This year’s Italian Grand Prix has already made headlines for the lengthy queues, prices of refreshments and general treatment of racegoers. However, no race fan would have expected to be so mystified at the end of Saturday’s qualifying as to what the actual starting grid come Sunday would look like. This is exactly what happened in Monza, after many drivers had to have their qualifying position altered based on grid penalties. As such, critics have suggested alternatives and Alpine F1 Team’s sporting director, Alan Permane, told press post-race that he thinks there should be an automated grid penalty process in future.
Alpine’s sporting director, Alan Permane, told on the ground media (which included Motorlat) that even though the current guidelines were closely followed, there must surely be a way to avoid the farcical situation of a several hour delay post-qualifying before publishing a provisional race grid. Having seen everyone from race pundits to armchair fans try to figure out which driver would slot in where, Permane has suggested that surely there could be an automated process which solves this in minutes.
“We have guidelines from 2020 and I think the grid was formed exactly how it stated in that guideline,” said Permane. “That guideline has been developed, was developed with F1 and the FIA, and has been applied consistently since then. So I don’t think there are any surprises in it, but there might have been amongst people who didn’t have the guideline, I guess.
“But I do agree three and three-quarter hours is a bit long to wait for a grid. I think it would be relatively simple for them to publish it as the last car crosses the line, with the proviso it might change after scrutineering or whatever. They could plug all the known penalties into something and I’m sure they’d agree – they can’t disagree - it would just be better for everybody.”
Having made such a suggestion in front of the written media, Alan Permane was then asked as to whether a program could be designed to automate the order in future.
“I’d imagine so, I’m not an expert! But you would know that that car is in first and it’s going to have a 10-place penalty. You have all of the information at the end of qualifying, and I’m sure they will look at it. I don’t quite know why it took so long yesterday [after qualifying]. I guess they were double checking, triple checking everything.
“I mean, it doesn’t change anything does it? They are supposed to have a grid published four hours before the start of a race, so anything we get on a Saturday night is a bonus and they publish a provisional grid. I get it for you guys [media] it’s important, and it’s also important for us to start building our strategies and things like that.” Permane stated.
The situation could have been far worse had it involved any shuffling of polesitter Charles Leclerc due to such a partisan crowd and Permane quipped that as confusing as the situation may have been for fans heading home ‘I guess they’d have known Leclerc was starting on pole which is the important thing for them.’
What is not a laughing matter is the way that teams seem to be choosing to take penalties at circuits which will inflict the least amount of pain to them in the long run – not much of a sanction. Strategy already plays a huge part in F1 and there are those who feel that the option to be strategical with sanctions should not be an option for a team. This discussion will no doubt run and run because for as long as F1 is under the spotlight – so too are its vast range of rules and regulations.
There is no doubt that a mixed-up grid makes for an entertaining race, it would just be nice to have some knowledge of what that provisional grid would look like. Surely, such an assumption should come in the minutes after qualifying – as opposed to hours. Otherwise, the only people really being penalised are the fans and that is the last thing any sport should want to do.