Max Verstappen’s driving has been a cause for complaint for some drivers and quite a few fans this year.
Particular attention has been focused on Verstappen’s last-moment moves in braking zones. He used one such move at Suzuka the thwart an attack by Lewis Hamilton. Mercedes even raised a protest against Verstappen but Hamilton opposed the action and it was dropped.
Kimi Raikkonen had an even closer run-in with Verstappen in similar circumstances at the Hungaroring. On this occasion the pair made contact and a furious Raikkonen lost part of his front wing. After another run-in at Spa Raikkonen warned Verstappen could cause “a big accident”.
Has Verstappen taken defensive driving to a dangerous level? Should the FIA ban moves like this? Or is it just hard racing?
The most dangerous accidents in open-wheel racing tend to occur when drivers make wheel-to-wheel contact, launching cars into the air. Verstappen’s driving risks exactly this kind of collision by giving the attacking driver very little time to avoid a collision.
It isn’t just drivers Verstappen has had run-ins with who have warned about the moves he has made. Jenson Button said “moving in the braking zone is the most dangerous thing you can do”.
The FIA needs to consider more than just the potential dangers in Formula One, where the driving is of a very high standard, but also in the junior categories where moves are often imitated.
Verstappen’s moves are within the rules as they are currently interpreted but predictably that won’t stop drivers who’ve been bested by him in combat from trying to get the stewards to intervene.
The fact Verstappen’s moves have not caused a serious accident so far indicate they are not likely to. His rivals know what to expect when racing with him and may even be able to use this move against him by luring him off-line.
Banning moves like these may not be straightforward because of the difficulty of defining what counts as a braking zone, as the point at which a driver begins to brake varies depending on the condition of his car and tyres. And when fighting for position drivers can vary their braking points to gain an advantage on different parts of the track.
I understand why some have been alarmed by Verstappen moving in the braking zones, but I’m not convinced they need to be banned or that getting rid of them would have a positive effect on the quality of racing in Formula One.
The introduction of the Drag Reduction System five years ago has largely ruined the art of defensive driving. Drivers often find themselves powerless to resist rivals attacking them with huge straight-line speed advantages due to the benefit of DRS.
In the case of Red Bull, they have the added disadvantage of having less power than their front-running rivals Mercedes and Ferrari. Verstappen’s last-second defensive moves have helped him resist these attacks, though I suspect he will find they are increasingly less effective as others come to expect them. And as others have come to expect them, that also makes them less potentially dangerous.
Should the FIA ban drivers from moving in the braking zone to stop other drivers overtaking? Cast your vote below and have your say in the comments.
Should the FIA ban drivers from changing their line in the braking zones?
- No opinion (0%)
- Strongly disagree (32%)
- Slightly disgaree (12%)
- Neither agree nor disagree (6%)
- Slightly agree (20%)
- Strongly agree (30%)
Total Voters: 393
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