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FIA amend F1 PU penalties to improve qualifying participation
Posted By: Editor   |  05 Dec 2018   |  11:31 pm GMT  |  84 comments

The FIA have changed the way that power unit penalties are applied in a Grand Prix weekend, in a bid to reduce the chances of drivers choosing not to qualify.

In 2018, the qualifying hour ‘show’ was sometimes hampered by teams and drivers not feeling the need to qualify if they were already due to start from the back of the grid for unscheduled power unit component changes.

A new rule brought in for this season was that any driver who has to take at least 15 places worth of grid penalties is automatically put to the back of the grid.

However, a supplementary regulation ruled that if multiple ‘back-of-the-grid’ penalties are in force for more than one driver, then the respective drivers will start in the order they took to the track in free practice one.

Unfortunately, this led to a somewhat farcical scenario where drivers would park their cars at the end of the pit lane before the start of FP1 in order to get out on track first and claim the extra grid slot.

It also meant that the penalised drivers had nothing to qualify for; they would make an appearance in Q1 on tyres that were due to be handed back to Pirelli before parking up for the rest of qualifying, even if they progressed into the next phase.

This would sometimes lead to scenarios where only eleven or twelve cars would be participating for a place in the top-ten shoot-out, such as the Japanese and Russian Grands Prix.

In fact, the Russian Grand Prix had only ten drivers competing for a place in Q3. Three of the drivers had ‘back-of-the-grid’ penalties, whilst the Renault drivers remained in the pits in order to qualify 11th and 12th, giving them free tyre choices for the race.

The FIA have recognised this issue, and have attempted to rectify the problem at the latest World Motor Sport Council meeting.

For 2019, the starting order for the drivers who have ‘back-of-the-grid’ penalties will be determined in qualifying, so whoever finishes ahead in the qualifying result.

Other changes to come from the WMSC meeting include a slight increase in minimum vehicle weight from 740kg to 743kg – after teams unanimously agreed that they could not reach the target weight – and a lift on the CFD usage restrictions so that teams can increase resource to the 2021 rule changes.

By: Luke Murphy

All images: Motorsport Images

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Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!

The racing is where the drama is

However,for what looks like corporate egotism only,we have PU regs implemented to add a false sense of drama to the main act.

We came to watch cars race

Instead we see teams dancing around spending far to much resources to stay within the framework of this introduced drama.

I could be a ludite,but,please just return the regs back 15yrs for an immediate show improvement.


You’re not a Luddite; you just want f1 to be what it’s supposed be be.

Plus car tech has already reached a very high level of saturation and really is nothing particularly revolutionary to do with it. I mean, if you could make a flying car or some kind of anti gravity thing that gets you from one place to another really fast that might be cool. But adding some batteries doesn’t really make cars any higher tech — it just makes them more complex, more expensive and heavier.


looks like all those who claimed the halo would prevent a driver getting out of an upside down car didn’t consider it carefully…evidence in the first lap upturned car here, without a halo…i am glad the halo was introduced. long may it stay in single seater racing.


Not sure if you’re serious, or joking. I’ll take it as a joke becuase it’s funnier that way, and it makes more sense.


We had 50 years of Halo free formula one

The danger is where the market is

Safe F1 equals boring

Nuff said


Still doesn’t tackle Renault’s ploy, not taking part in Q2 in order to secure P11/12 with its free tyre choice. We’ve seen more occasions where it was more attractive to qualify outside the top 10, for the same reason. I guess you cannot rule against intentional underachieving. Maybe demand P11/12 in Q2 must finish within 0.5s of P10, or else they lose their free tyre choice? Since no one can tell what P10’s time will be until the last moment you have no choice but to commit.


Grid penalties are killing F1. That and the cars sure are getting fat! Why increase the minimum weight just because teams cannot reach it? It’s a minimum not a maximum.


too much time spent messing around with penalties when time could be spent on levelling the playing field by ensuring each team has the same number of people involved in building their cars. i don’t understand how force india can be in the same competition as ferrari and mercedes with less than half the number of people building their cars.
penalties should only be refined after the number of people involved in building the cars has been sorted.


Doesn’t sound very aveliish, Aveli🤔


I think we’ll see Bernie Ecclestone finally buy Mclaren, like Murray Walker thought had already happened over 30 years ago, before we’ll see a level playing field in F1.


Dear Liberty Media,

I do appreciate that you must honour contracts signed by your predecessor, namely the Foxtel contract in Australia which has at least twelve months to run. While we are unable to participate in your attempts to provide a superior online service, surely your contracts with Foxtel demand that they provide a quality presentation of your product.
In attempting to watch a replay on Foxtel of the Abu Dhabi race I am presented with a sub par 720p rendering of the event with sup par text and graphics. Surely when you are so draconian with regards to YouTube publishers in 1080p, how can you tolerate such a sub par presentation of your product on Foxtel.
As a long term fan of F1, if I must pay such a premium for one event, please come to the party and demand that Foxtel does your product justice by providing the best quality available.
If F1 is to maintain it’s premier status it must always offer a premier quality of service.
Please, never contract with Foxtel again.


There have been a lot of boasting about the huge advances made in the area of thermal efficiency of the combustion engines developed in F1 due to the PU and everything connected to these regulations.

Not only the manufacturers are full of self-appraisal, this is the story period.

But how much impact this will really have in reality to the road cars is a much more complex and unfortunately pessimistic story to tell.

Not to even speak of what relevance this will have in saving the environment. I wouldn’t really try to get to deep into that discussion in this context since it is a hornet’s nest. But if I would draw any conclusions they would not be of the kind being peddled.

F1 could just move (back?) to being that self sustained show/sport, but add sensitive and rational regulations so that we get an competitive, exiting and rational entity. Rational in the sense that it is relevant to the fans. Leveling the field would be another factor of course.


The whole idea of make-believe that F1 has anything to do with the real world will always result in farcical decisions.

The whole history of F1 is actually pretty much amateurish in many ways. It was a land of make-believe in the sense of having nothing else to relate to than F1, the wild west of sports. That resulted sometimes in brilliant entertaining, well they had a brilliant product that couldn’t really fail. Of course it was to dangerous, so that had to change.

But now F1 is set out to save the world. Of course no one really cares about worldly matters in an environment like that, but the manufacturers have a story to sell.

The regulations could be a way of making this wild west bit more credible, but now only serves as a means to serve the politics of a few manufacturers unfortunately.


Why is it a “farcical scenario” when teams act to the letter of the law?


The farcical scenario is the letter of the law, not that the teams would follow it. A sporting event where entrants can benefit by not taking part is almost perfect farce.


Farcical because the FIA have written the law then are amazed at the result…culmination of the stupidity was the knock out quali farce that saw cars park up early….and still they refuse to learn.


Grid penalties! Scrap the grid penalties and deduct constructor points instead. Drivers are not at fault so let them fight for their points but penalize the constructor.
Recently the three top teams can start at the back and finish in the top six if they don’t crash or have more engine problems. You are still more or less guaranteed 8 points, so deduct 8 points or ten points per issue. It would be interesting because if the pole sitter was going to lose ten points but finished first, he’d only score the same points as a third, but better than a back of the grid start.


Agree with the idea..just one wrinkle…how do you stop a team abandoning the constructors title in favour of the WDC? What happens when a team plans to use six engines in a season?


Well their prize money is determined by the constructors title position so it would be foolish to completely abandon it.

The question is how to you take enough points from the top teams to matter but not so much from the bottom as to be crippling or end up with negative points.


Always one of the two car should be on the racetrack.


If only F1 really did mirror real life like these car manufacturing PU marketing fools wish…

Any engine issues with my car, I’m not happy as it impacts on the environment.

I get them to sort it then I issue them with a penalty, lets say cover the cost of the parts and £500 per hour inconvenience whilst I don’t have the car. Hence to avoid the penalties they make me more reliable engines, therefore saving the pandas etc.

It’s not rocket science 😉


“FIA amend F1 PU penalties to improve qualifying participation”

shame it’s not…

“FIA amend F1 PU to lock down engine party modes to improve not the participation, but the predictability, the racing and the ENTIRE SPORT”

simples 😉 but no.


Less time worrying about aero and more time spent sorting out the utterly ridiculous tyre specs please FIA.

Dreamworld, I know…


Even those who are not qualified in q1 q2 should continue to qualify between them.


well that all makes sense but man, these cars are getting heavy!

Imagine what they’d be able to do if the still weighed 500kg ?


Not more weight.

They should be reducing weight not adding.

These pu engines have been around for what will be 6yrs next year. The advances in battery technology etc must enable teams to get rid of I don’t know 20kgs from the cars.

Fia should insist on weight reduction of 20kgs each year for next 4 yrs.


You know what would reduce weight? Getting rid of those batteries altogether and bolting a nice, simple, noisy naturally aspirated engine to back of those cars. Even a nice twin turbo would be good, but without batteries.


Yep, or any form of engine simplification to close the gulf and allow racing.

By all means drive the cars, kit and staff to the track in battery powered trucks and vehicles, oh and take less flights.


And take battery-powered flights.


IMO this will actually make things worse for the smaller teams. If you have four top-10 drivers with a penalty then that’s four slower cars who would start in the top 10 but can’t fight it out for a place.

I suggested a while back that the solution would be to apply the penalties after each session. That means the drivers moving on to the next session are genuinely fighting for places in that session.


Two amazing things happened. First of all there was a year of thinking long and hard that resulted in something. Then we had an unanimous agreement among the teams.

Not bad at all.


and a lift on the CFD usage restrictions so that teams can increase resource to the 2021 rule changes

Does anyone else understand what this means?


I guess it means teams are allowed to use more of the computerised wind tunnel simulations in preparation for 2019.

Tornillo Amarillo

The development of Wind Tunnel technology that Formula 1 ofer to the world, important though it has been, pales into insignificance alongside the rapid growth of Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD). With a wind tunnel, experiments are made by blowing wind over a real object in a controlled environment and measuring the aerodynamic forces that arise. In CFD, the same experiment may be conducted in the form of a computer simulation.”


Wind Tunnel and CFD usage are restricted by the Sporting Regulations.

Basically you get a combined 25 of either hours of Wind On Time or Teraflops of CFD processing in 8 week “testing blocks”.
If you spend none of your available teraflops on CFD you get the full 25 hours of Wind on Time. if you use 15 teraflops you get 10 hours of Wind on Time.

This change has removed the limit on CFD teraflops/testing period they can spend, as long as the excess time is for the 2021 package.


Have the limits been removed, or increased?



i guess we’re not sure, the article says “a lift on the CFD usage restrictions” so i took that to mean a removal.


Thanks all, that was really helpful information.

I haven’t been paying attention to all that developmental stuff lately. I knew they limited wind tunnel testing, but I didn’t realise the limitation on processing time that was tied to that. Interesting stuff.


“computational fluid dynamics”

It basically means teams are going to be allowed to throw more money at aero.

Which of course massively advantages the big three (and Renault to some degree if they are allowed the extra budget) yet again.

Tier one already massively outspends tier two. They should have increased the allowance for teams who placed fifth downwards in my opinion.



A bit of common sense.

A small bit, a tiny bit, probably like half a byte kind of bit, but a bit none the less.

I like the idea of making them go hard in quali, to achieve a better rear of grid penalty, but total removal of rear of grid penalties sounds better.

If we must put up with engine penalties, then how about the 1st replacement costs 1 grid spot. The 5th replacement costs 5 grid spots, & so on. This way, if Lewis took a new engine every race, it would take 20 races before he started last.

In this scenario, a smoking Red Bull Honda would soon remove the grin from Verstappen’s face.


Pedant Alert!
Half a byte is actually 4 bits and used to be called a nibble.


actually is was a nybble 🙂


A change to the power unit penalties rules grid was on my wish list to Santa. Unfortunately this tinkering at the edges does nothing to rid us of the farcical situations we have seen several times last season.

Yes we need penalties for using too many power units or unscheduled gear box changes but putting a front running driver at the back of the grid is not the answer. In my letter the Santa I suggested:

1) Penalties be progressive getting harsher on each subsequent offence.

2) Teams should be allowed to opt out of the grid penalty and get penslised in terms of missing one or more subsequent free practice sessions/ test sessions and face a financial fine that goes directly to the rest of the grid. Hence Williams who are already at the back of the grid would stay there but RBR might opt to take their chances in quali and keep their grid slot at the front , giving up ( what Max called) a practice session at the next GP

Not 100 % fault free but please FIA reconsider the whole system.


Think your suggestions through, and notice how beneficial they would be to top teams, or really any manufacturer team. Customer teams would get screwes. Oh and those extra engines wouldn’t be free to customers teams either.

Reminder: We’re in this quagmire because FIA asked to reduce cost on these crazy expensive PUs. The answer to that was to reduce the number of units sold per season to lower the cost. As so here we are with 3 PUs per season, and guaranteed farce penalties at the two-thirds mark of the season.


Not suggesting that the three engine limit is removed…The idea is that if you take away FP 1 and possibly 2 you compromise the teams set up and race preparation hence make them work harder but I fully admit it is just one suggestion…How do you suggest we stop the farce of seeing top drivers out of position on the grid ?


Did you get my reply by email at lease, since mod didn’t post?


Why do we “need” penalties for using too many engines? In the good old days there would be a disposable engine for quali (1,500+bhp) then another for the race (‘just’ 1,300bhp) and repeat at the next event.

In my view the farcical “power unit” penalties are the really big issue for Formula One.

That and no grid girls of course. JOKE!


Because the cost of these new units is so high that the customer teams need a hand with cost cutting. Hence a limit that the top teams can afford to break. Going back to cheaper engines would be one answer but it looks like the manufacturer strangle hold on F1 will prevent that.


Actually that’s not fully correct. The expense here is the development cost of the PU’s (R&D). The marginal unit cost is hardly likely to be a great. And in any case there are ways around this; defining a total cost of supply to client teams, irrespective of whether that;s three or five PU’s.


#redline..i see what you are saying but that is assuming an fair pricing structure. Toto is reported as charging $12m to $15m for an engine supply but no numbers for additional units. Ever buy a nearly free printer and pay a fortune for extra ink cartridges?




The minimum weight increase is interesting. The increase has negated the advantage of being able to meet minimum weight when others are not able to. It does however mean any team that could have met 740kg, now has 3 more kg to use as ballast, increasing scope to tune or balance rates of front/rear tyre wear.


Very good point. Subject to the restrictions on ballast weight, and position.


Well, the farce is really that there are too many rules around something that should be relatively simple: fastest guy wins.

The power unit regulations have been so restrictive in recent times that teams would rather sit in the garage rather than risk a failure by running the car. Add this to the lack of testing these days it’s little wonder the field is stratified.

Unless Liberty think that a driver sitting around the garage and shrugging their shoulders for the cameras is the kind of entertainment they are looking for, they should be campaigning for some significant changes.

Rather than just have a gripe, here are some ideas I would consider:

1. Abolish Mandatory Pitstops: You want to run non-stop? Cool. You might have your hands full at the end of the race, but at least then there would be something to look forward to.

2. Free Tyre Choice: for all of the grid, not just P11 onwards. Scrap the rule for running both compounds – this could lead to interesting non-stop economy runs versus the fast-and-furious option tyre brigade.

3. Change the draconian rules around component replacement: Rather than a confirmed-place grid drop, how about adding some time to the fastest qualifying lap? They may just try to avoid starting from the pitlane if there is a chance of getting a half-decent grid spot.

4. Reintroduce spare cars: people come to see the drivers on the grid and the cars in the race. Allow the teams to use a spare car – however don’t award any Constructor’s points for that car if it is used in qualifying or race. Maybe allow some or all of the teams to run all three cars in practice to give their test drivers something to do rather than simulator work (this would have a few benefits: more data, the public gets to know the rising stars, and we wouldn’t have to see a driver replaced in P1 by someone we’ve never heard of).

Happy for any thoughts or other ideas if you have them?


A lot of great points BigHaydo.

1. Abolish Mandatory Pitstops: You want to run non-stop? Cool. You might have your hands full at the end of the race, but at least then there would be something to look forward to.

Agreed. It was like this in the past and provided great battles. I’m thinking MSC and MH. Different driving styles and different strengths of the Ferrari and McLaren meant each team tried the option that best suited their car.

2. Free Tyre Choice: for all of the grid, not just P11 onwards. Scrap the rule for running both compounds – this could lead to interesting non-stop economy runs versus the fast-and-furious option tyre brigade.

This is tied in with your first point, and again, I agree with this idea. It used to be like this back in the day. You could use Saturday night to consider all the work you did over the weekend and take a punt on a different strategy. MH and McLaren often favoured a minimal stop race that Mika was able to drive well without destroying his tyres. MSC and Brawn opted for the fast and furious option. I guess the other element in that era was fuel load. But the way they make tyres now, I think you could get around the need for refuelling (I personally like it, but I don’t think I’m in the majority)

3. Change the draconian rules around component replacement: Rather than a confirmed-place grid drop, how about adding some time to the fastest qualifying lap? They may just try to avoid starting from the pitlane if there is a chance of getting a half-decent grid spot.

This is a tricky one. I despise Engine and gearbox penalties. I understand the need to promote spending less and forcing teams to not take the easy way out and replace things every session for performance gains. I think perhaps rather than grid penalties (or time penalties as you suggest), they should hit them in the hip pocket and deduct constructors points. That should be enough of an incentive for teams to meet the required aim of the current engine penalty rules.

4. Reintroduce spare cars: people come to see the drivers on the grid and the cars in the race. Allow the teams to use a spare car – however don’t award any Constructor’s points for that car if it is used in qualifying or race. Maybe allow some or all of the teams to run all three cars in practice to give their test drivers something to do rather than simulator work (this would have a few benefits: more data, the public gets to know the rising stars, and we wouldn’t have to see a driver replaced in P1 by someone we’ve never heard of).

Spare cars were great for situations such as extremely chaotic first lap crashes, no better example than Spa in 1998. But I feel this is one excess we can do without. With the changes to circuit design over the years, apart from inclement weather, I don’t think there are enough major first lap incidents to justify that particular expense.

If they addressed the component penalty as I suggested above, I think this would go a long way to seeing more cars on the circuit. Then again, teams have always chosen to limit component wear when they can. Back when qauli was an open hour and you had 12 laps to set a time, you could put down an extremely quick lap early and not reemerge. Or vice a versa, save it all up for one ultimate lap in the dying moments of the session. I didn’t mind the old quali like this as it did throw up some interesting results if you didn’t time your run and the weather or track conditions changed. It also demonstrated what someone could do under extreme pressure. The reason it was changed was because cars were not out on the circuit. I enjoy the new (newer!) format and it generally works well, but part of me does enjoy the old slow burning quality of the sport. There would be boring bits back in the day, but they would build up to the big moments. I think I’m getting old though.

The rising stars have plenty of opportunity to showcase their talents in F2 and the occasional appearance in free practice. I don’t agree with the idea of putting them out in a third car.

Variability is probably the keyword when looking at what the sport needs. The problem in the past 20 years has been finding a balance between safety, cost savings and the sports environmental reputation (or at least the sport being seen to be addressing this issue) The combination of Senna’s death raising safety standards, big tobacco being banned and the rise of environmentalism around the world (during the 90’s) have all had a significant effect on how the sport has arrived where it is today.

Yes, these issues have long been shaping the sport prior to the 90’s, but I think there was a crucial turning point in this period that led to the transition to other income streams and cost saving measures that we have today and consequently, the challenges that face the sport maintaining the interest it has long held with “rev-heads” (such as myself).

Variability. Let’s work towards that please FOM and Constructors.


I have to say, none of this addresses PU penalty rules, and the time add-on is simply going back on the grid, except may not be same number of places on a rainy quality – minimizing cost of PU replacements.

What ned a to happen is 6 PUs per season so that drivers can drive, PUs don’t have to be saved. But that would double the supply cost of PUS and bankrupt customer teams.

As I said before, there is hardly anyone better at painting themselves into a corner than Formula 1.


Giving more engines wouldn’t necessarily cost that much more. The largest portion of the cost of engine manufacture is the R&D & ongoing design cost. As it stands this is (in theory) divided equally between each engine produced i.e. 6 per team for the season and maybe 2 for pre-season testing.

If the engine allocation were doubled it is possible (but unlikely) R&D costs would slightly decrease and be spread across nearly twice as many engines.


Give more PUs, for sure it solves the issue.

If not, allow overhaul on allocated PUs. One overhaul per season per PU.


Exactly. The FIA line about limiting PU’s to control costs for customer teams is pure BS.


Does anybody know what the relative costs for the teams are of the actual PUs themselves, relative to their share of the development costs – and how these are spread across the customers?

Do the customer teams pay X million per finished individual power unit (which folds the overheads into the end product) or do they pay X million for the engine supply per year, including service and the supply of 3 or more (if the first ones blow up early) PUs?

My guess is that – in the real world – the main cost is the development/design, and that it doesn’t actually cost very much more to produce the hardware for 6 customer engines than 3 once the design is finalised. In which case, it might actually be less expensive for the manufacturers to develop an engine that doesn’t need to be as reliable for so long.

But if the teams pay per unit, this of course would still double their costs if they have to buy 6 instead of 3.

I genuinely don’t know the answer to this, but perhaps somebody in the forum may have more insight into the contractual side of things?


If I recall PUs cost 22m in 2014 and are now 17m. 18m when it was 4 per season, that dropped my 1m when it went to 3.

That’s what I recall being reported here and the outcome of the meetings to address PU cost.

For reference, unlimited V10 supply cost 6m per season for customers.


Actually, just thought about another one for #3: how about instead of a grid-drop, take away their fastest two laps in each qualifying session? This would force them out onto the track to make up the deficit.


I like the above ideas…I think the need to use two different sets of tyre is wrong….

Lets do as above…lets allow a mix of tyres..hard on one wheel,softer on the others….

Lets get rid of top ten starting on tyre used.

Lets have tyres that allow balls out racing not slowly slowly,give us cars that can RACE…stay within close to car ahead…get shot of DRS….

Loose blue flags…your meant to be the best drivers in the world….SHOW it and overtake.

Less crying over radio that he did this or that….Sporting code…drive hard but respect the others.

TRACK limits……Paint a white line on each side of the track…..Touch the line with ANY part of A tyre…you are outside track limits….IF it was a wall you stay in….

F1 can be great…but at the moment it is far from it.


F1 is dominated by tyres, and I for one want this to stop ASAP as it’s been going in every since Pirelli appeared with their comedy tyres. Yes I know PUs are an issue too as only Mercedes and Ferrari have a competitive unit for now.

1. Abolish mandatory pit stops? I want drivers to be pushing like crazy, first lap until last. I don’t want to see any driver fannying about preserving tyres. The fastest driver should win, not the one who can run one second off the pace with tyre and fuel conservation in mind. I want mandatory pit stop windows of 2 laps duration twice a race – stop all this endless waste of strategy computers, etc. I want durable tyres with a wide operating window that are nowhere near worn out when they are changed – drivers can then push like hell behind other cars without blistering and degradation, and the off line parts of the track are not undrivable due to ridiculous amounts of marbles.

2. Free choice of compound. Half agree, but I’d say only two compounds should be available with a small difference between them – mainly to ensure that there’s a good chance each car will have a sweet spot tyre. I don’t want to see drivers cruising as per point 1 though so they should be durable and have a wide operating range.

3. Draconian rules vs component usage. I’d like the penalties to stop completely, but rather than tinker with penalties I’d like the number of power units, etc to be increased first to try and avoid them in the first place. The cost caps need to come into play in the future, and overuse of components should lead to reduction in say CFD quota, or bans on upgrades for a race, etc. Penalties should not be applied at the coal face, and the driver championship should not be manipulated by draconian penalities.

4. Spare cars. I don’t want to see them at all. I also don’t want to see rookies and rich kids near a race weekend. There should be 4 after race tests each year for rookies only to assess and give them experience.

A difficult one, but I’d love to see telemetry and all these strategists go. They are contributing heavily to this cruising mentality that F1 has acquired since these PUs have come to be.


Oh I am totally with you on the stupid tyre rule too. Let them run on one compound if they want to optimize the car around that. It could lead to some really interesting race finishes with one car 20 secs ahead on tyre strategy and someone on the softest tyre hammering after them.

That would require two things though. Firstly, as you say, get rid of the stupid pu component usage restrictions. Surely the money is spent in developing the things and not in their manufacture? Secondly, make sure the aero rules would allow one car on faster tyres to actually be able to pass one on worn tyres.


I have a thought…

The fastest guy DID win!



The fastest guy out of the 2 cars in the lead category within F1 😉

(if you are feeling really really lucky perhaps in one out of ten years of PUf1 replace the 2 cars with top 4 cars)

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