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Formula 1 pushing to change unsafe release penalties

Formula 1 chiefs are pushing to change the penalty system for unsafe releases from pitstops, AUTOSPORT can reveal, after complaints from drivers that it is unfair.

In the wake of a cameraman being hit by a loose wheel from Mark Webber's Red Bull at last year's German Grand Prix, the FIA tightened up punishments for such incidents.

From the start of this season, any driver whose team was deemed to have made an unsafe release would be given a 10-place grid penalty for his next event.

With Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Gutierrez having fallen foul of such punishments this season, drivers have expressed unease about the fact that they are hit so hard for something that is outside of their control.

It is understood that the matter has been brought up in drivers' briefings, and a push is being made to change the punishments handed out so that drivers who are innocent victims of a team mistake do not face such harsh sanctions.

The idea of making changes has been discussed with teams, and received widespread support, and it is understood that a formal change to the regulations will be proposed over the next few weeks.

It will then need unanimous support from the teams before going to the FIA's World Motor Sport Council for ratification - most likely via a fax vote.

An FIA source said that it hoped the situation could be clarified before teams returned from the summer break.

"A realistic target for a change would be the Belgian Grand Prix," he said.

CURRENT SYSTEM HARSH

Gutierrez, who got a grid penalty for the British GP following an unsafe release by his Sauber team in Austria, reckoned the current situation was unacceptable for drivers.

"I think it's too harsh because in our case, the wheel didn't even go off the car," he said.

"I felt it straight away and I stopped and it was quite safe what we did and we reacted well to the problem.

"You're already losing time by coming back for a five second stop-and go, and then you're ten places behind for the following race. It's way too much.

"It happened to Daniel (Ricciardo) earlier in the season and it's something that should be revised because from a driver point of view, it was not really my mistake and to be penalized ten places because of it is tough."

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