Formula 1: A simpler formula needed

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton giving the thumbs-up at the end of the Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday. The world championship leader finished third, despite starting the race in 21st place on the grid.
Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton giving the thumbs-up at the end of the Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday. The world championship leader finished third, despite starting the race in 21st place on the grid.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Hamilton says F1's grid penalties are too technical and suggests a change is required

LONDON • It took a McLaren executive to sum up the head-scratching farce of a rule system that even the participants do not understand fully.

"You can go to a cricket match not understanding anything about the googly or what silly mid-off is," he sighed, "but at least you understand a man throwing a ball at a bloke with a bat who can hit it for six. Easy.

"In Formula One, you need a degree and even we don't know what is going on."

Minutes before the Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday, the International Automobile Federation's race stewards issued an edict saying that Lewis Hamilton would have to start from the pit lane because his Mercedes team had broken the seal on his gearbox.

That would mean an additional 10-place grid penalty on top of the 55 he had already incurred for changing a baffling array of components with titles such as MGU-H, ICE and TC.

COMPLEX TERMS

People watching don't care. It is far too technical, too complicated. Most people don't know what an MGU-H is and don't care. I hope one day they go back to that and simplify it.

LEWIS HAMILTON, on the slew of penalties he incurred for changing his engine components.

But even the governing body was lost - it turned out even it had got its own rules wrong.

Hamilton started from 21st spot on the grid as planned. He could not take a 55-place penalty as the other 32 places do not exist.

The Mercedes driver took all this nonsense on the chin, but his remarks on the state of a sport so consumed by technical complication that it can mete out grid-place penalties that are meaningless carried much weight.

"The fact that we have six components to an engine, I don't think is great," he said.

"People watching don't care. It is far too technical, too complicated.

"Most people don't know what an MGU-H is and don't care. I hope one day they go back to that and simplify it."

Hamilton, though, was surprised that he managed to come out of the race as well as he did, dropping only 10 points in the lead he holds over his team-mate Nico Rosberg, after the German started on pole.

Rosberg won the action-packed race, with Hamilton third and Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo second.

Hamilton took three new engines over the weekend, which incurred the grid penalties, and he had not expected to come away with 15 points.

"I'd have had an even better summer if I went in knowing I'd come out nine points ahead still after three new engines. So I'm very grateful," he said.

Mercedes had gone into the race knowing Hamilton would have to take penalties due to failures earlier in the season and opted to maximise the number of components he can now draw on in the remaining eight races.

Mercedes executive director Toto Wolff was pleased they had come out of it so well.

Wolff said: "He has so many engines he could go well into next year. I am happy for him because he had to take the penalty.

"He had the luck and a sensational drive which put him in third but it's not a lot of points lost and now he has an engine in his pocket compared to Nico and the (title) race is pretty much open."

Rosberg, who clinched his first win in five races and took a vital step in reeling in Hamilton's lead, admitted that the race had not proved to be a great challenge, with his rival so far back.

"In general I had everything under control," he said, "because I had an awesome car out there, and Lewis wasn't there to battle it out, which made it a less difficult weekend.

"But I am really pleased to get the win."

THE TIMES, LONDON, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 30, 2016, with the headline 'A simpler formula needed'. Print Edition | Subscribe