Gridiculous: F1's penalty pile-ups need to stop

Updated: 

You almost needed a maths degree to understand the grid for the Italian Grand Prix on Sunday.

Penalties worth a combined 150 positions were handed out to nine drivers - almost half the field - to render much of Saturday's qualifying result irrelevant.

Red Bull duo Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, who qualified second and third respectively, started the race 13th and 16th, while Sergio Perez moved up from 11th to 10th, despite serving a five-place penalty himself.

It is not an isolated incident, either. McLaren's Stoffel Vandoorne was slapped with a mammoth 65-place sanction at his home grand prix in Belgium last weekend due to a series of engine and gearbox changes.

Engine penalties are nothing new. They've been around since 2004 and were introduced to prevent costs from spiralling out of control.

But it is the penalties themselves that seem to have got out of hand in recent seasons, with efforts to address teams' exploiting of the rules serving only to compound the issue.

It is undoubtedly a frustrating situation for fans, while the reasons and technicalities behind the punishments are in danger of alienating those without an expert knowledge of the sport.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff even fears the current penalty system - which is used tactically by some teams - could be a significant factor in the outcome of the 2017 season.

"It could well be," he told Sky Sports following Sunday's race at Monza.

"Red Bull did it for tactical reasons, so they will come with a very strong package for Singapore.

"We have taken an engine early to have the performance gain, but towards the end [of the season] the engine is going to come towards the end of its life.

"Ferrari are on their fourth turbo as well, so it could well be that we are taking some penalties."

But Formula One managing director Ross Brawn recognises the need for change.

Speaking to Autosport just last week, he said: "I hate the fact that we're having to affect the racing because of the technical issues.

"I know you can say if a car breaks down in a race that's a technical issue and you've affected the race, but I think the fans understand that.

"For a fan to stomach that his hero is on the back of the grid because he had to change the engine, that's not great sport.

"We've got to find a solution to that, either through a different form of penalty or to remove the penalty altogether and just live with the problem that it was trying to fix."

Brawn hopes to find a solution by the time new engine regulations come into force in 2021 at the latest, with points deductions for constructors and a return to the divisive tokens system among those mentioned.

But as F1 strives to make itself more accessible and engaging under the ownership of Liberty Media, the growing trend for complicating grid penalties has no place in the sport.