The 2011 Formula 1 season is shaping up to be an absolute belter. Save for the horrible fact one driver keeps extending his championship lead (and the refusal by many to accept Sebastian Vettel just happens to be driving a fair bit better than the rest so far this year), there’s been plenty of racing, overtaking is now guaranteed rather than the exception and races are action-packed from start to finish.

But.

Unfortunately, the season has seen with increasingly familiarity, ‘car xx will be investigated’ popping up on screen, as stewards investigations aplenty are being carried out. Most are unnecessary, and threaten to detract from the enjoyment. Witness the Canadian GP, where about eight stewards investigations were carried out, a couple justified, the majority not. And as for the penalties dished out to both Force India drivers for a low-speed collision under safety car conditions (for Adrian Sutil) and losing a front wing endplate (for Paul Di Resta), both were ridiculously harsh.

I accept this is like saying football referees never get it right, and quite often stewards make absolutely the right call, but every now and again they do take leave of their senses.

Without further ado, and in no particular order, here are 5 of the worst penalties stewards have dished out over the past decade:

1) Juan Pablo Montoya vs Michael Schumacher, Sepang 2002: The very first drive-through penalty, issued after a first-corner collision between the two which left Schumacher with a broken front wing. Thing was, Schumacher had understeered into Montoya, yet the Columbian driver was penalised.

To say Montoya was less than impressed was an understatement…

2) Michael Schumacher, Monaco 2010: Schumacher was judged to have illegally overtaken Fernando Alonso on the final lap under what were technically safety car conditions. Trouble was, there were big green flashing lights usually indicating everything is good to go. The resulting penalty was a somewhat harsh demotion from P6 to P12 and outside the points for the German. Y’know, because they couldn’t just swap the positions as the stewards’ lists of punishments didn’t allow for that. For some foolish reason.

3) Fernando Alonso vs Robert Kubica, Silverstone 2010: Alonso passed Kubica by going off track and gaining an advantage. What happened next was mostly bad luck for Ferrari, as they waited to see if they should give the place back, were told they should, but then Kubica’s Renault broke down. So Alonso was belatedly hit with a drive-through penalty. Except the safety car came out, and you can’t take a drive-through when the safety car is out. So instead of losing about three seconds on track, Alonso fell practically to the back of the field. It’s probably not polite to remind Alonso fans this is probably where his title challenge, in hindsight, suffered a critical blow.

4) Lewis Hamilton vs Kimi Raikkonen, Spa 2008: Oh dear. Three utterly thrilling laps at the end of a pulsating Grand Prix, what could’ve been the best ever, utterly spoilt by a post-race penalty that even now seems pointlessly harsh. Hamilton is penalised for not giving Raikkonen enough room to him after cutting the chicane. This one…gngh, it still makes me cross! A 70,000-strong petition failed to deliver any change in the result, but then, internet petitions rarely have much impact…

5) Felipe Massa vs Sebastian Bourdais, Fuji 2008: This was when stewards were at the height of their penalty-happy ways. Watch the video, then try and fathom why Bourdais was the one penalised with a 25s time penalty, not Massa.

Can you think of any more? Use the comments field and tell me. Or maybe I’m being too harsh on the stewards? ‘Ave yer say.