Formula One needs to apply common sense in handing out penalties for infringements where visibility is a real problem for drivers, according to Mercedes driver George Russell.
Russell, a director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, spoke after Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso was handed a five-second penalty for lining up slightly out of position on the starting grid in Saudi Arabia on Sunday.
The Spaniard was then handed a further 10-second post-race penalty, overturned on review when the rear jack touched his stationary car before the five-second penalty had been fully served in the pits.
Esteban Ocon of Alpine collected penalties at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix for the same reasons, eventually retiring after a third sanction for speeding in the pitlane.
Drivers have also had lap times deleted in qualifying after their cars’ wheels touched painted lines at the pit lane entry and exit.
“I feel like some of these penalties have been a little bit too extreme,” Russell told reporters in Jeddah.
“I think a little bit of common sense needs to be shown,” added the Briton who was briefly promoted to third place before Alonso, Formula One’s most experienced driver with a record 357 starts, was reinstated for his 100th career podium.
“I think he (Alonso) was a bit to the left (at the start) ... he gained nothing from this. Perhaps a five-second (penalty) is too much.
“And then with regard to his pitstop ... a 10-second (penalty) is too extreme in that case again.”
Russell said there had been conversations through the weekend and “we all need to come together and just find a common centre ground”.
“We’re sat so low and, to put some perspective, we only see probably the top four or five inches of the tyre - so you can’t actually see the ground itself,” he said.
“I can’t even see the yellow line, let alone the white lines determining your lateral position. It’s really, really tough so that’s why I think in this regard we need to show a little bit more common sense.”
Red Bull’s race winner Sergio Perez agreed.
“It’s good that there is a rule in place, but at the same time, sometimes it’s like luck, to be honest, where you position yourself,” said the Mexican.
A spokesman for the governing FIA said in the case of Alonso’s second penalty there were conflicting precedents for what constituted “working on the car”.
He said that would be discussed at a Sporting Advisory Committee meeting on Thursday and a clarification issued before the next race in Australia.
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