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Sergio Perez

Why Red Bull exploited a penalty loophole with Perez at Suzuka

It was a bizarre set of circumstances which led to Sergio Perez's return to the circuit after retiring to serve a penalty.

Perez back on track Japan
To news overview © Red Bull Content Pool

Sergio Perez's eventful Japanese Grand Prix culminated in a bizarre set of circumstances when he pulled into his garage to retire, only for the team to send him back out 26 laps later.

The Mexican had elected to park his RB19 after sustaining further damage in a crash with Kevin Magnussen, following his first-lap calamities with Lewis Hamilton and Carlos Sainz.

After a stewards inquiry he was found to have been predominantly at fault for the collision and he received a five-second time penalty. When Perez retired, he had yet to serve it when he entered the pits.

Fearing that he could potentially end up getting a further penalty at the following race in Qatar, the team sent him back out after repairs to complete an out-lap, drive into the pits, serve his time penalty, then complete another out-lap before retiring again.

Red Bull did this to preserve his second place in the Drivers' Championship, as any penalty might impact his position in the final order.

What the rules say

The main article in the Formula 1 Sporting Regulations concerning Red Bull was Article 54.3, which covers all the penalties that stewards can impose if they are involved in an incident on track.

Section D of this regulation dictates: If any of the four (4) penalties above are imposed upon a driver, and that driver is unable to serve the penalty due to retirement from the sprint session or the race, the stewards may impose a grid place penalty on the driver at his next race.

While this is available to the stewards as an option, it is important to note that they are not obliged to carry over penalties. Red Bull were merely covering themselves in case it did happen post-race.

Red Bull exposed a potential loophole

It's not unusual to see cars that have been retired due to crash damage make their way back to their garage for repairs, and then get sent back out a number of laps down on the lead lap.

This happens in endurance racing all the time - think cars pitting for repairs or brake changes at Le Mans - and Formula 1 is technically an endurance.

Usually it's a rarity given the limited amount of gearbox and power unit components, with the extra milage not being worth the lack of points. But generally speaking, if a car is in good enough condition, there is nothing in the regulations stopping them from rejoining.

Red Bull has already exploited a similar area in the rulebook with Perez during the 2021 Belgian Grand Prix, when he crashed on the out-lap to the grid in wet conditions.

As the start of the race was delayed due to the poor conditions, the team argued that they could make repairs and rejoin - albeit at the back of the grid.

Perhaps the regulation should be revisited to prevent the possibility of carrying over a harsher penalty, given that retiring your car from a race should be seen as the ultimate punishment.

			© XPBimages
	© XPBimages

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