended severely”? Maybe Frank now needs to come down on Pastor like a ton of bricks?


Maybe Pastor is feeling inferior to his famous team mate and feels he needs to try harder.


Or rather, ‘Calm him down a bit’


Should F1 have a yellow card system? I for one say yes. One where both Pastor and Romain would have gotten the red card this season b/4 Spa.


Driver AND car should be banned. This is a TEAM sport. And the attention of the owner/team principal/sponsors would certainly be piqued.



It’s hardly surprising the lesser experienced drivers- and yes, I’m including Hamilton in that group- are making stupid mistakes. Even Schumi is suffering through lack of testing-time.

These days, the drivers don’t hardly get any opportunity to test. In a sport such as F1, that’s just crazy.


I have a driving licence. I speed or drive into other vehicles , I get points on my licence . Enought points I get a ban.

If I behave for a while the points expire.

F1 drivers have super licence. Ditto.



Yes, there should be a yellow card system, and yes it should be enforced firmly. We’re talking about driver safety here, and the kind of driving regularly demonstrated by Maldonado and certain others is downright dangerous. It’s high time that we showed some responsibility, and made a ruling *before* somebody gets killed.

What’s more important, though, is that the drivers are punished not on what the result of their actions are, but on what potentially *could* have happened.

Does anybody here think that Grosjean would have been penalized with a ban if he’d merely taken out a backmarker or two? No, and that is just wrong. Penalizing Grosjean in this manner solely because he took out a couple of the frontrunners is absolutely wrong. It shows us to be playing favorites, it downplays and belittles the efforts of the backmarkers, and it makes it clear that we’re not interested in safety in the least.

And then we have the pit lane incidents, plus Schumacher’s dangerous cut across the front of another car to dive to the pit entry from the wrong side of the track, all of which went basically unpenalized. All three were dangerous, and all three merited action from the stewards–but because nobody in a championship-winning car found themselves out of the race, we largely ignored the incidents.

It’s also high time that we banned cars driving side by side and/or overtaking in the fast lane of the pit lane, or driving in the inner lane of the pit lane except immediately around your entry to and exit from your pit box. This is eventually going to lead to injuries when two cars interlock wheels in the pit, an accident causes a wheel to become detached from a car in the pit, or similar. When it’s packed with largely unprotected bodies, the pit lane should not be a place for side by side racing.


What about adding a team penalty to drivers who are consistently getting penalties. Maybe for every race ban a driver gets a team looses one day of testing at the start of next year. Or for x number of penalties by one driver in one year the team looses x number of constructor points.

I know a penalty already hurts a team with the chance of scoring points (or more points) in a race, but a team centered penalty may encourage the teams to correct their driver actions with more urgency. Especially if the team penalty increases significantly for repeat offenders.


No, only red ones.


Pastor Maldonado has a history of escaping the consequences of reckless driving with money:

In 2005, he was banned for life after he ignored yellow flags at Monaco in Renault World Series, ran over a Marshall and broke his back. Maldonado’s father intervened and paid off the family concerned and smoothed things over.

In GP2 he frequently resorted to using his car as a weapon, for example Spa 2009, Hockenheim 2010 – (against Grosjean!)

Also known in junior formulae for ‘accidents’ blocking circuit during qualy after setting good times himself.

There are many young drivers in lower formulas as fast as he is … but lacking the cash to paper over their red mist moments, and buy a seat in F1.


Pastor is a child of privilege. In Latin American society, if your family has the money and influence you can literally buy or threaten your way out of very serious offenses. Even more so when the president of the country has your back. Maldonado sees the world in a different lens from what most people in this site do. It can be very dangerous when a child of privilege is weilding a 300 kph weapon.


Maldonado should be racing Nascars instead of F1s …


You mean dodgems lol ..


As far as I remember the GP2 season where Maldonado won that championship, Perez was taken out at least 6 times by other drivers and i think twice by Maldonado. So I dont really regard that championship as dominant by him. If I dont remember correctly please correct me.

On the other hand, I think i would copy soccer penalty system but with three tiers. 3 reprimands convert to a 5 or 10 grid penalty. And 20 grid penalty places covert to a race ban. Of course this would only take into account driver penalties, not engine or gearbox changes. I think this would give a lot more meaning to the grid penalties and hopefully would net us a campionship where nobody would have to be banned.

And I also agree with ferrari about using the same criteria in gp2 and gp3.


You euros and your yellow cards! what a joke, the only thing that impresses these drivers and teams is when you hit them in the wallet. I don’t mean those little fines they’ve been giving Maldonado, what’s $10,000 to a guy making millions, I mean ban the team and the driver for multiple races. No matter how much money he brings to the team if they’re not on the race track it’s over.

Either that or don’t do anything and tell them all, Hey guys, that’s racin’ have at it!

Remember it takes two balls to play this sport!


Sounds like a pretty sensible idea to me.

However more importantly and unrelated to this topic, can I just say a big best of luck to Alex Zanardi who is just about to head out in the handcycling at the Paralympics around Brands Hatch!!


Well I think Maldonado and Grosjean for that matter are acting a bit recklessly because they’re in competitive cars and are closer to the front just like they were on GP2, slowly but surely they will become less aggressive because they’ll realize that unlike GP2, this cars have different levels of performance and just being aggressive is not enough to beat the cars in front.


I have no idea why, but reading James’ looonnnnng list of Maldo’s offences just made me LAUGH OUT LOUD! Jeez this is like a joke!

Seriously though, I like the yellow card idea. Before implementing that though, kick Maldo and Grosjean away from F1 for life first. We definitely can do without them before they cause further harm. Though I gotta say, at least the latter is apologetic; the former? He always just lays blame on the other and never admit any wrongdoings.


The list of his indiscretions doesn’t include Australia where he took out Grosjean in an absurd passing move from too far back. How the stewards missed that one when we could all see it on telly amazes me.

Time for a red card!

What a dilemma for Frank, to have two unacceptable drivers on whose money he depends. I guess that’s an addiction?


The responsible for these inconsistency is the maFIA. Drivers come and go and the rules are the same. What’s the point on appointing ex-F1 drivers -from the Ice Age- for the stewards panel ? The problem is not with who rules what, but what rules to apply. In that sense a “logical” penalty system may be presented to the World Sport Council, one in which actual drivers, teams and the maFIA agree. As someone said upstairs, it’s not on the same logic parameter to hand out a 5-place grid penalty for a gearbox than a driving offense. Driving offenses should be punished removing championship points, both on WC and CC. Maldonado on this basis would calm down, be sacked by the team or be at “zero” points.


Krash-kid this year…title-contender in 2013.

Hope Williams retains Maldonado…

Potential to be unlocked.


Sounds like a great idea to me. The whole ’10 place grid drop’ if you get 3 reprimands just makes no sense as it doesn’t seem like a fair punishment, whereas race bans might make people think just a bit more.

As long as there’s consistency with how they are dished out I am all for it.


It’s good to see that the FIA is finally beginning to take driving standards seriously, but for me it’s a case of 25 years too late. The blatent blocking and then intimidation tactics both employed against other drivers was never punished, despite the obvious dangers they imposed. The result is we’ve had several generations of drivers growing up thinking it’s fine to swerve at your opposition and Maldonado is the result.

Having said that driving standards in recent years have been OK, most incidents have tended to be marginal and I’d rather see drivers having a go than hanging back and doing nothing. Even with Grosjean most of his incidents have been marginal and a slight touch with a front wing is to be expect from someone at every race. The fact that he’s done it so often this year has put the spot light on him and the serious error in judgement at Spa got him a deserved ban, lets hope it’s the last of his incidents.

Maldonado is a different matter. He piles into corners all crossed up and wipes out his opponents, usually in a way that lets him carry on, and lets not even start on the deliberate sideswipes. The real difference between Pastor and Romain for me is that he never excepts blame for naything he does, rather like Senna and Schumacher in that respect. He keeps getting punished with penalties but it’s long passed time that he was handed a ban, I’ll be surprised to see him in Singapore.


In a larger sense its pretty embarrassing for F1 being the pinnacle of motorsport to have such undisciplined drivers up and down the grid.

Although in contrast you have rookies like Charles Pic fighting wheel to wheel fairly with Glock which does show that not ALL rookies are crazy and violent.

Maldonado seems like an incarnation of Andrea De-Cesaris at times.


It’s a pity that they were having such a great time they didn’t bother with the blue flags.


I thought that I was the only one that saw that great Marussia duel!


Rather then give a qualifying place penalty or a ban for causing and avoidable first corner incident, I think it’d make more sense to make the driver start from the pit lane during the next race once all the other cars have passed.

I guess that’s a punishment that’d hit the faster qualifying teams harder than it would the likes of HRT, but it’d rally hammer home the message that “you can come and start with the pack once you’re less of a menace.”

As for Maldonado, I’m not sure whether I’ve ever said this before, but I think F1 needs the odd Dick Dastardly character. 😉

Just so long that no one gets hurt!


If the stewards just went ahead and gave Maldonado a race ban when they should have done, when it was clear as day he deliberately crashed into Perez, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. He had previous at Spa 2011, so there was no excuse.

What Grosjean did was dangerous, and deserved a ban because, as in football, red cards are also there to protect others, not just for acts of malice. But it was a mistake, unlike Maldonado’s incidents. That is a crucial difference and let’s hope the FIA act before it’s too late.

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