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Who were the saints and sinners from F1’s penalty points system?

Formula 1 drivers may give everything to finish as high up as they can in the official world championship standings, but there’s one points table they would rather not top.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16, Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes F1 W11, Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W11, Lando Norris, McLaren MCL35, Alex Albon, Red Bull Racing RB16, and the rest of the field away at the start

Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images

Ever since the start of 2014, F1 has had a penalty points systems in place where any breaches of the rules means a drivers’ superlicence is given endorsements.

If any driver racks up 12 points over a 12 month period, then he will face an automatic one race ban.

The 2020 season saw a remarkable turnaround for the driver who had started the year as the unofficial bad boy in top place in the penalty points ranking.

For Sebastian Vettel, who came in to 2020 with seven penalty points to his name, ended the year as a saint having not had a single point handed out to him over the course of the campaign.

The same could not be said for this year’s penalty points leader Alex Albon, who found himself at the top of the pile after earning seven points during the season.

They were handed out at Silverstone (colliding with Magnussen), Monza (pushing Grosjean wide), Sochi (driving around a bollard incorrectly) and at the Nurburgring (collision with Kvyat).

Albon would not have been top though were it not for world champion Lewis Hamilton having two points removed after a change of heart from the FIA at the Russian Grand Prix.

The Mercedes driver had originally been given two penalty points for conducting practice starts in an unauthorised position. That left him, until subsequent points were wiped away at the Turkish Grand Prix after hitting their 12 month expiry date, briefly on the verge of a race ban.

Without those extra two points, Hamilton ended the year in equal second spot with George Russell on six points.

Four of Hamilton’s points had been picked up in the season opener at the Austrian Grand Prix when he was punished for not slowing sufficiently for yellow flags in qualifying, and then a collision with Albon in the race.

Hamilton’s other two points were quite controversial. He picked them up at Monza after entering the pit lane, which was closed because of Kevin Magnussen's Haas being removed from the side of the track. The associated penalty ultimately cost him victory in the Italian Grand Prix.

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George Russell has only been penalised twice this year, but heavily: three points each at Silverstone and Istanbul for disregarding yellow and double yellow flags.

Fourth overall on the 2020 list was another British driver, Lando Norris, who ended the 2020 season with five points.

The list of drivers who did not pick up any points last season grew. In 2019 only two drivers managed to have a completely clean campaign, whereas in 2020, eight drivers steered clear of any sanction.

This included Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes), who had already gone without a point in 2019 and thus kept a clean slate for the second year in a row.

Also without a point were Vettel (Ferrari), Max Verstappen (Red Bull), Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri), Nicholas Latifi (Williams), Nico Hulkenberg (Racing Point), Pietro Fittipaldi (Haas) and Jack Aitken (Williams).

The current points are taken into the new season and expire after exactly one year.

No driver is at risk of a ban, as this only occurs when 12 points have been scored. However, the drivers will have to be careful in not picking up offences early in the 2021 campaign.

The next round of points to be removed comes at the beginning of July (when the 2020 season opened), and if the current planned 2021 calendar goes ahead unchanged, that will mean there are 10 races before that date. 

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