Position drop could address F1’s off-track overtaking issue

The GPDA director said that one possible solution is to give those who transgress a penalty that involves positions rather than time.

Russell has been guilty on several occasions of making a move that involves going off the circuit but which gains a crucial track position, and opens up the possibility of negating the five-second penalty that is the standard outcome.

In last weekend’s US Grand Prix sprint race at the Circuit of the Americas, Russell picked up a penalty after passing Oscar Piastri. But while he eventually did lose a place in the final results to Pierre Gasly and therefore finished eighth, he was ultimately better off than if he had been caught behind the McLaren driver who slipped back to tenth at the flag.

After the sprint, Piastri’s team-mate Lando Norris called for tougher penalties in such circumstances.

Russell believes that docking drivers one or more positions would negate the temptation to take and beat the five-second hit, but stressed that the issue is very much track dependent as there aren’t many venues where there are clear opportunities to gain an advantage.

“I think time penalties are so race dependent,” he said. “We’ve spoken about potentially a position penalty, which is more penalising.

“If there’s gravel there, if someone pushes you wide, you’re going to end up in the gravel. So you’re not really planning to go there, whereas I was always intending to go around the outside [of Piastri], hoping that it would leave me a bit of space.

“And if it didn’t, it would just push me wide onto a bit of tarmac. And you sort of worry about the consequences after.

George Russell, Mercedes-AMG

Photo by: Steve Etherington / Motorsport Images

George Russell, Mercedes-AMG

“I don’t enjoy racing like that and something does need to change. It’s only probably three circuits in the whole season where it’s like that.”

Russell finished seventh in Sunday’s Grand Prix after struggling at a circuit he labelled as his “bogey track”, before being elevated two positions by the post-race disqualifications of Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc.

He added: “At the end of the day, we’re all racing to the same rules. And naturally, if you’re racing in Monaco, you can’t go beyond the limit, because you’ll end up in the wall. When you race in Japan, you can’t go over the limit, because you’ll end up in the gravel.

“Whereas here your only consequence is running off onto a bit of tarmac. Monza example, coming out of pits, I went over the limit, knowing that I’ve got to get out of jail free card.

“And the same in Barcelona. You don’t want to have a get out of jail free card. So the FIA need to find a way to avoid that.”

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