If you made some relatively poor decisions this weekend, at least be thankful that they (probably) haven’t impacted your career. The same can’t be said for Mahaveer Raghunathan, a Formula Two driver who screwed up so bad at the feature race ahead of the French Grand Prix that he racked up enough penalty points to be suspended for the next round in Austria. It takes a hell of a lot of effort to get enough penalty points in F2 to get suspended—it takes even more to do it in the span of a single race.
If it weren’t so cringe-worthy, it might actually be impressive.
If you’re unfamiliar with the FIA penalty points system, it’s basically just a way to encourage drivers to not do dumb, dangerous things on the track. If you hit twelve penalty points, you’re automatically banned from the next round of the championship.
While that might not seem like a lot of points, it’s actually pretty difficult to pick up that many if you’re, y’know, not doing stupid things all the time.
Unfortunately, Raghunathan did not seem to get the memo. During the race at Paul Ricard, there were three virtual safety cars, which is when the cars on track all slow to a certain speed like they do under an actual safety car (just, y’know, minus the car). Here’s some more of what that entails from the Formula One website:
Under the VSC, drivers must reduce their speed and stay above a minimum time set by the FIA at least once in each marshalling sector. Stewards can impose penalties for any transgressions.
Drivers must not drive unnecessarily slowly, erratically or in a manner that could be deemed potentially dangerous to other competitors. Drivers may not pit, unless it is to change tyres. They are also not permitted to overtake, except if another driver in front enters the pit lane or slows with an obvious problem.
Basically: don’t go too fast, don’t pit, don’t overtake, and don’t drive like a snail. Easy, right?
Apparently not in practice. Raghunathan violated those rules three times—and each violation is worth three penalty points. But, given that the driver already had three penalty points from Bahrain (where he passed the checkered flag twice at speed, which is very dangerous and also questionable), he’s now forced to sit out the races in Austria.
(It’s interesting to note, though, that Raghunathan was banned after transgressions in the first F2 race of the weekend. He was still allowed to compete in the second F2 race at Paul Ricard. The race ban only takes effect for the following weekend.)
If you’ve followed F2 at all this season, you’re probably as familiar with Raghunathan’s name as the stewards are. There was the aforementioned Bahrain incident. There was that time in Baku when he didn’t stop at the weigh bridge and overtook someone during a safety car. Oh, and there was also Monaco, where he pointedly left the track to gain an advantage in the feature race, then cut the first corner by driving through the pit lane exit during the sprint race.
I can’t tell if Raghunathan is pointedly ignoring the rules here, or if he’s just not totally sure what they are until he breaks them. In any case, here’s hoping he’ll spend his upcoming free race weekend studying the rule book.