FIA explains defensive driving rules “clarification”

2012 F1 season

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The rules on defensive driving in F1 have been reinforced ahead of the new season.

Drivers have been reminder they are required to lave room for another car when moving back towards the racing line.

FIA race director and safety delegate Charlie Whiting has explained the FIA’s clarification of the rules:

“This isn’t really a new overtaking rule,” he said. “Rather we’ve put into the regulations what was an unwritten rule.

“A driver can make one move only to defend a position – but when that driver then moves back onto the racing line to take a corner it can be construed as a second move, which is not allowed. It’s a matter of deciding to what degree resuming the original line is acceptable.

“We don’t want to get into silly arguments about centimetres so we’ve decided the defending driver must leave at least one car width on the racing line otherwise he will be judged to have made a second move and penalised accordingly. We need to have drivers giving each other space on the track – otherwise we risk dangerous collisions.”

The FIA has also moved to speed up the decision-making process when it comes to issuing penalties:

“In the past stewards might see something suspect and alert the race director,” said Whiting. “He would look at the incident and request the stewards investigate. It was a process that consumed a lot of time.”

The stewards now have the power to investigating incidents without reporting them to the race director: “If they identify something worth investigating, there’s nothing wrong with them taking a look and then giving the race director an opinion. It should make the process less cumbersome.”

A further change in the rules will prevent drivers going off the track in practice and qualifying to save time: “We’ve seen drivers taking shortcuts on in and out laps, either to save time or fuel.

“We could put up barriers to stop them exploiting short cuts but it usually looks stupid! The rules say the drivers should use the track. If they don’t, they will need to justify their actions.

“It also follows that safety will be improved as other drivers are more likely to know that a car has left the track for a good reason.”

The rule allowing lapped cars to pass the safety car has been revived this year, having last been used between 2007 and 2009. Whiting explained why it has been brought back: “We took this rule away because it was difficult to manage and potentially dangerous.

“We have reinstated it with new safeguards. Drivers will only be allowed to overtake once they have all passed the pit entry twice, this will allow all drivers to pit if they want to.

“We will also instruct the lead drivers to stay on the racing line once the order is given to allow cars to overtake. They will be allowed to weave again, to get heat into their tyres, when we inform them it is safe to do so.”

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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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39 comments on “FIA explains defensive driving rules “clarification””

  1. I can see a lot of soft penalties for honest mistakes out there. Why penalise a driver for colliding with another, when his race will already be badly affected? Penalise reckless and dirty driving, not penalise drivers for having a go and getting it slightly wrong

    1. True the worst penalty is losing the race.
      But, for example, what if Petrov was clearly wrong and his collision with Massa gave Massa a DNF and petrov unscathed, Petrov should be punished for it.

    2. Yes. Or simply dangerous driving, because I’m sure most people don’t intend to be reckless.

    3. The drivers have been under agreement for some time now that making multiple moves to defend a position goes too far and thus constitutes dangerous driving.

      This rule is, in my opinion, a good way of putting it in black and white.

      The drivers are by far the best people to listen to when it comes to the safety/racing trade off.

    4. The rule seem fine to me. It will stop drivers that like too push other off track or defending by not leaving space(to you hear me Massa?)

      1. @Solo, spot on, I got sick of hearing Massa whine that he had a right to return to the racing line despite the fact that Hamilton was occupying it at the time. I am not a Hamilton supporter ( or detractor ) and Massas refusal to to concede a pass caused me to go from being sympathetic to his situation to wishing he would leave the sport.

        1. OH, Like Suzuka 2011 you mean?

          1. Or Kobayashi in SPA….

          2. @asanator The key part of the rule is ‘one car width’.

            I just hope the rule also applies to cars turning ‘into’ a corner with disregard for cars coming up the inside.

          3. I think the key part of the rule is ‘one car width when returning to the racing line’ which didn’t happen in either Spa or Suzuka. Nothing to do with cars turning into a corner with someone on the inside.

  2. The FIA seem to be of the view that each time there is a collision/controversial moment on track they have to allocate blame for the incident and penalise a one or both drivers. I fear the humble “racing incident” is going to be a thing of the past soon if this trend carries on.

  3. First DRS,and now this…is F1 worth watching any more??

    1. And now what?

      If you mean the defensive driving rules, I wouldn’t worry about it – it is essentially the way the rules have been enforced for years, the only difference now it’s in writing (and about time, too).

  4. So when Massa inevitably turns into Hamilton and complains that “he didn’t see him”, will Massa now get the blame for making a second move?

    I doubt it.

    Although to be fair, defending drivers now have very very little to play with.

    1. defending drivers now have very very little to play with.

      As far as the rules go I think it’s pretty fair: they can come off the racing line and go all the way to the other side of the track, then come almost all the way back across again, providing they leave a car’s width. That gives them quite a lot of options, especially on straights where the racing line cuts across from one side to the other.

      But what I think tips the balance unfairly against defending drivers at the moment is DRS. I don’t want to see drivers flipping open their rear wings and blasting past the car in front – who is not allowed to use DRS at the same time – with no difficulty. That’s not racing.

      1. I second your entire comment. Well said.

        1. i agree 100% surprisingly

      2. @keithcollantine Absolutely agree about DRS. It would be interesting to try another poll after a few races (during the testing break?)in which a simple clearcut choice was offerred, DRS as it exists now or no DRS.
        As to the 1 move rule clarification, it will offer drivers an interesting choice as well: block a possible outside move and then be forced to leave a car width on the inside for the attacker or hold the racing line and corner faster, apexing at the edge of the circuit while forcing the other guy to try the outside.

    2. Hopefully no more silly excuse of the type “i was going back at the racing line” from Massa. Yeah well, you have to leave space for the other car now buddy.

  5. stupid … really stupid what the hell are we watching ?? F1 has become a commedy and all started after a 5 year ferrari dominance in early 2000. Everything has been changing ever since and what is FIA up to now? First DRS which can only be used by the car behing 9really nonsens) and now a driver cannot get back to his racing line? Just wave a blue flag whenever a trailing car is approacing and lets cut the crap. Good one FIA really nice of you!

    1. DRS is a big ill now in Formula 1. Tis sad that F1 has had to turn to this. Did Mansell, Senna and the others need it? 60 overtakes in a race sounds good but if more than half are ones where the leading car can’t defend its position,it is not good for the sport

      1. i agree 100% surprisingly. start a petition against the use of DRS. i’ll support it

      2. @foleyger…agree with you about DRS, but I will just add that Mansell and Senna and the like of their generation didn’t need it because aero dependancy wasn’t like it is now…ie. cars that sat behind other cars in dirty air were less negatively affected…ie. they have come miles and miles from then with all they know now about aero and downforce with all the high tech windtunnel work they do.

        That is why they need to get away from so much downforce/aero dependancy, and get back to more mechanical grip, which at least they have now in the soft, degrady Pirelli’s. Just as Keith suggested last year and I’m sure will still be saying this year, the sticky Pirelli’s should be enough to promote seat of the pants passing, as opposed to the easy DRS’ing that can occur now. Shame they introduced both at the same time. Would be great to see how they do without EBD and DRS and with the current tires. I still say they need to take further measures to limit downforce/aero dependancy and I’m sure the racing/passing would be more exciting.

  6. “We could put up barriers to stop them exploiting short cuts but it usually looks stupid!”

    How bout designing tracks where you can’t take shortcuts like that… And I think corners like Monza’s first chicane don’t look stupid. Actually some sponsors might even like the idea to get some more exposure.

    1. Race tracks cater for all sorts of motor racing, so different layouts are needed quite often resulting in places that for F1 are shortcuts. And as you noticed, race tracks get modified leaving shortcuts, if the old track is not removed.

  7. I hope this bloking rule will be applied to the race start aswell as thats when it is most dangerous with all the cars so close together. How many times in 2011 would Vettel have broken this newly writen rule?

    1. @the-last-pope But that is close to impossible, How do you suggest you fairly judge the actions of ALL the cars, not just the front runners, and decide on any punishments within a few laps.

  8. Is this meant only for F1 or for other FIA categories such as GP2 and GP3?

    1. @fixy They’ve certainly had the same ‘unwritten rule’ in GP2 for a long time – Grosjean getting a penalty at the Circuit de Catalunya a few years ago for moving over on Kobayashi:

      See here:

      1. Thanks for the link @keithcollantine – obviously good sense is very useful in these conditions. When someone pushes it too far, they deserve a penalty, whether it is a written rule or not. Hopefully there will be no doubts in the future!

  9. “Drivers have been reminder they are ” should be “Drivers have been reminded they are” you put an R instead of a D.

  10. I am a Relatively new F1 fan but i know the history of the sport quite well. What i don’t understand is the FIA’s obsession on safety? I’m all for safety but it seems like they keep taking impractical measures such as lowering noses by mere centimeters, huge run offs on new tracks, talks on canopies, hefty penalties on collisions etc. In my opinion, I think risks and danger comes with the job description. I’m defiantly not saying we have someone injured every race weekend but these are talented professional drivers getting payed millions. I think they deserve more freedom when racing. F1 today is already very safe and as a fan, I don’t want to see it become a danger free sport.

    1. @kcampos12 I think travelling at 200mph already says that this isnt a danger free sport.

      Besides, we have good racing regardless. The racing won’t be any better if it’s more dangerous.

    2. JV, albeit quite the daredevil, was saying pretty much the same thing when he was still in F1, and they have taken more measures since then…so…I don’t disagree with you either, and will only add that racing at high speeds will never be danger free…but you are right…it should not be ‘dumbed down’ to the point where there is so little risk it hurts the show.

      An anology…concussions in hockey in North America has become quite an issue in the last couple of years particularly…some are blaming the size of strength of the shoulder and elbow pads as one aspect…ie. the safer the players feel, the more indestructable they feel so the harder they slam into each other. Back when they didn’t even wear helmets to play there was more respect amongst the players, and the ‘cheap shots’ were much fewer. Of course nowadays the money is so big, sports are such a business, that it seems there are no holds barred in terms of not just taking a man off the puck, but seemingly sometimes trying to take him out of his career.

      1. @robbie Agree completely with the comparison to hockey.

  11. Drivers have been reminder they are required to lave room

    Think that should be “reminded” and “leave” :)

  12. Hm, interesting. The bits I like most is first of all the FIA going through the “trouble” of actually explaining the reasons behind these changes by themselves, ahead of the season.
    The second thing that I found suprising, but very welcome is this part:

    The stewards now have the power to investigating incidents without reporting them to the race director: “If they identify something worth investigating, there’s nothing wrong with them taking a look and then giving the race director an opinion. It should make the process less cumbersome.”

    Let’s hope that makes investigating more predictable, at least for deciding what is looked into and what isn’t and the time at which it is (its clear that when there’s an accident, Whiting will first have to work at making sure it gets cleared up, marshalls can do their work and its as safe as possible, sparing time to look at “tips” from the stewards only after all is settled).

  13. I think Whiting is right about not having the need for barriers when drivers cut corners. If you had an incident where the driver couldn’t control the direction of the vehicle, well, say no more.

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