Abu Dhabi GP: Force India say Nico Hulkenberg's penalty 'makes mockery' of F1
Hulkenberg cuts chicane to pass Perez on opening lap; German only handed five-second penalty; "It just makes a mockery of the sport to have it so inconsistent," says Szafnauer
By Jonathan Green
Last Updated: 27/11/17 12:09am
Force India have slammed the five-second penalty Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg received in the Abu Dhabi GP, with Otmar Szafnauer saying it makes a "mockery of the sport".
Hulkenberg cut the chicane at Turns 11 and 12 on the opening lap to reclaim seventh place from Sergio Perez, who had passed him earlier on the straight.
Perez demanded the German give him the place back but the stewards handed down a five-second time penalty instead.
In the meantime, Hulkenberg pulled out a substantial gap to the Mexican and by the time he stopped to serve the penalty he had enough of an advantage to remain ahead.
Hulkenberg went on to finish sixth in the season finale and secure Renault sixth in the Constructors' Championship ahead of Toro Rosso and Szafnauer was fuming about the stewards' verdict.
"It just makes a mockery of the sport to have it so inconsistent," Szafnauer, Force India's chief operating officer, told Sky F1.
"I think Hulkenberg should have given the place back just like when he did the same thing to Grosjean.
"It's a track position race here, we knew they were a bit quicker than us on the ultrasoft which is why we needed to get ahead and stay ahead.
"Then Hulkenberg cuts the corner, the FIA don't do anything about it and, guess what, they gain a place in the Constructors' Championship which means more money and more competitiveness next year. It's not great.
"I don't know what [the stewards] are thinking. It's really difficult to understand when the decisions are all over the place. The inconsistency is not great."
Perez also remained adamant he should have been handed the position back after the race and described the current rule as "ridiculous".
"I think the way he got back the position was very unfair," he said. "A five-second penalty at the stop when you have more pace than the other car is quite good - you can cut the track, gain an advantage, serve it at the pit stop and open a gap during the stint.
"That rule is a bit ridiculous. We should have had the position back."
Force India technical director Andrew Green added: "The regulation is completely flawed. The incentive is to cut the corner, get ahead and then go off into the distance and then serve your penalty.
"When they start to play games like that we expect the stewards to realise what's going on and take action which penalises a driver. There was no penalising - he was rewarded for doing it and the incentive is to do it again. It's just rubbish."
Had Hulkenberg finished behind Perez in seventh, Renault would still have finished ahead of Toro Rosso in the championship as the Italian team failed to score points for the third consecutive race.
For his part, Hulkenberg felt he had been forced off the track by Perez and believed the penalty was fair, while Renault chief Cyril Abiteboul maintained the team had done the right thing.
"It is the regulations. There was a penalty decided, we served the penalty. We did what it takes to build the gap so the penalty will be harmless to us," Abiteboul told Sky F1.
"We have done the best with lots of experience and cold minded. They wanted to make our life very difficult, that's part of racing, and I think we have done the right thing."
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