The FIA Stewards were kept very busy in the hours following the action-packed Belgian Grand Prix, which kicked off with a spectacular multi-car pile-up at the first corner.
Officials eventually ruled that Lotus F1 driver Romain Grosjean was at fault, and hit the Frenchman with a €50,000 fine and a one-race ban, meaning he will sit out next weekend’s Italian Grand Prix.
The accident was triggered when Grosjean chopped across the front of Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren, forcing the Englishman onto the grass and out of control. The pair of them then sideswiped Fernando Alonso and the two Saubers of Sergio Pérez and Kamui Kobayashi, eliminating Alonso and Pérez on the spot.
Alonso was lucky to escape without injuries in the accident, which saw Grosjean’s car launched into the air, missing the Spaniard’s head by centimetres.
It was the severity of the accidents which meant the Stewards had little choice to impose the one-race ban on Grosjean, making him the first driver to be banned from participating in an upcoming Grand Prix since Mika Häkkinen was suspended for one race after triggering the startline pile-up at the 1994 German Grand Prix, which eliminated half the grid (pictured below).
"The stewards regard this incident as an extremely serious breach of the regulations which had the potential to cause injury to others," an FIA statement reads.
"The stewards note the [Lotus] team conceded the action of the driver was an extremely serious mistake and an error of judgement."
The penalties didn’t stop there, either, with Pastor Maldonado also copping the ire of the stewards by earning a ‘double penalty’ after yet another error-ridden display during the race.
The Venezuelan driver had already been issued with a three-place grid penalty for blocking Nico Hülkenberg in qualifying – which demoted him to sixth place on the grid after he was a fantastic third-fastest in his Williams on Saturday.
Maybe he was still fuming over the grid penalty, but in any case he quite blatantly jumped the start before the race got underway. After being tagged into a spin as a result of the carambolage at La Source, he was dropped down the order and then brought his race to a close when he collided with Timo Glock at the restart.
After meeting with the FIA Stewards to discuss his collision with Glock, this then became another five-place docking.
The Stewards were also kept busy investigating several incidents in Spa-Francorchamp’s notoriously tight pit lane.
Michael Schumacher and Mark Webber both escaped sanction for their respective pit incidents with Sebastian Vettel and Felipe Massa, respectively. Schumacher was investigated for what was perceived to be a near-collision with Vettel as he peeled into the pits, while Webber was investigated for a possible unsafe release into the path of Felipe Massa.
The Finn was released by his mechanics into the path of the pit-bound Narain Karthikeyan, which saw his nose damaged after he clipped the rear of the Indian’s HRT.
After serving an additional pit stop for repairs, Kovalainen finished a disappointing 17th.
"The team admitted to the stewards that it considered itself at fault in causing the unsafe release and apologised to HRT accordingly. The stewards did not consider that any sporting advantage was gained," an FIA statement on the issue reads.
This weekend’s Stewards Panel included, for the first time, former Grand Prix driver Eliseo Salazar.