October 4th, 2012 (F1plus / Paul Godley).- When the news broke that Jenson Button would have to take a five-place grid drop at this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix because of an enforced gearbox change, it got me thinking. Is this rule really fair on the driver?
Button's current team mate Lewis Hamilton retired from the Singapore Grand Prix with a gearbox problem whilst leading the race, but because he retired during the race as a result of a gearbox failure, he is allowed to change his without taking a penalty. McLaren then found out that the same problem had affected Button's gearbox too.
"Jenson's gearbox had the same problem as Lewis's gearbox during the Singapore Grand Prix, and subsequent investigation has revealed a terminal failure," technical director Paddy Lowe told Autosport.
So despite the gearbox having the same problem as Lewis', Jenson is forced to take a grid drop in Japan whereas Lewis doesn't. Now to me that doesn't seem fair. Neither driver was at fault, yet one is being 'punished', and the other isn't. So I ask, does the rule need looking at?
The aforementioned example is not the first time this season that we've seen drivers being hit with a gearbox penalty and it not being their fault. Just ask Mark Webber (Germany and Belgium), Nico Rosberg (Germany) and Romain Grosjean (Silverstone) to name a few.
Currently gearboxes are required to last for five races before being changed, but given some of the penalties drivers have had this season for being forced to change their gearbox, should this not be looked at? Surely there's a better way to go with gearboxes, yes?
Here's my suggestion; have a limit of between 6 and 8 per season, per car. We currently have a rule stating a car has an allocation of 8 engines per season, and if you go over that then you get a penalty. In my eyes anyway this rule has proved pretty effective, so why not also use it with gearboxes? In terms of the example mentioned earlier, Jenson Button would 'benefit' greatly. By having an allowance, he'd be allowed to change the gearbox without receiving a penalty.
So what would happen if you went over the allotted amount, say 8? Then grid-drops should be implemented and handed out to drivers. Now that may seem a bit harsh on the driver, particularly if it hasn't been their fault, but some kind of punishment should be handed out. Whether that be a grid penalty or maybe a fine to the team, who knows, but there should be a penalty handed out to someone somewhere.
Now we have seen on a few occasions this season drivers who have been forced to change their gearboxes because they have been involved in crashes or comings together. Take Bruno Senna in Singapore for example; his collision with the wall in Q2 meant he had to change his gearbox because of damage sustained to the previous one, and had to take a grid penalty. I believe that was the correct decision. If the driver is at fault then they should have a penalty enforced onto them. Clearly if the incident is not their fault then I don't think a penalty should be handed out.
Here's another (hypothetical this time) example. If two cars come together during a race, both sustain damage to their cars but both go on to finish the race. If after the race the teams discover some damage to the gearbox and it requires a change for the next race, then should both drivers be punished? If one driver was to blame then surely it should only be them that are made to take a penalty and not the incident party? As shown by Button's penalty for this weekend, the rule seems to be that if you're forced to change a gearbox after/before a race, despite there being a problem, then you still have to take a grid penalty. Something just doesn't sit right with that.
So what do you think? Do you think the current rule is unfair? Should it be changed? How would you change or alter it? Let me know by commenting below!