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Formula 1 Bahrain GP

What triggered Ocon's bizarre F1 penalty triple whammy

Esteban Ocon had a day to forget in Formula 1's season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix thanks to a triple whammy of penalties.

Esteban Ocon, Alpine A523, leaves his pit box after a stop

From being out of position at the start to not serving his subsequent sanction correctly, Ocon's race turned from bad to worse when he also picked up a pitlane speeding offence.

In the end, the situation left him well outside the points and triggered the team's decision to end his race early.

How it unfolded

The sequence of events kicked off before the start when Ocon lined up slightly out of position on the grid.

The stewards deemed that Ocon's right front tyre had been outside of his grid box for the race start, so he was handed a five-second penalty.

But, when he came in to serve that punishment at his next pitstop, things went wrong when his Alpine mechanics set to work on his car before the mandatory time limit was up.

Rather than the full five seconds elapsing before they touched the car, the FIA reckoned that the first mechanic got to work after 4.6 seconds – which was a breach of the regulations. This earned Ocon a 10-second penalty.

Explaining how the error happened, Alpine team boss Otmar Szafnauer revealed it was a countdown system that had gone wrong in starting before the car had stopped.

"It was just a timing issue," he said. "We have a system that counts down in the mechanics' ears to tell them when they can start. And that was offset by four tenths of a second.

"The system started the countdown 0.4 seconds early. I've got to go see why that happened, but we should put an offset in it – so it starts half a second late. That half-second isn't going to kill us."

Esteban Ocon, Alpine A523

Esteban Ocon, Alpine A523

Photo by: Alpine

But things did not end there, because Ocon managed to pick up another five-second penalty on his way out of the pits when he was found to have broken the 80 km/h speed limit by just 0.1 km/h.

This time the error was down to the driver.

"I think he was half a metre off the pit speed limiter button early on the exit," added Szafnauer.

"That's for the driver. He's got a pitlane speed limiter and when he believes he's out of the pitlane, he lifts off it and then off you go."

Rare errors

The extra penalties that Ocon faced ultimately dropped him to the back of the field and, with teams always mindful of mileage on engines, he eventually was brought into the pits to retire.

While the chain of events was hugely frustrating for both driver and team, Szafnauer hopes it will have acted as a wake-up call for being razor-sharp from now on.

"It's very, very rare for this team to make those types of operations mistakes, like starting early on working on the car," he said.

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"'I've never seen it happen here before. And we have good systems in place for that not to happen, so I'm confident it won't happen again.

"Esteban being out of position at the start, he'll learn from that. So I think operationally, we can look forward to having smooth, trouble-free races from now on."

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