I am sure that somebody will correct me but I am pretty sure I am on safe ground when I say that I can think of no other driver to have had a worse on-going start to his Formula 1 career, than Brendon Hartley.

Three Formula One events and a combined total of 55 grid place penalties (25 at the USGP, 20 at the Mexican GP, 10 at the Brazilian GP) seeing him start at the very rear of the grid, or very close to it, at each of the races, despite his qualifying performance.

He has had an engine related problem five times in either the qualifying sessions or the races and even had to start his career with penalties related to the engine problems of the driver he technically replaced.

He also came into the sport with a teammate who was actually the one Hartley would eventually supplant and everyone knew it.


A rough start for a Le Mans winning, and now twice, World Champion driver.

The entire grid penalty system in Formula 1 is under review and will hopefully be replaced with a more equitable structure, as it has done nothing to enhance the sport in the eyes of both competitors and viewers alike.

With the 2018 power units, including all the five major components that make up the current expensive and complicated engineering masterpieces still part of the whole, having to last for longer than ever, those penalties, if not modified, will be more ridiculous than ever.

A quick look at the penalties applied to the two McLaren Honda drivers shows how farcical the system at the moment is with the 2017 total, due to the continued problems with the Honda engine, now standing at three hundred and fifty five grid places, still with one race to go, and the combined total since the collaboration with Honda began in 2015 now standing at a staggering eight hundred and thirty five grid places. Yes 835 for just two drivers in one team.

With the cars on the grid staggered by four metres that makes 3.34 kilometres or each McLaren starting some 1.6 kilometres behind the grid. I admit that is a stupid, exaggerated, and irrelevant statistic but it goes to show that there is a major flaw in the system.

In 2017 each driver was limited to four power units before penalties were applied for using extra specified parts.

For 2018, some parts of the power unit, the MGU-K (Motor Generator Unit - Kinetic) the ES (Energy Store) and the CE (Control Electronics) will be liable to penalty if more than just two are used in the season. If more than three ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) are used or similarly more than three TC (turbocharger) or three MGU-H (Motor Generator Unit - Heat) then penalties will be awarded. This all means that some parts of the power units will need to last for eleven events and others for seven.

I go back to the argument that Formula 1 is not endurance racing. It should not be a proving ground for longevity of road car parts or a test bed for advanced engine systems despite the history of the sport being littered with such inventive marvels. Those early advances such as disc brakes did not cost the gross national product of a small nation to develop. Formula 1 is, or should be, all about racing.

I admit that new technologies must continue to be a part of the very DNA of the sport, as they always have been, innovation has been the lifeblood of Formula One, but those technologies must be available to all who race and not just the few who can spend many millions, billions even, of dollars on research and development.

That is the very reason that the owners of the sport are now trying to introduce new power unit regulations for 2021 and beyond that will make the supply of those units cheaper and possibly attract a more diverse range of makers into the sport and with that, more fans.

Yet the major engine manufacturers are standing resolute in their criticism and refusal to accept these suggested new rules with two of them, Mercedes and Renault, saying it will cost them more money to develop these new power units.

Short sighted self interest and an arrogant overblown opinion of their own self worth comes to mind here with Ferrari even going so far as to threaten, for the umpteenth time, to leave Formula One completely.

If this most privileged of teams, receiving far more from the sport than any other over the years, feels that way then I would be among the first of many to wave them goodbye.
Every team has the right to leave the sport but none have the right to remain if they do not like, or support, the sport that has given them so much.

The discussion around new power units is complex and political with entrenched entities on all sides but something must be done to improve the availability, make the units cheaper to produce and buy, with the result that more engine manufacturers will join the party and even out the competitiveness through the grid with a more reliable, almost standard, unit while allowing for some small leeway in development and individuality.
Then perhaps more teams, able to use a competitive engine at a much lower price, will come into the sport and bring with them a new breed of young drivers.

Hartley's Toro Rosso team is looking forward to saying goodbye to their own current piece of unreliability, called the Renault engine, destined in 2018 for the McLaren team, and getting their hands on a new Honda unit. Time will tell if that move proves to be a wise one but what it does mean is that the team will now get a free supply of Honda engines, instead of having to pay a lot of money for the Renault time bombs of late, as well as receiving a substantial amount of money in sponsorship from the Japanese manufacturer. A move welcomed by owner Dietrich Mateschitz who continues to make the team available for sale.

With just one race to go in the 2017 Formula One season it is quite likely that Brendon Hartley, after yet another mechanical breakdown in Brazil, will be on the receiving end of yet another multiple grid place penalty and that, if it happens, will surely be a record of some sort for the beginning of a Formula One career.

A career that I, along with countless others, am looking forward to seeing continue.