How Pierre Gasly escaped a race ban after the crash with his teammate
Pierre Gasly is not a Formula 1 driver who deserves a race ban but he’s probably very lucky to have escaped without one after his clash with Alpine teammate Esteban Ocon in the Australian Grand Prix.
Gasly drove a stellar race in Melbourne, but following a second red flag, caused by Kevin Magnussen when he clipped the wall to rip off the right rear tyre from his HAAS, Gasly lined up 5th for the race restart but locked up into Turn 1 just to miss the rear of Fernando Alonso.
He went across the runoff but rejoined alongside teammate Esteban Ocon, who had formed on the grid in 10th, but then appeared to slide over to the racing line and put his compatriot against the wall.
Both Alpines retired from the race, as a result of the collision, with the duo subsequently summoned to the stewards for allegedly breaching an article of the FIA International Sporting Code pertaining to driving standards
The code of conduct reads: “Causing a collision, repetition of serious mistakes or the appearance of a lack of control over the car (such as leaving the track) will be reported to the stewards and may entail the imposition of penalties up to and including the disqualification of any driver concerned.”
Almost five hours after meeting with the stewards, the outcome was to take no further action on Gasly.
This spared the former AlphaTauri driver from a potential race ban, with Gasly already having 10 of the 12 penalty points necessary on his race licence to be suspended from an event.
The FIA reasoning states: “The stewards heard from the driver of Car 10 (Pierre Gasly), the driver of Car 31 (Esteban Ocon), a team representative and reviewed positioning/marshalling system data, video and in car video evidence and determined that it was a first lap racing incident. Both cars recognised and accepted this as such. In the circumstances, we took no further action.”
Gasly has the most penalty points on his race licence by two over ex McLaren driver Daniel Ricciardo and Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and must wait 12 months after each reprimand for his tally to come down.
Gasly edging closer to a race ban has been a story since he was handed two points for speeding under the red flag at last year’s Japanese Grand Prix. That incident brought his tally up to nine and even though he dropped two points he managed to pick up three more during the Austin-Mexico City double header that took place after Suzuka.
Gasly hasn’t been reckless and the three points he’s picked up for track limits and falling to keep 10 car lengths of the next car under the safety car hasn’t marked him out as a dangerous driver, but the whole reason the ban is automatic is to make it clear cut rather than requiring a subjective debate on whether a driver deserves to be banned to take place.
And you can’t help but feel Gasly might have deserved to be handed penalty points in the way Sainz was handed two penalty points and a five second penalty for tagging Alonso and turning him round.
There’s a sense of warped justice that Gasly wasn’t banned because he’s by no means in the same category as previously banned drivers like Romain Grosjean, who was often a danger during his first full-time season in 2012 and subsequently learned from it. The penalty point rules clearly need to change when a driver like Gasly is at risk of a ban when some of his penalty points have been given for offences which weren’t dangerous (like abusing track limits).
So the Australian GP stewards decision of no further action with minimal justification rightly confused a lot of fans and opens up some uncomfortable questions over how intra team clashes and ‘first lap’ incidents are policed, as well as the cautious judgement of drivers on the fringes of a race ban.