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Formula 1

Unsporting Magnussen tactics deserve race ban, says McLaren boss

by Scott Mitchell-Malm
5 min read

McLaren Formula 1 boss Andrea Stella believes Kevin Magnussen’s driving in the Miami Grand Prix sprint race merited a ban, not individual time penalties, while the stewards have indicated F1's penalty approach may have to change.

Magnussen admitted to using “stupid tactics” to hold up Lewis Hamilton in the Miami sprint so that team-mate Nico Hulkenberg, ahead on the road, could build a safe enough buffer to score two valuable championship points in seventh.

The stewards punished Magnussen on four occasions in his fight with Hamilton. Three infringements were for leaving the track and gaining an advantage, each of which earned a 10-second penalty, and he got an additional five-second penalty for leaving the track without a justifiable reason.

Magnussen’s third 10-second penalty was accompanied by three penalty points on his licence, as the stewards felt it merited something beyond just another time penalty.

They also summoned Magnussen for alleged unsportsmanlike behaviour - although that has resulted in no further action.

Before that verdict was known, McLaren team principal Stella expressed his strongly-held view that the FIA needs to crack down on this kind of driving - indicating a race ban would be appropriate, then monitoring the offending driver beyond that to ensure they have learned their lesson.

“For me it’s actually relatively simple, this case,” Stella said.

“Because we have a case of a behaviour being intentional in terms of damaging another competitor. This behaviour is perpetuated within the same race and repeated over the same season.

“How can penalties be cumulative? They should be exponential. Maybe you need to spend a weekend at home with your family reflecting on your sportsmanship and then go back.

“And if we see that you become loyal, fair and sportsmanlike to your fellow competitors then you can stay in this business.

“It’s completely unacceptable.”

This is clearly a sensitive issue for Stella given his driver Lando Norris received a penalty for unsportsmanlike behaviour last year for backing off in a safety car queue to create room for a pitstop in the Canadian Grand Prix.


The fact Magnussen’s punishments included licence penalty points means he now has eight in a 12-month period and puts the Haas driver quite close to an automatic race ban - with 12 required for that.

But as Stella referenced, Magnussen had been involved in something similar earlier this season in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix.

So Stella believes “the metrics might have to be adjusted” - in other words, increase the licence penalty points applied in such circumstances so that this kind of repeat does add up to a suspension.

“Intentionally damaging a race of your competitors just makes no sense from a sportsmanship point of view,” Stella said.

“This should be addressed immediately because if you are out of the points and you get 20 seconds or whatever at the end of your race, it doesn’t make any difference.

“But for the competitors you have damaged, you have put them out of their race - again, in a deliberate, perpetuated and repeated way.

“It’s completely unacceptable.”

Magnussen said in his stewards’ hearing that the stewards “would typically not increase the severity of the penalties for repeat offences”, the implication being that he was willing to accept the standard punishments for such infringements because he knew a succession of time penalties would not make a material difference to his result anyway.

Essentially, the rules facilitate and effectively encourage a driver to sacrifice their own race in such circumstances.

Stella said he would expect the FIA to review the penalty system and “come with a sensible proposal for the sporting advisory committee to evaluate, and hopefully it will be done soon either by rules or guidelines that the stewards can apply”.

The stewards have now independently said they would also like this to happen.

“The stewards will need to consider if, in appropriate situations, especially in the case of repeat infringements, the penalties to be applied for each infringement need to be increased to discourage scenarios such as those that we found today,” they said.

“This is something that we will raise explicitly with the FIA and the stewarding team.”


Magnussen was investigated for alleged unsportsmanlike behaviour because the stewards wanted to determine if he was “deliberately flouting the regulations to gain an advantage for his team or his team-mate”.

In the hearing, Magnussen told them he thought he was entitled to race Hamilton the way he did - and as mentioned previously, “was willing to accept what he considered to be standard penalties that would have been imposed on him for any infringements that occurred”, in the words of the stewards, while doing so.

Magnussen also felt that building a gap to Hulkenberg, and assisting his team-mate, was within the rules and that to do so, he did not do anything wrong or in any way unsportsmanlike.

The stewards ultimately agreed with the latter point.

They ruled that the standard for establishing unsportsmanlike behaviour must undoubtedly be high, and that in circumstances like this, “there must be clear evidence of an intention to behave in a manner that can be said to be unsportsmanlike as a finding of unsportsmanlike behaviour is serious”.

Interestingly, the stewards did declare they “disagreed” with the way Magnussen drove - “in particular, the repeated infringements from leaving the track”.

But, they added, “we do not think that the actions reached the level of unsportsmanlike behaviour”.

Magnussen, for his part, had said on Saturday afternoon that he would welcome greater clarity on what is and is not allowed in such circumstances.

“It has to be clear that you have to change the way you drive whether you have one penalty, two penalties, three penalties,” he said.

“It should be the same. But I do agree there could be an improvement in the rules that if you’re fighting and you do something that’s not allowed.

"It would be great if the FIA had the power to tell you to give it back or swap positions.

“That way it’s going to have an effect immediately, and stop any sort of games being played.”

This was actually echoed by both McLaren drivers, Norris and Oscar Piastri, who both said that drivers would like the FIA to have the option - as was previously the case at the race director’s discretion - to force places to be given up, rather than have the stewards apply time penalties.

“That’s, as drivers, what we’ve asked for,” said Norris. “But they don’t want to do it.”

Piastri added: “If it’s blatant, like it kind of appeared to be today, then I think the FIA should have the power to step in and say you have to give it back otherwise you’re in a lot of trouble.”

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