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FIA F3 Imola

What's behind the penalty confusion after Imola's chaotic F3 sprint?

Confusion reigned in the Formula 3 sprint race at Imola with top three Noel Leon, Oliver Goethe and Tim Tramnitz perplexed by the penalties and investigations surrounding them.

Noel Leon, Van Amersfoort Racing

The opening F3 race of the Imola weekend was a chaotic affair that saw four safety car interventions and a virtual safety car period across the 18-lap duration.

For the culprits behind the various disruptions, penalties were naturally forthcoming, but the various sanctions and investigations surrounding the top three veered into the bizarre.

Starting with the Red Bull-backed pairing who flanked Leon in the podium ceremony; just prior to the last-lap VSC to cover the field as they passed Luke Browning’s stricken Hitech-run car, both Campos Racing driver Goethe and MP Motorsport’s Tramnitz were revealed to be under investigation for a “safety car infringement”.

Given the breadth of the regulations, this could cover a multitude of sins, but it was later deemed that the pair had exceeded the safety car delta time.

But as both pointed out, this is peculiar as they were in the train following the safety car already and, as such, their speed was limited by both the Mercedes track vehicle and race leader Leon.

Asked about the five-second penalty by Autosport, Goethe, who took the chequered flag first and dropped back to second as a result, said: “This was on the last safety car, not the virtual safety car.

Oliver Goethe, Campos Racing

Oliver Goethe, Campos Racing

Photo by: Formula Motorsport Ltd

“Once I had caught Noel and the safety car, I was following them and the safety car was driving quicker than the delta and I was just following because once you’re with them, you should stay within 10 car lengths.

“That’s what I did but I was, of course, a little bit below the delta because they were quicker in front.

“I don’t believe it is completely fair. I believe they’re investigating it now. We’ll see what happens but of course, I want the win really badly.”

Unaware of his penalty but remaining in third by virtue of a near-seven-second margin back to fourth-placed Dino Beganovic, Tramnitz added: “Honestly, I’m hearing for the first time so I didn’t even know that I got a penalty. That’s good to know.

“But I would just assume probably the same as Ollie. As soon as I caught that safety car queue at the last restart, the rule is to follow the safety car and stay within 10 car lengths, so that is just what I did.

“I think it will be investigated again but then we will see.”

Tim Tramnitz, MP Motorsport, 3rd position, on the podium

Tim Tramnitz, MP Motorsport, 3rd position, on the podium

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

The story took another turn, however, when over an hour after the chequered flag, both drivers had their penalties overturned, with the updated document noting: "The Stewards examined data and race control messaging system. Having considered the matter extensively, the Stewards determined that the in-race penalty imposed during the Sprint Race against Car 7 (Tramnitz) as outlined in Document 54 is invalid. The previously imposed decision is therefore superseded.

"The Stewards concluded that despite the calculations displayed in the matrix were correct, the automatic system did not reflect the changes of Article 40.7 made at the start of the season.

"According to Article 40.7 of the 2024 F3 Sporting Regulations “In order to ensure that drivers reduce speed sufficiently, from the time at which all Competitors have been sent the “SAFETY CAR DEPLOYED” message via the official messaging system until the time that each car crosses the first safety car line for the second time or until the message “SAFETY CAR IN THIS LAP” is sent via the official messaging system, drivers must stay above the minimum time set by the ECU at least once in each marshalling sector and both the first and second safety car lines”.

"The official messaging system showed that the “SAFETY CAR IN THIS LAP” message was displayed at 10:35:13 when cars where negotiating marshalling sector 6. The Safety Car delta times matrix showed that Car 7 was below the delta time in marshalling sectors 13,14 and 15.

"The Stewards concluded that according to Article 40.7 from marshalling sector 6, the provision of being above the minimum delta time did not apply anymore, therefore the five-second penalty showed in the matrix was incorrect."

Noel Leon, Van Amersfoort Racing

Noel Leon, Van Amersfoort Racing

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

Leon weaving investigation

Leon was the beneficiary of the penalties for Goethe and Tramnitz but his joy was short-lived when, having previously been unaware of the stewards' investigation facing him, Autosport informed the Mexican of this.

This incident involved the second-last safety car restart, at which time Leon was accused of failing to follow the race director's instructions with regard to weaving on a safety car restart.

This event notes explained: “To reduce the risk of an incident at the restart, weaving is not permitted from the entrance of Turn 17 until the driver passes the line.”

It builds upon the regulations which read: “In order to avoid the likelihood of accidents before the safety car returns to the pits, from the point at which the lights on the car are turned out drivers must proceed at a pace which involves no erratic acceleration or braking nor any manoeuvre which is likely to endanger other drivers or impede the restart.”

Analysis of the incident shows that all drivers continued weaving after the safety car lights went out but aside from Leon, the rest of the field stopped the motion on after Turn 16, while the Van Amersfoort Racing continued.

“To be honest, I didn’t know I was under investigation,” he said.

“I don’t know what I did wrong. Weaving but I don’t know. I was weaving until Turn 17 and that is good, it says say that. I don’t know. I need to see with my team.”

In agreement with Autosport's appraisal of the situation, the stewards deemed that five seconds was the appropriate penalty, stating: "Although there was no risk of an incident the driver of Car 20 did gain a sporting advantage by warming up his tyres after Turn 17."

As a result of the penalty changes, the final result sees Goethe the victor, Tamnitz second and Leon third.

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