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Analysis: FIA spells out the rules on drivers defending, Verstappen tactics covered

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Analysis: FIA spells out the rules on drivers defending, Verstappen tactics covered
Oct 22, 2016, 9:56 PM

The FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting has finally made his move to spell out what is and is not acceptable for drivers when defending their positio...

The FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting has finally made his move to spell out what is and is not acceptable for drivers when defending their positions on the race track, following persistent demands from drivers.

Max Verstappen's tactics of waiting for the car behind to move and then blocking it off in the braking zone have come in for heavy criticism from drivers including Kimi Raikkonen, with whom Verstappen has had several battles this year.

It has been discussed at several drivers' briefings, particularly after Hockenheim and after Spa. Although the drivers felt that it was part of their code not to move in the braking zone, Verstappen had not respected what they saw as that code and the drivers increasingly asked for it to be written into the regulations.

Max Verstappen Kimi Raikkonen

Critics would argue that this is another example of over-regulation, but the drivers disagree. They argue that it actually promotes overtaking, because it makes it clear that a move, if cleverly executed, is likely to work. If the matter was left open to interpretation, as recently, then that acts as a dis-incentive to 'stick your nose in'.

With the 2017 cars set to be far more draggy on the straights and more difficult to follow due to the increased downforce, there is concern that everything should be done to encourage overtaking and this move speaks to that.

Charlie Whiting Jenson Button

In a clarification document issued just before qualifying at the Circuit of the Americas, Whiting wrote:

"Article 27.5 of the Sporting Regulations states that “...no car may be driven...in a manner which could be potentially dangerous to other drivers...”, furthermore, Article 27.8 prohibits any manoeuvre “...liable to hinder other drivers, such as...any abnormal change of direction”.

With this in mind, and with the exception of any move permitted by Article 27.6, any change of direction under braking which results in another driver having to take evasive action will be considered abnormal and hence potentially dangerous to other drivers. Any such move will be reported to the stewards."

The key element here is the move that forces another driver to take evasive action. Lewis Hamilton had to take to the escape road at Suzuka and the Mercedes team got itself into a mess by lodging a protest that was then withdrawn over Verstappen's tactics. If there had been a wall instead of a run off area, it would have been a nasty accident.

Jenson Button

The 2009 F1 world champion Jenson Button welcomed the written clarification, but noted that the drivers have been working to this code for many years; it is only in the last couple of years that some of the younger generation, especially Verstappen, had failed to observe it and the need arose to get something written down.

"When you make a move you are on the limit, on the edge of being out of control," he said. " If someone moves and takes the space you were going for, you're screwed. In my 15 years of racing in F1 we have not really had a problem, just in the last two years. So yes I'm happy with it [the clarification]."

Lewis Hamilton added, "For 10 years it's been the same rule. But there are some newcomers who are not abiding by the rules.

"It's about the respect we have for each other. We are doing serious speeds; commit to the defence, fine. But stay there.

"It's great that Charlie agrees with the majority of drivers. The rules have to be clear."

What do you think of this development? Is it a positive move to fix a problem that needed clarifying or is it an example of over-regulation? Leave your comments below

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Series Formula 1
Tags innovation