Analysis: Working out F1's grid penalties

Formula 1's record-breaking number of grid penalties left fans scratching their heads over how the order shakes up ahead of the race start.

The 105-place drop for McLaren duo Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso seemed easy to work out as it was unlikely anyone would be able to fall behind them.

However, other penalties for Romain Grosjean (gearbox), Max Verstappen (engine) and Kimi Raikkonen (gearbox) are not so straightforward to work out.

And the fact that Raikkonen qualified 14th but only drops to 16th with his five-place penalty may seem strange.

Here though is how the FIA works out the grid at each race:

Document order

The FIA begins with the order from qualifying, which delivers the classification to allow grid penalties to be applied.

As has been standard procedure for years, grid penalties are applied in the order by which the FIA stewards are notified of the penalties.

BUTTON PENALTY (25 places)

Jenson Button, who qualified 17th, was the first penalty to be applied, and his 25-place drop meant he is given a theoretical starting position of 42nd.

The back section of the grid therefore looks like this.

16th Nasr
18th Alonso
19th Stevens
20th Merhi
42nd Button 

ALONSO PENALTY (30 places)

Alonso's 30-place drop for a new power unit is then put in, dropping him from 18th to 48th.

16th Nasr
19th Stevens
20th Merhi
42nd Button
48th Alonso

The next penalty is applied to Grosjean for his gearbox, which drops him from fourth to ninth, behind Sebastian Vettel. 

BUTTON PENALTY (25 places)

Then, Button's 25-place penalty for his second new power unit is handed out, which drops him to a theoretical 67th.

16th Nasr
19th Stevens
20th Merhi
48th Alonso
67th Button

ALONSO (25 places)

After that, Alonso's extra 25-place penalty is dished out, pushing him back to 73rd.

16th Nasr
19th Stevens
20th Merhi
25th Verstappen
67th Button
73rd Alonso

VERSTAPPEN PENALTY (10 places)

Max Verstappen's 10-place drop for a new engine is then dished out, putting him in to the mix at the back of the grid.

16th Nasr
19th Stevens
20th Merhi
25th Verstappen
48th Alonso
67th Button

KIMI RAIKKONEN (5 places)

After that, Raikkonen's five place penalty is applied, moving him from 14th to 19th, slotting in ahead of Roberto Merhi, who qualified 20th.

16th Nasr
19th Stevens/Raikkonen
20th Merhi
25th Verstappen
67th Button
73rd Alonso

That then leaves, in reverse order from the back of the grid: Alonso (20th) in 73rd, Button (19th) in 67th, Verstappen (18th) in 25th, Merhi (17th) in 20th and Raikkonen (16th) in 19th.

Only when all the penalties have been applied are the gaps closed, which is why Raikkonen shuffles up to 16th

 

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Event Belgian GP
Track Spa-Francorchamps
Teams McLaren
Article type Analysis