The FIA, Liberty and the teams have been discussing alternatives to the current system for some months, with alternatives such as ballast or fuel restrictions under consideration.
While grid penalties still have a lot of support, Abiteboul believes that a time penalty would work because penalised drivers would fully participate in qualifying, which is not currently the case if they are consigned to the back.
“Our position since a while hasn’t changed,” said Abiteboul. “We’re suggesting a time penalty that you would serve under your pitstop or would be added at the end of the race.
“It would encourage better racing without altering the starting position, without altering also qualifying. I don’t understand why it’s not more commonly supported, but there must be a good reason.”
“I think a time penalty is pretty clean to understand,” said the American. “It doesn’t really mix up the grid, you serve it at your pitstop.
“Strategy comes into play, when do you pit, tyres etc, that I think would be the simplest and least disruptive and easier to understand and add some excitement to the race.”
“We’ve seen in other categories it doesn’t work,” he said of adding weight. “It screws your whole weekend, not just qualifying. I think the only shame about what we have at the moment is it potentially robs the fans on a Saturday of drivers going for a qualifying position.
“If you look at Monza, Max [Verstappen] taking part for a couple of laps in Q1, and not wanting to progress past Q2 – I think if we can find a more balanced penalty than just straight to the back of the grid we should consider it, so that you’re still encouraging drivers on a Saturday to be going for a qualifying position.”
HAAS’s Gunther Steiner is also opposed to ballast, preferring the current system.
“Ballast is more difficult even to explain to spectators, when all of a sudden a car goes slower than the other ones,” he said. “Ballast is not my my preferred [option].
“We need to to find a penalty system that is severe enough. But I think at the moment it isn’t working too bad. I prefer this one than ballast.”