Romain Grosjean has said that Formula 1 stewards have moved in the right direction regarding penalties for wheel-to-wheel clashes, but says that they cannot be too lenient when it comes to contact.
During the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend, new F1 race director Michael Masi and a panel of FIA stewards met with the drivers to discuss their plans for new approaches to the penalty system in the event of collisions.
The idea was to encourage a better balance between overly aggressive penalties, that acts as a deterrent for intense driver combat, and excessive levels of contact through leniency.
Haas F1 Team driver Grosjean, who is one of three director for the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, said that although he enjoyed the idea of more freedom in the rules, F1 must not go too far and risk becoming “like Formula E“.
“I don’t think we want to go crazy, but I think if it’s not intentional and you go for an overtaking manoeuvre and you lock up and you touch, then it’s not the end of the world,” Grosjean said to Autosport.
The Frenchman cited various incidents over the past few years to give his opinion on when a penalty should, or should not, be applied – including his infamous first lap crash at the 2012 Belgian Grand Prix, an incident that played a key role in the introduction of the mandatory halo safety device six years later.
“If you do a ‘Grosjean at Spa 2012’ or a ‘[Nico] Hülkenberg at Spa last year’ – OK, it’s not intentional, but it’s got big consequences so it’s got to be penalised,” he added. “Same as [Sergio] Pérez in Singapore .
“But on lap one if you brake a bit late, or what I had in Austin  with Charles Leclerc, I felt sorry I spun him, but his race was already dead because he had damage on the front wing and the floor, so I think the consequences were not that bad.
“[That was] a racing incident. His race was compromised, so what do we do? I think we should just say, ‘well, it’s lap one, everyone wants a position’.
“But we don’t want Formula E, because I think Formula E has gone a bit too far.
“[In F1] if you touch someone your car is broken anyway.”
In the first half of the Bahrain race, Alfa Romeo Racing‘s Antonio Giovinazzi collided with Scuderia Toro Rosso‘s Daniil Kvyat at Turn 11, sending the Russian into a spin.
Giovinazzi escaped without a penalty, while Kvyat’s issues were compounded by a 5 second time penalty for speeding in the pitlane shortly afterwards.
Kvyat later expressed his confusion over the lack of punishment for the Italian, who finished the race at the Bahrain International Circuit in eleventh.
Grosjean said that drivers do not want to head into combat with other drivers in constant fear of being penalised for small mistakes, believing that all the problems are balanced over the course of a season.
“If I’m the head of the GPDA, it’s because I’m interested in the sport and I want to make it better,” he continued.
“It was really good from Garry [Connelly, FIA steward] and Michael to hear what we’ve got to say.
“Because the fact is we don’t want to go into a braking zone trying to overtake someone and thinking ‘oh, if I lock up and I touch him, that’s going to be a penalty’. We want racing.
“S**t’s going to happen over 21 races, but it always balances itself, I think, in the end. It’s good that we can go racing, and we can fight.
“Obviously there are a few things that we don’t want to see, and moving under braking is a big one, because to me that’s the biggest danger nowadays.”