Force India hit with suspended fine for breaching F1's new numbering rules

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BARCELONA, Spain -- Force India has been issued with a suspended fine of €25,000 after failing to comply with Formula One's new car numbering regulations.

Article 9.2 of the Sporting Regulations states the driver's number "must be clearly visible from the front of the car" and ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix the FIA further clarified the rules by writing to the teams. The letter added that the numbers must be "no less than 230mm high, have a minimum stroke thickness of 40mm and be of a clearly contrasting colour to their background".

On the Force India the numbering is on the top of the bulkhead and the top of the sidepods and therefore not visible from the front of the car, which is covered in sponsors. After studying photos of the car, the stewards decided that it did not comply with the regulations but mitigating circumstances meant the resulting fine was suspended.

"Having heard from the team representative and having examined a number of photographs, the stewards decide that the competitor, Sahara Force India F1 Team, is in breach of the relevant regulation (and TM/002 - 17). A fine of € 25,000 is imposed.

"However, in view of the following mitigating circumstances, the fine is suspended for a period of 12 months pending no further infringements of this nature.

"The mitigating circumstances are;
1. The Competitor was not challenged about the numbers prior to the race
2. The numbers (size, colour and location) were not changed during the event
3. The Competitor has offered to work with the FIA and rectify the situation immediately"

Asked before the FIA's ruling if sponsor space had limited Force India's options on the positioning of the numbers, team COO Otmar Szafnauer said: "Force India is a team that, as you well know, does pretty well on the track but doesn't do so well financially from the way the [sport's] income is distributed. So we, in order to be able to compete, have to maximise the income from sponsorship too because the commercial rights holder is a bit ... it is what it is. So to do that we need space on the car.

"Personally, I think there are other ways to distinguish which car you are looking at. Pink is pretty distinguishable, so you know it's either going to be Sergio [Perez] or Esteban [Ocon]. The helmets, if you look at them, are different. And then the camera, one has green stripes on the camera and one doesn't."

Force India will have to change the location of the numbers ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix in two weeks to avoid a fine.