Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Spa-Francorchamps, 2016

Relax the rules and let drivers deal with it – Vettel

2016 Italian Grand Prix

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Sebastian Vettel has called on Formula One to free up the restrictions on drivers racing each other to address the problem of ‘consistency’ in enforcing the rules.

Drivers including his team mate have complained about the lack of consistency in penalties. However Vettel pointed out the stewards have an unenviable task.

“I think it’s a tricky one,” he said during today’s FIA press conference. “We had a permanent steward in the past and we shied away from it because we felt it wasn’t good. I think it’s actually something that I wouldn’t like to do, I wouldn’t like to be a steward.”

“We ended up developing too many regulations and therefore because we’re taking every scenario as a different one, ended up with every scenario being treated different. I actually think it’s impossible to be 100% consistent in that regard.”

Vettel said the problem with F1’s racing rules is “we try to regulate too much – it would be much better if it was in our hands and leave us to deal with it”.

“Obviously there’s limits, you can’t just take somebody off the track. But there has been some issues that deserve to talk about recently or in the past, whatever. I think it would be much better if you leave us to deal with it and I think it would also enhance the amount of respect among drivers just to talk about it.”

Carlos Sainz Jnr is among those who believes F1’s rules could be enforced more consistently.

“Since I’ve been in Formula One the inconsistency in the penalties has been not good enough,” he said.

“Sometimes you run people wide on the track, you get a ten- or five-second penalty like I did in Russia. Then you do it again in Spain like I did, but I don’t get nothing. I would say it’s just not consistent enough.”

2016 Italian Grand Prix

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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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27 comments on “Relax the rules and let drivers deal with it – Vettel”

  1. I can agree with this. The consequences for what is perceived as being wrong would not necessarily come through (seemingly) arbitrary imposition. You have incidents being surmised with various degree of consensus by drivers, teams and fans. Verstappen can shield himself behind the fact that he wasn’t penalised, but the fallout after Spa is one intangible aspect that would be likely to help him adjust his behaviour. He can also choose to not adjust it, if he has the mental strength to deal with the alienation (which I think is a stronger deterrent than penalties, as drivers seem to not respect them so much due to the inconsistency).

  2. Well, the stewards check if all rules as described in the International Sporting Code are abided or not.
    If they decide a rule has been broken they issue a penalty, and they also point out which rule is broken.

    As for track limits, ideally the track layout is such that no benefit can be had from running wide.
    Monitoring is only needed where that is not the case, like when the runout area is paved for safety reasons.
    The drivers are informed before the event in which corners the track limits will be monitored, what constitutes a breach of the limits and how those will be dealt with.

    In that light the stewards job seems straightforward – I won’t say easy – as their decisions should be in accordance with said rules, and could be challenged if not.

    I would like to see some official scrutiny on drivers statements, like the notion that it is forbidden to move in the braking zone.
    There is no rule that says so.
    The rules mentioned a limitation on defending moves *before* the braking zone, but as there is no braking zone for some corners the current rules have dropped the term braking zone altogether and now use ‘the approach of the corner’.

    1. Your very first line is the problem – the rules in the sporting code, a code that is so vague in places that it is open to interpretation, different stewards in every race = different interpretations each time that rule is enforced.

      There are 3 obvious solutions to this:

      consistent stewards which should therefore mean consistent interpretation.
      remove the interpretation from the rules (A near impossible thing to achieve)
      Relax the rules

      Options 1 and 3 are the only viable ones and in my opinion option 3 is the best one – controversial moves and hard racing are all part of the sport, if you regulate that out you are left with a sport dictated by boring overtakes brought on by DRS and what the hell are people going to post on F1 fanatic about then apart from complains about DRS?!

      1. We need to expose the vagueness, then.
        By the way, the code itself may appear vague to outsiders, but it has been built up over many decades, and all of its changes have had their reasons.
        The stewards do not only know the code, they know the reason for every rule in it. That reason puts them in context, one we usually don’t know entirely.

        As it is, if we want to change the rules we talk about changing the Sporting Code again.
        We better be very precise about the reasons for the changes. :)

      2. By the way, it would be hard to expose inconsistency on track limit rulings as every corner at every track is different, conditions are different and obviously going beyond the limit gan gain an advantage in some corners, but not others.

  3. Eh, not sure what Vettel really is saying here. Does he mean to say that he thinks the FIA should drop things like rules on how to pass, and not, and rules on what is blocking, weaving on straights, ignoring track limits etc to make it more consistenly without any rules?

    Actually quite nice, because to me that signals that inside he is still like Max Verstappen and want’s to use any allowed (or not policed) way to win. But I doubt it is a good way forward.

    1. Depends on how you see it. I read it as ‘The experienced guys know how the crucible works and have a fine control of it. We can shape up the hotheads if you let us turn up the heat. Right now we are not doing so as the stewards are using the rules to slam us and letting the hotheads get away , probably cos it makes better TV. If you let us, we can make it a better sport.’

      There has been a lot of Schumacher comparison over this incident. I don’t think its a fair comparison as driving on the edge has two components: push hard and stay in control. Schumacher had both, Max only has the first one.

      1. I didn’t bring Schumacher into it. And that was on purpose.
        But now that you mention him, let me say that so far Verstappen has shown he has both of those already.
        In Spa he seems to have himself fet carried away though from frustration over blowing his front row start in front of thousands of Dutch and Belgian fans

        1. @bascb I would generally recognise heat of the moment and excitement as valid reasons, especially with younger drivers. But not in this case. There was a red flag where people were trying to cool down Max and he simply refused to listen. Went on doing exactly as he pleased, relied on other drivers to take evasive actions while contributing nothing to the effort of safe driving (safe here does not mean no risk but reasonable risk). Spooking someone on the Kemmel straight is criminally dumb.

          Then comes the tough man schtick where he slags RAI and VET. No graciousness like HUL showed ALO, no expression of concern for MAG, no solidarity with his peers. Nothing but contempt for those who don’t bow down to the greatness of VES.

          @velocityboy @macleod If ALO get get him to listen that would be good. Does not seem likely at the moment. Max does not seem to understand that demanding respect earns you the exact opposite, one has to earn it. Hoping that things change before staggering trouble finds Max.

      2. I agree with your interpretation of Vettel’s comments and to use Schumacher as an example, early in his career he wronged Senna, Senna gave him a stern talking to and Schumacher changed his ways. I believe the difference is that Schumacher respected Senna and the more experienced drivers while Max does not.
        So I don’t think Vettel’s suggestion would work until Max learns to respect those with more experience. Perhaps a good ass whupping from another driver would do the trick.

        1. Lewisham Milton
          2nd September 2016, 0:50

          Senna invented running people off the road…

        2. I agree with Lewisham Milton but Max only would accept a talk from Alonso as he is his favorit driver after his father.

  4. if you get rid of the rule you’ll obviously get rid of the grey areas. I would do away with this rule. I would say the right place for the rule is on the aftermath of an incident, which would serve as a preventive measure.

  5. Disagree. Rules should protect the sporting element of sport and prevent F1 becoming dirty.

    Just like cheating at starts (false starts) are virtually totally eliminated, similar can be done for dirty driving. Just need consistency. Fixed stewards etc. Well defined rules. Shouldn’t be that hard.

  6. I don’t really understand Vettel’s comment. Maybe he has too much faith in people? I really doubt just talking to someone is going to have any great bearing on preventing them from repeating disingenuous actions for the most part. It’s also just as likely to breed contempt than respect.

    Rules and penalties are there for a reason, it’s pretty simple really, although of course there’s an argument that the sport may be over officiated. There’s been a lot of experimentation with “track limits” rules and the radio debacle but apart from that, the actual race-craft rulings have been more than fair if not lax.

  7. “We had a permanent steward in the past and we shied away from it because we felt it wasn’t good.”

    Max got rid of Tony Scott-Andrews because he wasn’t biased enough. Max had to replace him with Allan Donnelly, brazenly his representative.
    Teams should elect the stewards each year, instead of it being a grace-and-favour appointment for some unqualified but self-important ally of the FIA president.

    1. Exactly, that Donnelly guy was just the worst. He single handedly made up the Spa 2008 and Fuji 2008 penalties for Hamilton.

      They should have at least 3 fixed stewards though. Not just a single guy and indeed all teams should agree. Although the FIA does seem a lot more impartial after they finally got rid of Ferrari’s deputy Mosley. Which is odd considering that Todt was actually a Ferrari team boss.

  8. I saw that Heineken put up a small football pitch on the Monza main straight today. It’s easy to take it just one step up and reach what Seb is suggesting, pull up a boxing ring in front of the grandstands just as soon as the race finishes so the drivers can sort out their problems with their competitors.

    1. Or you know, get better stewarding, just as an alternative idea…

      By the way I like Sainz’s quote “the inconsistency in the penalties has been not good enough” – yeah, we should reach higher. :)

  9. Definitely … Let’s start by getting rid of blue flags.

    1. No need to get rid of blue flags, just put them back to their proper meaning. “There is a faster car behind you.” Just that – do with that information what you will.

  10. The problem is not fixable though. For example,
    “Obviously there’s limits, you can’t just take somebody off the track”

    … So, ever? Always leave space? What about on the exit? What if they only have a front wing alongside?

    … And we’re already back into the mess.

    1. Why would it be inevitable to be “back in the mess”? The rules are already clear on both of the issues that you mention. You are not allowed to force another driver off the track, and front wing next to rear tire is considered a significant overlap.

      It’s these unwritten rules like: “the leading driver has always been allowed to claim the racing line and squeeze out the driver on the outside of corner exit” that are the problem. Why is that acceptable? If the guy behind gets an overlap on you, then you’ve messed up, and he’s entitled to the bit of tarmac that he’s fought for and won. Everyone complains about there not being enough wheel to wheel racing. Well how about we apply the rules as written and protect the drivers’ rights to fight side-by-side without being pushed off.

      1. The problem is that someone coming from behind can just stick his nose in and push the lead driver off-line. That’s a massive hindrance and potentially can make the lead driver fly off.

        The lead driver has the right to the racing line. It really isn’t that hard. Most times there just isn’t space for two cars. For instance in chicanes or high speed bends.

        Even on the straight the stewards didn’t feel like enforcing the rules. They even let Rosberg go after causing the Spain crash because Hamilton wasn’t alongside “long enough”. The rules clearly say that you need to leave space if a driver has a front wing alongside, he didn’t and still they don’t penalize him. It’s going to be an utter mess of “I didn’t see him” excuses.

        1. Considering the fact that the rule already exists for every other spot on the track, and is just not enforced on corner exit, it would be really strange for the drivers to suddenly decide to make each other “fly off”. Besides, front wing to rear wheel incidents usually don’t end well for the following driver, so it’s a bit ridiculous to suggest that this would become an overtaxing strategy.

          As for “I didn’t see him excuses”… so what? The rule is clear, don’t force the driver off if he has an overlap. Do it, whether by accident or intentionally, and you’ll get a penalty. It’s really not that hard. The drivers need to keep awareness of what’s going on around them, and adjust their driving accordingly when they’re not 100% sure.

          Because currently we get ridiculous situations like in Monaco where Hamilto squeezes Ricciardo up against the wall after blantantly cutting the chicane after the tunnel (go to 1:05):
          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SUJDOrN6WtQ

  11. Exactly the point @Dwight_js. This needs to be cleared up and strictly enforced to improve racing. Bizarre that it’s not happened after all this time.

    1. Normally the drivers adhere to more sportsmanlike behavior. A few feel they don’t need to and they get told they should.

      Schumacher did it once to Hakkinen and he got a lot of flak for it too. He didn’t do it (much) again. Apart from when he tried to put Barichello in the wall and did get a penalty.

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