Four of F1’s ‘unwritten rules’

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How do F1 drivers know when they've pushed too far?

At the Italian Grand Prix weekend driving standards was a hot topic again – hardly surprising given the furore over Lewis Hamilton’s penalty at Spa, and Monza’s combination of two tight chicanes plus a soaking wet track.

With Hamilton’s appeal against his penalty due to be heard on Monday 22nd September it’s a good time to try and clear up the vast grey areas surrounding the rules of racing in F1.

The only thing that has become clear about the rules of F1 racing during the past two events is how unclear the regulations are. The rules of racecraft occupy a tiny portion of the vast tomes of FIA regulations – the detail is supposedly filled out by a number of implicit or ‘unwritten rules’ though it can be hard to work out what they are by looking at past precedents.

What the rules do say

The regulations governing wheel-to-wheel racing in F1 are detailed in the Sporting Regulations (articles 16 and 30) and Appendix L to the International Sporting Code (Chapter IV, Article 2.g).

The latter is what Hamilton was punished under at Spa and simply reads:

The race track alone shall be used by the drivers during the race.

A rigid interpretation of that ruling would likely have seen hundreds of penalties dishes out over the Monza weekend during the GP2 and F1 races. Of course, these rules aren’t enforced to the letter, which is why the unwritten rules are so important. So what are these unwritten rules?

Cutting corners

Let’s start with the ‘unwritten rule’ that’s at the heart of the recent controversy: cutting corners.

Unwritten rule 1: You can cut a corner and gain an advantage if you’re defending

At Hungary in 2006 Pedro de la Rosa dived down the inside of Michael Schumacher at the turn six/seven chicane. Schumacher missed the chicane and kept the position. Fans who had been used to seeing drivers penalised for gaining an advantage by cutting the chicane were perplexed to see Schumacher not receive a penalty. Here’s a video showing the contentious move:

Afterwards de la Rosa spoke to the stewards who told him they’d ‘clarified’ the rules:

The position is that if you are not side by side with the driver ahead of you going into the chicane, then the driver who is ahead of you can jump the chicane and keep his position without being penalised.

Unwritten rule 2: If you cut a corner while attacking you can’t overtake your rival at the following corner

Leaving aside the vexed question of whether or not Hamilton had gained an advantage by cutting the chicane at Spa after he’d yielded his place to Raikkonen (see here for a debate about that), the stewards announced before Monza a change in the ‘unwritten rules’ about what happens when an attacking driver cuts a corner.

In future, they said, if a driver passes another in front of him by cutting a corner, not only must he give the place back, but he must not pass the driver at the following corner.

There’s a discussion of this new ‘unwritten rule’ and whether or not it contradicts past practice in this article.

Pushing a rival off the track

Should drivers ever be allowed to push their rivals off the track? I’m a bit uneasy about the idea but the stewards actually turn a blind eye to it in a lot of cases:

Unwritten rule 3: A defending driver can push their rival off the track

There’s actually quite a few examples of this happening. A famous one involved Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya on the first lap at Imola in 2004. Montoya had his Williams alongside Schumacher’s Ferrari at the exit of Tosa, but Schumacher pushed him off the track.

Schumacher stated in the press conference afterwards that he hasn’t seen Montoya (!) to which Montoya uttered his famous response that Schumacher must have been “blind or stupid”.

Similarly in 2003 Schumaher pushed Alonso off on the Hangar straight at Silverstone, to which Alonso reacted with outrage.

But Alonso’s no fool, and realised that if Schumacher was going unpunished for it he could to, so he pushed Hamilton off the track on the first lap at Spa last year. But Hamilton’s no fool, and he pushed Glock off the track at Monza last weekend. And Raikkonen did it to Hamilton at Spa.

It’s not pretty, and as F1 is usually preoccupied with being safe and desperate to improve overtaking opportunities, perhaps this is an unwritten rule we could do without?

Defensive driving

This often goes hand-in-hand with the above rule. It’s been tested a lot in recent years and I wrote a post about it in April when GP2 racer Romain Grosjean pushed the unwritten rule too far.

Unwritten rule 4: A defending driver may move off-line once to defend his position and then move back to his original line on the way into a corner, but cannot push a rival on that line off the track

In the run-up to the controversial move at Spa, Kimi Raikkonen gave a typical example of how to execute this move. He moved off the racing line to the right of the track to cover the inside of the corner, then moved across to the left to get the best line possible into the corner, while Hamilton was trying to pass him on the left-hand side.

What Raikkonen’s didn’t do was commit Grosjean’s error at the Circuit de Cataluinya. Grosjean pushed rival Kamui Kobayashi clean off the track when he moved to claim his line for the first corner:

Grosjean’s punishment was a drive-through penalty.

Hamilton was pulling the same move on Webber at Monza when the pair made contact. So had Hamilton broken the unwritten rule? Here’s the video of what happened:

I haven’t been able to look back at onboard footage from the cars but it looks to me as though Hamilton gave Webber – just barely – enough room for Webber to get into the corner without hitting the McLaren or going off the track. Webber’s car appears to slew slightly to the right before striking Hamilton’s wheel. It’s possible that Webber may have out-braked himself, which might have been a factor in the stewards’ thoughts.

But certainly, Hamilton cut this one extremely fine, if my interpretation of the ‘unwritten rule’ is accurate. He was probably only a few centimetres from getting another penalty.

Of course, if this were a written rather than unwritten rule it would probably be a lot easier to make a call on close decisions like this. And the same goes for the other unwritten rules.

A bizarre way to regulate a sport

It’s difficult to understand why important clarifications like this aren’t written down – either as hard-and-fast rules, or just guidelines to give stewards a bit of wiggle room.

Why aren’t these rules written down? Why are they apparently only covered them in drivers’ briefings? Do the FIA not want fans to understand the rules of the sport?

If a ‘clarification’ gets made in the briefing room ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix, but isn’t announced to the press, how are fans supposed to know what’s going on? And how do future drivers find out about them unless a charitable rival tells him (not likely)?

A cynic would suggest the stewards issue whatever decision comes into their head and then ‘clarify’ their position with ‘unwritten rules’ afterwards simply to look consistent. And ???ber-cynics would suggest they tend to favour one team when they do it.

Max Mosley gave a typically withering response to criticism of the FIA’s inconsistency and lack of transparency over the latest row:

It’s a reflection, and I’m sorry to say this, of the stupidity of the people who say it because they haven’t really thought the thing through and put themselves in the position of the people who have to take these very difficult decisions.

But when the rules as written give so little detail, and when the stewards issue ‘clarifications’ that seem to contradict past precedent, and when controversial decisions are published with so little reasoning (the Hamilton-Raikkonen incident was summarised in seven words), you have to question the sense of leaving important rules of race-craft shrouded in secrecy.

It’s like a trap designed to catch unlucky drivers out and give them arbitrary penalties. It’s almost as if Mosley gets some sort of thrill out of punishing people.

The comments on this article are split across multiple pages. If you are having trouble viewing them via the links below click here to see all comments.

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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79 comments on “Four of F1’s ‘unwritten rules’”

  1. You’re going to get into trouble for that last line…

    Btw, “Hamilton gave Webber – just barely – enough room to get into the corner without hitting the McLaren [Red Bull?] or going off the track…”

  2. In all, a VERY good and comprehensive article. Maybe (I think Doctorvee was saying something similar), it would be a good idea to keep track of these unwritten rules and the examples of where they have been applied or mis-applied.

  3. “It’s almost as if Mosley gets some sort of thrill out of punishing people.”

    Sneakily clever. ;)

  4. This is like manna from heaven! I’ve been looking for these ‘unwritten’ rules since Spa, when I was as puzzled as everyone else that Lewis was punished for ‘not using only the track’.

    In an interview with Lewis a year or so ago about the meeting with Ron when he gave him the drive for 07, Lewis reports that Ron told him to be fitter than any other driver and know the rules better than any other driver. I remembered this when in a subsequent TV interview (might have been after a race) a journalist questioned Lewis about agressively moving twice in front of a rival when your only allowed to move across once. Lewis immediately corrected him by saying that you can move once, but then move again to regain the racing line for a corner. This was why I was surprised in Spa. I think Lewis and McLaren and indeed Charlie Whiting understood that if you gain advantage by cutting a corner to pass, you show that you have relented that advantage by letting the other guy past. Was this ‘next corner’ bit new for Monza? I’m still confused – maybe I’m just one of the stupid people Max keeps going on about.

    Great site, btw

  5. Keith,

    Good summary, despite your comparison between M Schumacher maneouvre with F Alonso’s last year or Kimi this one against L Hamilton is bizarre.

    Last year, almost everybody agreed, even in Great Britain (after a big debate of course), Fernando did nothing but keeping his line, the same than Kimi this one, despite in this case, not everybody agreed, at least in Great Britain.

    In any case, would be good for the sport if the FIA just start to write those “non written rules”. Maybe they should not be 100% right for every case, but at least the drivers will know how to behave and what will be the consecuences if they don’t.

    It is like having a wall, maybe the wall doesn’t make justice in every occasions, but the drivers know very well if they go off the track, his race is finish!

  6. Alonso follower
    16th September 2008, 8:05

    Ah, that last line was priceless…
    Yes, a clarification would be in order. Overall, I don’t like an sport where you’re allowed to crash into rivals without punishment, or you can make them go off the track. I’d prefer something were the willingness to take risks, the skill of the driver and the overall quality of the machine you’re riding make a difference.
    Otherwise, aggressive driving will rule and we will have Hamiltonian drivers competing to see who has the biggest balls.

  7. When Kimi do this all you was talking that he pushed Lewis of the track. When Lewis pushed Glock off the track and fight with Webber in a very dangerous way you said that the rules are not quite good… Maybe we have to decide what we think about this situation whitout looking on the driver nationality.

  8. V8 supercars do not accept “a driver pushing a rival off the track” they have a rule regarding “racing room”.
    on the hamo webber incident = i reckon Hamo did cut it fine, only saw webber’s onboard and it was very close, a bit sill from a man whose got a world title at stake.
    if they hit at any differant angle, they’d have both been out.
    i say dont be to harsh on drivers or it will end up deterring them from having a go at passing, which is the VERY last thing the sports needs!
    only need to punish if deliberate or so obviously dangerous that something needs to be done!
    thing is, with wheel to wheel racing u will get incidents etc from time to time!
    at the end of the day it’s all a matter of ettiquite

  9. Friend of Max – The Red Bull/McLaren thing, bit of a clumsy line by me. What I meant was “Hamilton gave Webber – just barely – enough room for Webber to get into the corner without hitting the McLaren or going off the track” – which is what I’ve changed it to now.

    Prateek – :-)

    John Spencer – Thank you!

    “Was this ‘next corner’ bit new for Monza?” – That’s the very nub of this argument here.

    IDR & Gregoff – Sorry I’m not sure what your points are about the “driver pushing a rival off the track” stuff but I think Jones makes a good point about how drivers in other series have the concept of “racing room”. I’d like to see F1 adopt that. It seems crazy that the (unwritten) rules seem to favour the driver in front so much, when overtaking in F1 in normal conditions is so difficult.

  10. Many thanks Keith for this collection, and for this excellent site. Keep up the good work!

  11. I tried to dig deep into to the sporting and technical regulations following the Spa incident and I was very surprised nothing is written there except that sentence Keith mentioned above, the same one stewards used in explaining the penalty …

    During the Monza race, when Massa overtook Rosberg by throwing all 4 wheels over the kerbs (and the artificial grass patch), I wondered is this is a case of attacking those kerbs to the limit or is it already cutting the chicane … Me wondering did not affect anything. It however looked like Massa and Ferrari wondered too as it took a whole lap before Massa (already well clear of Rosberg) slowed down and let Rosberg re-pass … How much time Massa (and his slow thinking crew) wasted there …

  12. If the game is all about “unwritten rules”, then they should make the game completely free of rules. Now that WILL be EXITING. Think of all the actions that will happen….

  13. If the rules, written or otherwise, are to be held as consistent between GP2 and F1 then Hamilton should have had a penalty last weekend in my opinion – his move on Webber looked worse from the footage we have seen than the Grosjean move.

    @Milos I’m sure ITV commentary said the FIA had asked Massa to give the place back to Rosberg, but they thought he had just taken the normal line so were a bit puzzled by it. Maybe shows not all decisions go in their favour!

  14. Great article Keith! So many unanswered questions? Do you think it would be possible to get a straightforward answer to all this from the FIA. And going by his comments, I think Mad Max would be hard pressed to explain it all.
    You would think that all these ‘unwritten rules’ would have been written down by now, knowing the complexity of the sport. This must be a hangover from the 50s and 60s with the ‘Gentleman Racers’. No wonder the poor Stewards have to ponder them after the race!
    I am all for rules that allow for racing, overtaking and all the things which keep the sport interesting. Its little wonder at the moment that most drivers seem content just to hold position!
    And as for the ‘unwritten rule’ that seemed to appear only at Spa, and only for F1, we should pay attention to the next infringement of it by a non-McLaren car, and see what penalty is imposed…..

  15. Great article Keith, I certainly hope a lot of readers who come here read it and keep it in mind, before they go criticizing drivers for their race actions.

    The Hamilton – Glock incident, I think was just a case of Hamilton taking the proper line through the corner, like someone said in a previous post. Glock may never have had that opportunity to get so close in that shrinking space had there not been a car immediately ahead of Hamilton, which slowed him down, just after he had overtaken Glock.

    The Ham – Web incident was about 60 -40, Both cars moved in the same general direction, but Hamilton was well ahead when he started his move, and Webber was closing in. It was obvious Webber was going nowhere with that move.But he was left a car’s width and still attempted to stir into Mclaren.

    Lets not forget, Kimi driving Massa off the track, at high speed,at Spa

  16. So the unwritten rules are the guidelines or advice fed back to the drivers and teams in the drivers’ briefings with the race director or the stewards? The drivers all seemed to talk confidently about the concept of ‘gaining an advantage’. And yet, the written rules as published by the FIA flatly contradict the unwritten rules by which the stewards supposedly operate. The written rules state that you must use only the track at all times (meaning the bit between the white lines). This turns out to mean that you must keep at least one wheel on the track. Given that the technical regs specify measurements down to the millimetre, why don’t the sporting regulations get a tad more specific about the position of the cars on the track, maybe by incorporating the ‘one wheel within the white lines’ bit? But then of course the regulation as implemented by the stewards is completely different. It turns out that you can leave the track at any time, do whatever you like and come back onto the track, just so long as you haven’t blatantly/subtly/whatever gained a perceived/actual/theoretical/whatever ‘advantage’ by so doing. Again, this qualification MUST be incorporated into the written regulations, otherwise they are meaningless.

    p.s. Does anyone think McLaren will actually win the Spa appeal?

  17. John – and think back to the Massa/Sutil brawl in the Pit Lane. Massa was not supposed to have gained an ‘advantage’, even though he was a lap ahead of Sutil and already had it….

  18. Very interesting topic, Keith.
    The relationship between FIA and drivers seems to be something like: “Don´t ask us to tell you if you are wright or wrong. We will not gonna help you on this issue.”

    Max favourite maxim:
    “We are always right even when we are wrong” as that is the main purpose of a governing body…

  19. So all U want to say that is HAMILTON was right in every move that he made and he should not be punished at all for whatever moves he make.

    I am not sure why this mess is not happening when other drivers do it.?Why it always rises when HAMILTON does it?

    Though HAM was clearly fast in monza he made some ruthless move on webber and glock.???

  20. Madurai – Hamilton was tough with Webber and Glock but, as I wrote in the article, it’s petty similar to what’s gone before. He did cut it very fine with Webber though.

    Brar – Yep I think that’s pretty much Max’s motto…

  21. Its not that “SCHUMI did it”,”kimi did it” so did HAM.
    I suppose evry other driver gave room to their rivals.
    eg:Massa was just riding on the kerbs when he overtook NICO.Not a part of wheel was in grass.But he let NICO through.TRUE SPOTSMANSHIP.It all depends on indiviuals.

  22. Sounds more like a dictatorship than a governing body to me.

  23. madurai – what we are more concerned about here is that a driver was penalised for a move he made in one race, but nobody was penalsied for doing exactly the same move in the races beforehand, or afterwards.
    Are these rules being made up race-by-race? Are they being made to penalise one team or one driver? Or are the Stewards so varied in their ideas about applying the rules that its a lucky dip every time you go racing?

  24. Excellent article Keith.

    To be honest, the Rosberg-Masa incident at Monza just muddied the waters even further. Massa made a perfectly good move at the (second?) chicane and though he was over the kerb he still had two wheels on the track, as far as I was concerned. Yet he was made to give the place back.

    However, racing in clear air on your own that is the line that virtually every driver would use.

    Let’s be honest, this is all about finding ways to manipulate the championship and keep things artificially close. Having vague, fluffy, unwritten rules is an excellent way to do it because you have to be around watching for a while to get similar situations where the rules were applied differently.

  25. DJ This is what I am concerned about “Are they being made to penalise one team or one driver?”.Why is that one driver always being HAM and the TEAM Maclaren that everyone are concerned abt when many drivers also get penalities that..????

  26. Madurai – the suggestion that the governing body favours Ferrari over other teams started years, perhaps decades before Hamilton arrived on the scene.

  27. I am also thinking back to a few years ago. when Jenson Button started with Honda. His car was always chosen to be weighed at a critical time in Qualifying, and at one point he missed a vital time window. It may just have been coincidence, or the way the camera was pointing, but it did make me ponder……

  28. But we get this furore only when it involves HAMILTON and MACLAREN in the recent….

  29. if I can remember correctly HAM was just let off in FUJI gp after all other drivers reported of RASH driving…

  30. Madurai – It’s been 14 years since a driver lost a win due to a stewards’ decision (see here). It’s a rare event and definitely worth looking into in detail. And elsewhere on the blog people have been asking for an article along these lines.

    There are loads of other incidents like the Fuji one that could have been included here but I didn’t want to make the article too long and it made sense to use examples from the last two races. But perhaps this is something I’ll do a sequel to in future.

  31. John Spencer, you are exactly right. None of the other drivers in their haste to blame Hamilton after Spa, mentioned this “next corner rule”. They said things like “spirit of giving up the advantage”, “mustn’t be impatient”, “could have waited a bit”, but nothing CLEAR, which means that they obviously didn’t have a clue about the “rule”. Then at Monza they “clarified” it. Mmmm, more like made it up on the spot to justify the penalty. I hope Ron is aware of all this and shows what a disgrace it is in the court case.

  32. Keith, thank you for this article. I personally think Hamilton crossed the fine line in the incident with Webber but the stewards took no action, so I thought maybe I was “the cheese who stands alone” on that one.

    I’ve been thinking of the job of stewards per se and was thinking of the role of stewards in another sport which has a high priority on safety of its participants, horse racing. One particular rule I find interesting is the rule of interference (actually a group of subset rules under interference) Horse racing has very strict rules and very strict consistent adherence to them, is it only because formal betting money is involved?

    Agree with John Spencer, given that other rules are detailed right down to the minutia of measurements, it seems odd that driver behaviour is not more detailed. They can no longer rely (if they ever could) on the intangibles of driver etiquette & sportsmanship vs competitiveness.

    I don’t think that McClaren will win the Spa appeal. None of the other drivers have come out publicly to support the appeal. There was a large reaction from fans & some commentators but not as severe a reaction to past decisions. The other thing against the appeal is paradoxically the fact the McClaren checked twice with the referee if their “damage limitation” action was enough. This suggests that they were not confident that they had in fact done enough.

  33. Craig, interesting that race control seemed to know what to suggest to Ferrari in Monza, whereas Mosley said that the teams were not to ask race control because he’s not the steward, and that race control shouldn’t have answered McLaren in Spa.

    Or is it that race control can competently advise Ferrari during a race, but if he advises McLaren during a race, it means diddly squat?

  34. ‘I hope Ron is aware of all this and shows what a disgrace it is in the court case.’

    Nope, I don’t think it will change anything… The clarification just reiterated how the drivers seem to have understood it anyway. While it was not explicitly mentioned, their statements of patience and waiting all imply that they agree with the ‘next corner rule’.

  35. haha love that last line.

    I’ve always thought that un-written rules were like a gentleman’s agreement. i.e if you break them you lose the respect of your fellow competitors and face the prospect of revenge in the future. But you can’t really be punished for them by a governing body because…well they’re not actually in the rules of the sport.

  36. Journeyer, your understanding of clear rules is obviously vastly different to mine.

  37. Madurai – you’re right that there has been more focus on recent steward’s decisions and these do involve Lewis Hamilton, but that’s because he’s leading the championship and the decisions the stewards make after races are having more effect on the championship than the racing that takes place on the track. It’s pretty clear that many infringements further down the field are not investigated by the stewards because these are not ‘brought to their attention’ and don’t affect championship points.

    The ‘furore’ as you put it has arisen because of the inconsistency and opacity in decision making. Stats presented in previous posts on this site show that McLaren ARE more penalised than other teams and have a lower appeals success rate as well. This alone is insufficient evidence of conspiracy, but it does make the matter worthy of investigation (contrary to Max Moseley spluttering assertions).

    And Hamilton was ‘let off’ in Fuji last year because, er, Vettel ran into Webber. However, that incident did set an important precedent because the FIA stewards relied on YouTube footage posted by a fan several DAYS after the event. Maybe the FIA sporting regulations should set out a statute of limitations on race events. Otherwise I’m sure we can turn up footage of Fangio cutting Nuerburgring chicanes in the 1950s, and the FIA can strip him of a championship or two….

  38. wat abt HAM getting help from stewards in EUROPEAN GP 2007.?????Is there conspiracy against TONIO,BUTTON etc….????We need to investigate..@@@

  39. ‘Journeyer, your understanding of clear rules is obviously vastly different to mine.’

    Yep. Well, to be honest, ever since I watched F1 in the 1990s, that’s how I always understood that rule. The FIA only reiterated it for me.

  40. May be Mclaren doesnot using it owns technology for developing its cars have caused FIA to react in such a way….Just a thought@@@@wat say….????

  41. Keith,

    I do enumerate a dozen of cases on the post about Vettel´s win so I must to say thank you for the article, it summarized my confuse and poorly written comment there.

    In the Lewis-Webber´s case, Coulthard, “Mr Movable Chicane” and Webber´s team-mate, has wrote this on his column at iTV about Kimi´s defensive line:

    “…Clearly Kimi took a defensive line into the corner, making Lewis go the long way around – but that was his right as the lead car, and HE DID NOTHING UNFAIR…”


    So, if there is “Driving etiquette” to Kimi´s defensive moves, why this can´t works to Lewis too?

    Is interesting how ones scrutiny Lewis moves while Kazuki try to dangerously overtake at Parabolic and none seems to “remember” the move. I guess what is behind this forgiving…

    Craig has mentioned GP2 and I must to say that the same Timo Glock who complained about Lewis, was the same one who crossed the white line and “defensively” pushed Lewis off the track dozens of times at Turkey in 2006.

    I could use another example of how “the rules could be held as consistent between GP2 and F1”: in Barcelona, Lewis were leading the race and fighting for the championship and his team-mate, Alex Premat, pushed him off track and won the race. Do you know what Lewis has said after the race?

    “This is racing…”

    Anyway, I know why some drivers are complaining. Looking back to the history, you can understand how sometimes they try to get together, acting like a corporation. I hate to make comparisons between Senna and Lewis, but we have the same fuss that we did see on the days of The Great Man. Alboreto has said that about Senna once:

    “…Senna acts like a bandit on track. I have the impression that, under his helmet, he drivers with a knife between his teethes (I do not know if there are this linguistic expression in English!)…”

  42. Niki Lauda made the best comment for the whole weekend which was to have full time racing stewards that are consistent from race to race rather than having different stewards at different events. If that can be done than many of these unwritten rules can remain unwritten.

  43. “Sounds more like a dictatorship than a governing body to me.”

    Funnily enough the ‘unwritten rules’ rather remind of the Westminister parliamentary system where many things are governed by conventions and practices that are not actually codified in any constitution or the like. Even, I believe, regarding such important things as the position and responsibility of the Prime Minister and how to Cabinet is appointed.

    Bit of an obtuse example, perhaps, but it just shows that Formula One is not the only case where things are sometimes governed by ‘unwritten rules.’ And we are talking about a sovereign nation, not just a sport!

  44. Keith,
    The unwritten rules were created alongside with the F1 Champ, back in the 50’s. Every driver knows the unwritten rules so damm well, they just pretend they don’t, to freeely push the boundaries.

    PS: Great article.

  45. Becken, very interesting post. Basically the rule is:

    Lewis Hamilton: scrutinise EVERYTHING he says and does on and off the track and twist it to show he is a bad and dangerous driver, he is a nasty person, he’s not as good as Vettel, Schumacher, Alonso, Senna, Massa (insert ANY driver’s name here), he has no respect, he doesn’t deserve to be in F1, blah-di-blah.

    Any other driver: if they win, great; if they lose, too bad. No interest in what they say or do off the track, are allowed to say whatever they please without criticism or analysis; they deserve to be in F1.

  46. @ S Hughes – well how did Hamilton successfully manage to create that rule you mentioned in less than 18 months since he arrived in F1 …

    sorry Keith , I know you had another post on this topic few months back :-)

    back to those written/unwritten rules – I think it is same in any business. if you deal with people who follow those “unwritten” rules you save yourself lots of paperwork and headache and generally conduct the business easier and quicker

    if you deal with people who pretend there are no unwritten rules and therefore there is nothing to follow, then you are asking for trouble. you either quickly adjust and start writing everything down (or at least start making everything crystal clear) or you do get yourself in trouble.

    and then you can also get in trouble, if you are new in town and no one told you about those unwritten rules :-)

  47. To S Hughes, all drivers moves should be scrutinise if they are infringing or very close to infringing. Other drivers as mentioned above have had infringements, not just Hamilton. To me, Hamilton is highlighted in many, may of these discussions for a number of reasons. Has another driver been involved in as many incidents this season as Hamilton, Kimi a couple, Massa maybe one, Hamilton at least 4 I can think of straightaway, so he is top of my list and therefore more likely to be discussed. The other issue is that Hamilton when interviewed is proud of his aggressive prowess or being on the borderline of infringing. So he is really inviting such scrutiny. Didn’t show one iota of remorse, embarrassment or humility after running into Kimi at a red light. Even the most die-hard Hamilton fan could argue that was his finest moment? If it was a pure accident, he looks foolish for a stupid mistake, if deliberate to avoid looking foolish, then he broke the unwritten rules and damaged another rivals race.

    I also think he broke an huge unwritten rule last season by driving and testing a car that he knew was created by using stolen work papers, still he probably thought he had no choice as he signed a contract with McClaren and he would be in breach of that contract. Again, even if under duress, not his finest moment?

    I don’t think I’ve read any comment here that says he is a nasty person, or that he doesn’t deserve to be in F1. All I’ve read is that some of his driving incidents are questionable from a rules point of view and perhaps from unwritten rules point of view. As are other drivers questionable incidents. Why does it always come down to two sides, pro and anti Hamilton? No in-between???

    It depends on your perception, some think his technique has brought excitement to the circuit, others think too cocky & borderline at times. I wouldn’t say Hamilton is the John McEnroe of F1, in my opinion but he is not quite the Roger Federer either, still I would not never say he does not belong in F1 or is a nasty person. But hey, it is acknowledge that both you and Becken are Hamilton fans and will vigorously defend him :)

  48. I don’t think Hamilton will win his appeal because the FIA respects no procedural values and, as the site’s analysis shows, there is no recognizable substantive interpretation of the rules at issue.

    Proving this point further, the FIA is atempting to prejudice the appellate panel by issuing the Hamilton Rule, and the statements that Whiting’s opinions during a race are of no value. Issuing an attempted retroactive rule and announcing that your chief official is a not reliable authority on the rules is pretty pathetic. But the FIA does not want to be in the business of gainsaying the hacks it hires as stewards and creating some consistency because it would be in session all year—tf teams had any expectation of procedural justice there would be a raft of appeals after every race.

    If they lose this appeal, McLaren should appeal Massa’s penalty in Valencia. McLaren said not a word about this at the time, even though there is clear precedent for a time penalty for what Ferrari did and the fact that the fine was patently deminimis.

  49. Kate,

    Sorry for been “vigorous” on Lewis defense, but I don’t know what season are you watching. I must agree that Canada incident was stupid and Lewis were there in a good company with his mate Nico Rosberg. Do you remember that Nico did hit Lewis in the same way?

    But Lets take a look in what Kazuky Nakajima has made on this season so far:

    Australia: Hit Kubica
    Turkey: hit Fisichela
    Valencia: Hit Alonso in Spain and in the first lap
    Italia: hit Sutil in Parabolica

    Coulthard has a good collection of incidents this year:

    Australia: crash into Massa
    Bahrain: crash into Button

    After crash into Massa he said:

    “…I admit I did the same thing to Alex [Wurz] last year, but I admitted it and apologized. He had better. If he doesn’t, I’ll knock three colours of **** out of the little *******…”

    What you think about it?

    Sorry, Kate, but I can´t remember to read any of your comments about David or Kazuki incidents, or about Nico´s “finest moment”. Why target only Lewis? If you were between pro or anti Hamilton field you have had watched carefully others crashes and been scrutinizing the attitude of others drivers not only Lewis´s.

    About “Lewis driving and testing a car that he knew was created by using stolen work papers”, how do you know that? How can you state that Lewis already know that?

    The only driver who generated an evidence who could incriminate himself was Fernando with his exchange of e-mails with Pedro. Why didn´t you observe this about Alonso´s e-mails?

    …And so you state that you are between PRO and ANTI Hamilton field. Don´t make me laugh…

  50. There are clear reasons why the FIA don’t codify the clarifications. The general opinion how rules should be interpreted may change from time to time. If rules are completely written it may be too difficult to change them.

  51. @DMW – I don’t think McLaren can appeal the Massa Valencia penalty because they are a third party. This was why their appeal against the BMW and Williams cool fuel in Brazil last year was denied. And there’s also some rule about appeals to the stewards having to be made within 2 hours of their decision.

    @Kate – there is no unwritten rule about testing or driving a car built using another team’s data. The driver can only drive what he’s given to drive! In fact, there is absolutely no rule against industrial espionage at all. McLaren were found to have brought the sport into disrepute by the FIA, which is quite different. Industrial espionage is against the law, and a couple of Toyota engineers were indeed prosecuted in a court of law a few years ago. In that instance, though, the FIA showed no interest in whether or not Toyota had brought the sport into disrepute.

    @Madurai (#39) Nurburgring 07 actually showed that Hamilton did have a better understanding of the rules, or rather the apparent precedent that previous stewards decisions seem to set. The rules did appear to mitigate against staying in your car while the marshals moved it. However, Michael Schumacher had successfully done this previously without penalty, so Hamiliton assumed it was okay. This interpretation was subsequently amended and it is now ‘understood’ that you can no longer do this.

    As a more general point, Hamilton is quite right to stretch the rules to their logical extent, seeking out every possible advantage he can get. Just as the rules specify 2.4 litre V8s, none of the teams run 2.3 litre engines ‘to be on the safe side’. Similarly, if the rules state that you must keep at least one wheel within the white line when cutting a corner, none of the drivers will keep all four wheels at least 12 inches within the white line ‘just to be on the safe side’.

  52. HAM should absolutely win the case in court primarily on two counts.

    1. The FIA agreed that his overtaking was correct TWICE.

    2. If they had not agreed, at least they would have told him to let RAI pass him again. But, then he crashed.

    Given the two, he would have finished second. Now, out of no where, MAS is being given a win and HAM a third position. Doesn’t even make sense.

    FIA cannot say one thing during the race and retroactively take it back, and penalize the driver. That’s simply not correct.

  53. Since Hamiton and Raikkonen have been racing, Raikkonen has overtaken Hamilton twice (Silverstone 2007 & China 2007), while Hamilton has overtaken Raikkonen:

    Malaysia 2007
    Italy 2007
    Manaco 2008 (at the start)
    Silverstone 2008 (at the start)
    Italy 2008
    Spa 2008*

    *pending :)

  54. @ Becken
    “…Senna acts like a bandit on track. I have the impression that, under his helmet, he drivers with a knife between his teethes (I do not know if there are this linguistic expression in English!)…”

    that made me laugh out loud! haha….he was a pirate!

  55. Oh, Yeah, Wesley… ; )

    Nonsense from the sadly missed Alboreto. But the expression means, in Portuguese, braveness…

  56. I love that people are still going on about McLaren stealing data. Ferrari, Renault and others are running J-dampers which were stolen from McLaren and details of the design published by Max. But McLaren are the bad guys and Renault’s indiscretion is ignored. Ferrari gained from Renault’s theft because Max decided they were an interested party and so gave them full access to the hearings. Why are Ferrari an interested party? Would McLaren or any other team be given similar rights in any other case?

    I love that Schumacher fans are criticising Hamilton’s on track etiquette. Some of his moves may be borderline but he has not deliberatley rammed anyone yet.

    The unwritten rules are there so that Max can manipulate things to suit himself. He said years ago that he prefers not to be written rigidly so that they can’t be interepreted for a particular situation. Add to that we have Alan Donnelly whose job is to help the stewards consider the implications of their decision. I thought the idea was that an incident was supposed to be considered on its merits alone but that is apparently not the case anymore.

    Anyone who thinks people have only been complaining about Ferrari since Hamilton turned up in F1 need to read a few history books.

    Any site I visited in the wake of the Michelin tyre ban, the mass damper ban and Alonso’s aerodynamic blocking of Massa at Monza was full of equally irate comments. Equally there was outrage that Ferrari were allowed to use their brake cooling devices when it was quite clear they were illegal aerodynamic devices. This has been proved this year when twice the brake cooling devices have had to be removed to stop brakes overheating. But has Max taken any action or is he happy that Ferrari have been proven to be liars and made him look like an idiot for either buying their ridiculous story or being complicit in it?

    Colin Chapman who owned Lotus was the most innovative designer in the history of F1. Frequently in the 60s and 70s his innovations were protested by Ferrari and banned on grounds that didn’t exist. Chapman was asked once after another banned development if he could modify it to make it legal was that at the next race he would paint it red and it would be legal. Lewis Hamilton was not even born then but the reaction was the same albeit that the internet etc was not around for people to dicuss it to the level we do today. I could give examples from further back but since I have already given examples that happened before Hamilton was born there seems little point.

  57. S Hughes – Did race control definitely tell Massa to give the place back? Or did he give it back himself, fearing a penalty?

    Becken – The Hamilton-Premat collision is an interesting one. I though Premat was out of line there but he didn’t get a penalty. It’ll be a busy day on here if that ever happens in F1…

    Pingguest – I understand that rules may need to be changed but changing them in secret and not telling the public or media, or maybe even all of the drivers, is patently ludicrous.

    Steven – I’ve sketched the outline of a post covering the accusations of Ferrari bias but it would take ages to do properly. I’ll save it for the winter I think. (Of course if you wanted to write something by all means drop me a line: Contact Form)

  58. @Keith Collantine (#58) – “I’ve sketched the outline of a post covering the accusations of Ferrari bias” – (!) You could write a book on this one. The problem is in doing it objectively. It’s easy (if time consuming) to dig up all the cases when stewards have imposed penalties, consider the evidence, and work out if one team has been penalised more or less than others. But it’s a whole lot harder to find incidents which have not been referred to the stewards and drivers have not been penalised when arguably they should have been, unless there was an outcry at the time. And how far back in time do you go? Surely the YouTube footage begins to run dry.

    Alternatively, you could just collate a few select Moseley quotes in which he tacitly admits Ferrari bias. He’s quite short with people nowadays, calling them stupid instead of giving incisive lawyerly reposts, but in the past his stock response to accusations of Ferrari bias was as follows (and I apologise that I cannot find a reference or link readily to hand): “Because most of the teams in F1 are British or based in the UK, and the management of FIA is British (Moseley), and F1 is controlled by a Briton (Ecclestone), it is of paramount importance to ensure that there is no apparent bias against the largest non-British team.”

  59. This is a well-done piece.

    I think Max himself illustrates the problem best by belittling the people that most want transparency so that the difficult decision becomes easier to understand. It is already clear that the letter of law is violated in every race.

  60. A bit off-topic but when Lewis hit Kimi (Montreal) was it Lewis or the press that claimed it was McLaren’s fault?

    Back on topic, I don’t think Lewis has any reasonable grounds upon which he could argue his case in the courtroom.

    The bottom line is whether the rule is regardless of the written or unwritten the question is did Lewis gain an advantage by cutting the corner.

    In the courtroom McLaren will need to prove FACTUALLY that Lewis would have been capable of overtaking Kimi even if he had taken the corner properly and been behind Kimi rather than alongside* him when he applied the throttle. That means that McLaren will need to show exactly how far behind Lewis would have been to Kimi at the exit of the corner and based on the grip available at the exit of the turn – which Lewis didn’t take, how much more acceleration would have been available to Lewis and would he have made the apex ahead of Kimi based on the available distance remaining. If they can’t prove this then the FIA lawyers will have a field day with McLaren and rightly so as I cannot remember when speculation beat fact in a courtroom. Can any of you?

    *-in my book he did not let Kimi go ahead enough to fairly replicate a realistic distance that would have existed had he taken the corner properly.

  61. That third paragraph should read:
    “The bottom line is regardless of the written or unwritten rule the simple question is did Lewis gain an advantage by cutting the corner.”

  62. #48 Kate – last year Lewis apologised for most incidents on the track (to Kimi et al) and got lambasted for it by some french female journalist who thought he apologised too much – so there is why he no longer shows an iota of remorse. He did it and got equally bad PR so i can understand him deciding to not give a damn anymore.

    #47 Milos – there is a theory that maybe it is because he is black. For the time being i will go by the fact that it is because most of these infringements (save for canada) are when he overtaking or leading the pack and that if other drivers were more often in these positions as him, then one can say they would equally be in controversial limelight. This theory has a precedent in Michael Schumacher. However if it can be argued (and i get convinced) that he does not make that many overtaking moves nor lead the pack that often, then i would fall to the theory that he is black – but as i said, that would be a big if.

    However lately the attacks on Lewis have become so personal that it is impossible to carry on a logical debate on the incidents in which he is involved in. One wonders why for example a two time WDC would joke about being ****** if Lewis took away one of his records. How lame is that? Why for example do so many Lewis haters always argue that Kubica or Vettel are better drivers when Lewis beat them in lower Formulae and continues to beat them in Formula One with a performance record better than more experienced drivers. The “its the car silly” arguement has been defeated twice – first by him equaling Alonso in his rookie year and second by him blowing Heikki away this year.

    Regardless of the non-racing related controversies that surround Lewis, i would challenge any of the Lewis haters to point me in the direction of any CURRENT driver that would have lit up Silverstone, Spa and Monza the way this kid did this year. Lewis makes Formula One worth watching regardless of whether you support him or not. He makes you question your favorite driver. Lately he makes me wait up way after the race to see whether the race results were real. That is Lewis and frankly, after Max Mosley’s scandal, he is the reason most of you are watching Formula One

  63. Becken #50
    I believe it was Fisichella who crashed into Nakajima in Turkey.

  64. Oliver – sorry, you´re right. Anyway, Kazuki still leads the crashes in what a driver has the fault.

    Keith – The team has asked Felipe to give the place back.

    NDINYO – Great, great comment, mate. Very true!

  65. Ndinyo – However lately the attacks on Lewis have become so personal that it is impossible to carry on a logical debate on the incidents in which he is involved in.

    I fully agree with you on this. Its becoming a bit unpleasant to be honest as this guy can just not do anything right in the eyes of those who dislike him. Im a big fan of Schumi and am used to people slamming him but I have not seen anything like the hatred for Lewis Hamilton.

  66. well said NDINYO, Alonso and Kimi were well worth watching through the final days of Schumacher but Lewis has filled the role as protagonist (or antagonist?) with aplomb. I hope he gets his points back since for me it makes absolutely no sense to have Massa as a winner. It would be like Liverpool winning agaisnt Man U and the 3points awarded to Chelsea. Sure he broke against the new clarification of the rule, but thats a clarification which came a week after the incident. Due to FIAs muddling, no rules were broken at the time of the ruling.

    Anyway, once again imagine the outcry if Hamilton was in Webbers position and vice versa. If Hamilton clipped into Webbers wheels from behind people would scream for blood and penalties, perhaps even more so.

  67. “…Anyway, once again imagine the outcry if Hamilton was in Webbers position and vice versa. If Hamilton clipped into Webbers wheels from behind people would scream for blood and penalties, perhaps even more so…”

    Very, very true, Jian.

    Doesn´t matter if Lewis is OUT SIDELINE of a curve (at SPA) or if he is IN SIDELINE of a curve (at MONZA). He is always guilty…

  68. You guys are going completely overboard by dragging racism and/or hatred as a factor when it clearly is not the case. Please be subjective over this and do not believe the hype that is the British media, I’ve lived in this country long enough to know when they are talking out of their backside.

  69. F1 is a motorsport spectacle developed by rich men. There is no democracy, nothing is fair or balanced. It is purely a event put on by very rich people to satisfy there competitive natures. Don’t expect rules or sportsmanship or fair play to ever come into the occasion when money is involved. Rules are bent payoffs are made and life goes on. If you think any professional sport in the world is fair and balanced you have must be on drugs.

  70. I’m aware of the politics in every aspect of life I argued with that point when the Max debates kicked off. But the thing with Lewis is not politics, he’s broken the rules and he’s been caught for them it’s just the British media that has basically gone on this mass crusade saying that people are out to victimise Lewis and McLaren.

    Yes in the whole spygate McLaren got the rough end of it while Renault got away scott free but there is where I would say politics between Flavio and Max was in full affect. Seriously if the FIA were so much anti-McLaren why allowe MES to develop the component that gets fitted in all the cars? Why not let Ferrari make it?

    Yes the FIA favours Ferrari no doubt but the thing with Lewis has nothing to do with Ferrari it’s Lewis and the British media causing problems for themselves. Lewis has still yet to grow up and when he does all this current crap that’s following him will go away.

  71. I don’t comment 72. You say the FIA favours Ferrari but that has nothing to do with how Lewis Hamilton is treated. As far as I can see he is the only threat to Ferrari therefore if the FIA are favouring them they must be doing the opposite to him.

    Why do those who want to attack him keep talking about what the British press say? All over the internet there are people like me who think he is beig unfairly treated. Are we just stupidly believing the British press and incapable of thikig for ourselves?

    McLaren got the rought end of the deal re spy stuff last year. I think $100 million versus zero is slightly more than the rough end of the deal. They also refused point blank to investigate Nigel Stepney’s comments that for every piece of info he gave Mike Coughlin he got a piece in return which he fed into Ferrari.

    Why allow MES to do the ECU? No doubt Max thought that Ron my be tempted to cheat using it an he could use that against him.

    So if Lewis stops doing what he is doing he will not be penalised? You don’t see a pattern in recent seasons that anyone who threatens Ferrari picks up penalties that have never been issued before. Michelin tyres which became illegal after two years, Mass dampers which passed scrutinneering at about 25 races then miraculously became aerodynmaic devices at the same time Ferrari introduced their aero brake cooling devices which they have twice had to take off the car this season to stop the brakes overheating, Alonso’s aerodynamic blocking of Massa (no doubt now he has grown up he won’t do that any more), last season in addition to everything else McLaren had an equality steward dumped on them for the last race. Imagine if Fernando had hit the problem Lewis did in Brazil. Can you imagine the conclusions Max would have drawn.

  72. Of course anything that stands up to Ferrari has been punished, and it’s more than just recent seasons it’s been going on since the dawn of mankind. FIA does stand for Ferrari International Aid – I will always stand by that statement.

    BUT to say that Lewis’ punishment over Spa is BECAUSE of Ferrari well that’s where I draw the line because it has nothing to do with it, the guy chopped the corner and didn’t return the approach to the next corner fairly and imo it is a simple racing incident. It has no need to blow it out of proportion and say it’s the world vs Lewis because that is not the case for this current situation.

    Now if McLaren get hit with some dreamt up charge – don’t put it past Max/FIA/Ferrari they are good at it look what they did to Renault! That would be a different story alltogether, but not this one of Lewis chopping corners.

  73. I personally find it quite difficult to write anything which concerns Maranello Max, and at the same time stifle the overwhelming desire to a)swear, b)insult, c) mention sex, or d) discriminate, but I will try my level best.
    I’ve followed and loved F1 for over 50 years. It’s been great for the most part, except for the boring Schuwats’it years, during which there was a good deal of rule breaking by the maestro himself (and often unpunished!) Please don’t bother to reply, Schu fans, it is all there on video and undeniable!
    After Spa, I wrote to Bernie, (I’ve known him for many years), saying that he had to do something about the stewards and their inconsitent application of the rules, “written or otherwise”. Bernie has been trying to improve the quality of the show, the racing, the overtaking, for years, and when we get a corker of a race, what happens?, the FIA functionaires get in on the act and destroy what was a great race. The win was thoroughly deserved by Lewis.
    He did gain an advantage temporarily, but he gave back the place to Kimi, immediately. Job done! Charlie Whiting told McLaren, not once, but twice, that he had done enough. Charlie is the race director, right? So where is the problem? Now we hear talk of “Did he do enough?”. Where is the consistency?
    For heavens sake, he gave back the place. What was he supposed to do, let Kimi win by not trying to attack anymore, or wait until Christmas and then try again?
    I am actually a fan of Massa, believing that he is doing a really great job, but I wonder how he could be at all satisfied by winning a race under these circumstances.
    They are racing drivers, and they attack, and they try to overtake. It is what they do, and it is what we want to see. Seat of the pants, balls out racing, at it’s very very best.
    In my humble opinion, this sort of thing makes the people that run the regulatory side of F1 a laughing stock. It just isn’t serious, or fair, by any stretch of the imagination. It brings the sport into disrepute.
    If Lewis does not get his points and the win back, I am done with F1. I will not watch another race, at the very least, until they get rid of the people who are responsible for these idiotic decisions, and that includes “Ve vil haf to punish zem Max”.
    Niki Lauda was outraged by what happened, and I believe that he is more than qualified to say the things that he did. These people are killing our sport,I repeat, KILLING OUR SPORT, and they have to go, sooner rather than later. How it is that Max is still in charge after the scandal is totally beyond me.

  74. moseley enjoys being punished so ive heard never mind punishing

  75. Keith,

    First and foremost what the article refers to are ‘unwritten rules’. Where does it say in the regulations that you can do this ? Or are we to make up another set of regulations along side the written ones ?

    Secondly if you read the whole article a certain German driver’s name comes up again and again !

    Finally the quote I think you are referring to ……….

    “Unwritten rule 4: A defending driver may move off-line once to defend his position and then move back to his original line on the way into a corner, but cannot push a rival on that line off the track”

    Schumacher broke that ‘unwritten rule’ because he pushed Hamilton off the track and onto the grass.

    1. Where does it say in the regulations that you can do this ?

      I think the answer to that is pretty obvious and is referred to in the third paragraph of the article.

  76. Over three years later, the “unwritten rule” described under “Defensive driving” has been added to the rule book for 2012:

    FIA clarifies rules on defensive driving

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