The issue of grid box penalties is still at the forefront of drivers’ minds in the Formula 1 championship. Renault‘s Esteban Ocon received a five-second time penalty at the Bahrain Grand Prix for lining up too far to the right of his grid box, while Fernando Alonso of Aston Martin received a similar penalty for lining up to the left at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix. In response, the FIA widened the grid boxes by 20cm for the Melbourne Grand Prix and trialled new guidance lines in the first couple of boxes. Grid boxes had already been made 20cm wider ahead of the 2023 season, following driver feedback. Despite the changes, Ocon believes that poor visibility from the current crop of F1 cars will still cause more drivers to be hit by penalties this year.
Ocon admits that the extra width should help but claims that starting out of place laterally is “normally not an advantage” and is therefore not deserving of a penalty as starting too far forward is. The wider grid boxes should help alleviate the issue, but most drivers disagree that grid slots are a real problem in the new era of F1 cars. Alfa Romeo‘s Valtteri Bottas acknowledges that visibility is limited, but he was surprised to see Ocon and Alonso miss their grid slots. McLaren‘s Lando Norris is similarly unconcerned, suggesting that it’s always been easy to line up in the grid box: “Just line up in a grid box, quite easy.”
“There’s gonna be a lot more cars this year that are going to be penalised this year, that’s for sure,” said Ocon, admitting that poor visibility from the cockpit of the current crop of F1 cars will see more drivers like him hit with penalties. Despite this, Ocon believes that the grid box being wider will be of help, and changes like this are the right direction for the sport. Drivers are divided on whether grid boxes have become a real problem in the new era of cars, but most agree that the extra width should at least help to alleviate the issue. The changes, however, don’t alter the fact that a driver missing their grid slot during a race can put them at a significant disadvantage, or indeed as in the case of Ocon and Alsono, award them a penalty of five seconds.