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How do F1 engine penalties work? F1 2022 engine and gearbox penalties explained

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It looks like engine penalty season is upon us, where drivers are pushed down the grid for exceeding their power unit component allocation. But what does all this mean? We break it down with this handy guide.

Fernando Alonso was the first driver of 2022 to receive an engine penalty, starting from the back of the grid for his home race, before Charles Leclerc and Yuki Tsunoda became the most recent demoted in Canada.

Basically, drivers are allowed three engines per season, each of which should last around eight weekends, but it’s a bit more complicated than that…

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What are the components of the F1 power unit?

Let’s start by looking at the F1 power unit and its various components. This generation of Formula 1 power units consists of seven elements, with drivers only allowed to use a set number of each power unit element before receiving grid penalties.

When a power unit item is taken, it becomes part of a ‘pool’: parts of that pool can be swapped without penalty.

Said elements of the power unit and their assignments are as follows:

PU Component Allocation for 2022

COMPONENT ASSIGNMENT
Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) 3
Engine-Heat Generating Units (MGU-H) 3
Motor-Kinetic Generator Units (MGU-K) 3
turbocharger 3
Energy storage (ES) two
Control electronics (CE) two
Exhaust 8

In the case of an exhaust, there are four elements that make up an exhaust system: primary right side, primary left side, secondary left side and secondary right side. Each driver is allowed eight of each exhaust element. Very often those parts will be changed after a driver is in an accident. Media and teams are provided with documents from the FIA ​​detailing which parts, if any, have been changed ahead of the F1 sessions.

If a driver appears for more than one competitor, the FIA ​​states that he “shall be considered to be the original driver for the purposes of assessing power unit use”: the replacement driver inherits the power unit component count . The same rule applies to gearboxes.

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RA621H.jpg

A diagram of Honda’s RA621H power unit, courtesy of Honda Racing

How are F1 engine penalties given?

So, you have exceeded your allowance for an engine part. Now is the time for the FIA ​​to impose the dreaded grid penalties. It’s simple now, although a few years ago drivers could rack up huge engine penalties for a Grand Prix. Jenson Button holds the record with a 70-place grid penalty at the 2015 Mexican Grand Prix.

Penalties are given as follows:

  • The first time an additional element is used, the driver receives a penalty of 10 grid positions.
  • The next time an additional element is used, the driver receives a penalty of five grid positions.
  • If a driver incurs a penalty exceeding 15 grid places, he will be required to start the race at the back.

Qualifying performance remains important: if multiple drivers face the same grid penalties, then qualifying decides the order in which they start. Qualifying performance remains important: if multiple drivers face the same grid penalties, then qualifying decides the order in which they start. Thus, in Canada this year, Charles Leclerc started 19th (he made it to Q2), while Yuki Tsunoda, afflicted by similar penalties, started 20th, having never made it out of Q1.


File number: M208395

If a driver racks up more than 15 engine penalty places, then it’s a back-of-the-grid start.

How are F1 gearbox penalties given?

But wait, there’s more. Drivers are also limited in the number of Restricted Number Components (RNC) they can use during a championship. The RNCs, which are components that make up the gearbox, and their assignments are listed below:

RNC 2022 Assignment

COMPONENT ASSIGNMENT IN SEASON OF 22 RACES
gearbox and cassette 4
Gearbox Transmission, Gear Shift Components and Auxiliary Components 4

Teams have a ‘pool’ of four gearboxes for the 22-race 2022 season, meaning they can switch between them without penalty. Only when a driver exceeds his allowance from any of the above parts does he receive a grid penalty for the weekend’s Grand Prix.

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The penalty for exceeding the allowance for either of the two gearbox components listed above is five places, which means drivers can receive a 10-place penalty for exceeding the gearbox allowance. In that case it might also be worth changing the motor and starting from the back.

Gearboxes can be maintained or repaired between events if approved by the FIA, but “significant” part changes need express permission from the FIA.

Competitors may use a gearbox assembly outside of RNC allocation four times throughout the championship, during FP1 and/or FP2.


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Teams have a ‘pool’ of four gearboxes and the ability to use components outside of that pool four times throughout the season.

When is it worth taking a grid penalty?

Grid penalties are sometimes waived out of necessity: if a team fears their driver won’t finish the next race, either due to an accident at a previous event or because the engine is nearing the end of its life, then they can receive The hit.

Teams also plan their engine allocations for the season, which means they will try to take grid penalties for events where they feel overtaking is easier to give their driver a fighting chance from the back of the grid. . You’d rather take a penalty in Brazil, like Lewis Hamilton did in 2021, than in Monaco.

How does the FIA ​​enforce engine and gearbox allocations?

The FIA ​​considers any of the power unit elements to have been ‘used’ when the car’s timing transponder has shown that it has left the pit lane.

Every component of the power unit is ‘sealed’ by the FIA ​​to ensure it cannot be rebuilt or replaced, while exhaust elements are clearly marked, and gearboxes are also given unique identification and part numbers, and they are placed in special containers to be ‘sealed’. ‘ between events.

Stamps can only be removed when directed by the FIA, for example for approved repairs or modifications, which are extensively recorded by the FIA, or in pre-agreed windows in Free Practice, Qualifying, Sprint and Grand Prix.

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