Daniel Ricciardo, Renault, Red Bull Ring, 2020

Why Stewards ruled Stroll wasn’t wholly to blame for Ricciardo incident

2020 F1 season

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Lance Stroll avoided a penalty for his penultimate-lap incident with Daniel Ricciardo in the Styrian Grand Prix because the stewards ruled neither driver was wholly responsible for the incident.

Ricciardo yesterday criticised the stewards’ decision not to penalise Stroll who forced him off-track at turn two after lunging down the inside of the Renault driver. Stroll also left the circuit as he gained the position.

FIA race director Michael Masi confirmed the stewards looked at the incident at the time but judge neither driver was wholly responsible for the incident.

“The stewards’ view, from my understanding from the quick chat I had to them on the radio at the end of the race when they were investigating, was that neither driver was predominantly to blame for the incident,” said Masi.

“Obviously there’s that test case within the regulations which says either a driver needs to be wholly or predominantly to blame and in their view, neither driver was predominantly to blame. So therefore, it was the view that on that basis there is no breach of the regulations and no further action is required.”

Drivers have previously been penalised for forcing other cars off the circuit. Stroll was give a five-second time penalty during the 2018 Japanese Grand Prix for doing so to Fernando Alonso. Gaining a position by leaving the track has also attracted the same penalty, as Ricciardo discovered to his cost when he put all four wheels off the track while overtaking Kimi Raikkonen at Paul Ricard last year.

However calls for stewards to ‘let them race’ last year prompted changes to how some rules are interpreted. More recent cases have shown how similar calls have been considered differently.

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Last year Alexander Albon was given a five-second time penalty for overtaking Kevin Magnussen by going off at the Variante della Roggia chicane at Monza. Albon refused to hand the position back to Magnussen, stating the Haas driver had forced him off the track.

Alexander Albon, Kevin Magnussen, Monza, 2019
Albon’s Monza penalty hints at stewards’ interpretation
In coming down on Magnussen’s side the stewards noted at the time: “The race director advised the team that he would authorise the driver giving back the place however the team declined on the basis that it believed that car 23 [Albon] had been forced off the track. Nevertheless, the stewards believe that the actions of the driver of car 20 [Magnussen] were consistent with the current approach to driving standards (‘let them race’).”

The ‘let them race’ policy became a cause celebre last year after Sebastian Vettel lost a potential victory in the Canadian Grand Prix after he was penalised five seconds for rejoining the track unsafely in front of eventual winner Lewis Hamilton. Speaking in a recent interview for the official website, Masi said the handling of the incident divided drivers. “Even discussing it with the drivers’ meeting with all of them it wasn’t a clear consensus if it should or shouldn’t have been a penalty or what could’ve happened.”

Masi subsequently invited drivers and team principals to offer their views on a range of incidents in order to understand the widely-expressed desire for the stewards to ‘let them race’.

“One of the parts that probably a lot of people aren’t aware of is that to help me in my role, as well as helping the FIA and F1 in understanding what, there was this principle, these three words that were running around a lot called ‘let them race’,” said Masi, who had become F1 race director earlier that year.

“But as the new boy on the block, no one could actually tell me what ‘let them race’ actually meant. So I went through a process of getting a whole lot of incidents together last year and with zero warning, got the drivers after a drivers’ meeting and said ‘OK, play through the incidents, you tell me what you think the penalty should have been, or no penalty’. Anonymously – I didn’t ask them to put their names on it or anything. They literally filled out a spreadsheet. Same element with the team principles and same part with the sporting directors.”

The outcome was a “mixed view, probably just like the spectators and the viewing public”, said Masi. “But generally those that were seen as an infringement previously and a breach of the regulations, the vast majority agreed that it was a breach.”

Riccairdo said yesterday he intends to raise the handling of the incident at today’s drivers’ briefing. This apparent new interpretation is likely to come under considerable scrutiny, as it would seem to establish a precedent that drivers may gain places by leaving the track and forcing another driver off with them.

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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...
Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...

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  • 46 comments on “Why Stewards ruled Stroll wasn’t wholly to blame for Ricciardo incident”

    1. I agree with the ‘let them race’ (to some degree) policy, but that is a different matter than assigning blame. There is little that Ricciardo could have done more to avoid an accident. It was a rulebook divebomb, Stroll couldn’t even make the corner. Whether it is worthy of a penalty within the ‘let them race’ philosophy is a different matter.

      1. If Stroll made the corner then i would agree with the ‘let them race’ policy but here he overshoots the corner which means he would never made that corner anyway so penaulty was on his place here.

        1. @macleod The only way that Stroll would have made that corner was if he used Ricciardo’s car as a second set of brakes ;)

          1. @mobiusclean Lol i think Ricciardo tried to prevent that! :)

    2. What a nonsense!
      Hiding double standards behind “let them race” moniker.

    3. Makes no sense, where is Ricciardo’s blame on that incident? How is Stroll not entirely to blame? The only way Ricciardo could have been at blame is if they crashed, but they didn’t Ricciardo gave Stroll all the space in the world and Stroll would have collided with Ricciardo if Ricciardo didn’t go so wide to allow Stroll also off the track.

      Where is the analysis of Ricciardo’s blame? “Let them race” doesn’t cut it. It wasn’t racing, it was a driver breaking the very regulations that say a car must be kept within the confines of the track and forcing another car with him.

      Can anyone show me at all where any part of the blame is with Ricciardos handling of the incident?

      1. DannyRic’s is partially to blame – his father is not a billionaire.

      2. He was in the way? didn’t make enough room we really don’t know untill someone explain that to us.

      3. @skipgamer I agree, this is not about “blame”—in fact, Ricciardo has nothing to do with it, period. It was a clear case of Stroll leaving the track and gaining a competitive advantage.

        There seems to be a steady erosion in the definition of “off track” from race to race, with Masi and the stewards taking increasing discretion to ignore their own rulebook. The sporting regulations state:

        Drivers will be judged to have left the track if no part of the car remains in contact with it and, for the avoidance of doubt, any white lines defining the track edges are considered to be part of the track but the kerbs are not.

        Stroll clearly left the track and gained a competitive advantage—but then, drivers were also allowed to leave the track at turns 9 and 10 without triggering the detection loop (all four wheels on the kerb, and therefore, off track). The incident with Vettel at Monza at the Parabolica also comes to mind, when Masi’s poorly-worded note on the race weekend (“over the white line”) was judged to supersede the actual language in the rulebook (“contact with it”).

        If the Stroll decision stands, they may as well go Nascar/IndyCar style and let drivers more generally use runoff at corner exits as part of the track. People often object to this on safety grounds, arguing the runoff is designed to the length necessary for safety, but really, the full length is there for a brake failure on entry. The FIA is fine with with zero runoff and Tecpro barriers at corner exit, as happens all the time on street circuits.

    4. What a load of…

    5. I have an opinion
      17th July 2020, 7:52

      So… Ricciardo is partly to blame because he could have let Stroll hit him, and that would have stopped Stroll from leaving the track limits to complete the overtake? Stewards got this one plain wrong. Is the stewards’ decision and reasoning itself available, or just hearsay from Massi?

      1. “Ricciardo is partly to blame because he should have let Stroll hit him” fixed that for you. Entertainment company, not a racing company runs F1, remember that.

    6. ”as Ricciardo discovered to his cost when he put all four wheels off the track while overtaking Kimi Raikkonen at Spa last year.”
      – That was Paul Ricard actually, not Spa.

    7. Did I miss something reading this story… Or does it not actually explain why The stewards think Ricardo was partly to blame? You thought that had been an obvious question to ask

      1. No, you didn’t miss anything, that is the typical Masi style, talking about everything but the actual incident. Answering the question ? That would be a sooo dangerous thing to do.

        1. Masi didn’t make the decision though.
          I assume he probably doesn’t think it was right either, hence his ‘explanation’ – but it’s ultimately not his call.
          That’s the system that F1 uses, and even he is stuck with it, just as we are.

          1. I appreciate that if that is the only answer he can come up with, it very probably means that he is just covering up for the stewards. But however unusual in our times, there is always the option to tell the truth : that the stewards have made a mistake under pressure.

        2. The thing is, steards get criticized whatever they decide, it’s not an easy job

      2. @the-edge I know right. I was also rather perplexed as to how the title question is answered. I’m guessing it’s the part about the totally unrelated incident between Albon and Magnussen (where Albon did get a penalty!) which is supposedly the answer.

      3. @the-edge They should actually drop the “Why”, from the title of this article. They state that stewards did not think Stroll was wholly or predominantly to blame for the incident. They did not explain why, other than citing different incidents where penalties were applied and the subsequent “let them race” philosophy, but also did not explain how this philosophy applied in this case.

        1. They should actually drop the “Why”, from the title of this article.

          @keithedin @the-edge Seems to be an increasingly common occurence on this site to have a leading “Why” in the article title (particularly in Racing Lines features, I’ve noticed) to drive clicks. A journalistic technique that evidently works. It does give the impression that a definitive answer is going to be given, but doesn’t seem to be the case this time round.

          As for the stewarding, I have absolutely zero faith in them now. Been a joke since Masi took over. Masi would have been better off saying “I haven’t spoken thoroughly with the stewards about the incident, so I’ll only comment when I know all the facts”, whereas it just comes across as him playing a game of Chinese whispers. As for not giving a penalty because neither driver is fully to blame… that’s the first I’ve ever heard of this being a factor in the decision making process. It baffles me almost as much as when Masi said that Leclerc avoided a penalty in Monza last year because there was no contact (only thanks to Hamilton’s evasive action), and on that occassion it also sounded like Masi was just guessing the steward’s reasoning than going through a proper debrief with them before commenting.

    8. They ‘let them race’. Is there not a penalty anymore to give back the position? I don’t think it was a particularly egregious or dangerous move, nor does Ricciardo for that matter, but it effectively ran him off track and gained a position from that which should have been given back, problem solved.

    9. The main policy was great. The learning curve taken was admirable. The ruling was funny.

    10. It is official, Michael Masi has embraced the post-truth world.

    11. So both drivers were to blame? Does anyone care to explain to me how? This statement would make my blood boil if I was Danny!

    12. Look, I welcome the “let them race” policy. It’s been refreshing to see less penalties since Canada 2019. But this incident is absolutely a penalty for Stroll and the stewards absolutely messed up. Going off track to complete an overtake should ALWAYS be a penalty.

    13. It’s silly, if Ricciardo had kept to the track it would have been a worse incident than the one they have Hamilton a penalty for

      Instead Ricciardo yielded to a car that couldn’t even stay on the track making the move. I don’t see how that wasn’t Stroll gaining an advantage exceeding track limits and being predominately to blame for Ricciardo having to leave the track

    14. If the driver on the outside is ahead at the designated braking point of the corner, then both drivers have to leave enough space so that both of them can make the corner. Failure to do so by either driver warrants an investigation with appropriate penalties.
      Racing simplified.
      Here Stroll deserved a penalty, just like Lewis did in the previous race.

    15. Ah, Yardo and Stroll – both half-Brits ( same head of state). Let’s have ’em crashing into each other every other day.

    16. Apart from repeating a dozen times that the stewards ruled that no driver was wholly to blame for the incident, where is the explanation of WHY they said so?

      A totally different case of an overtaking driver cutting a chicane after being pushed off has nothing to do with this. In fact Albon actually DID get a penalty for going off. So if anything, it’s evidence why Stroll should also have been penalized. He attacked, got ahead by going off track, kept the place -> penalty.

    17. Forcing another driver off track, leaving the track and gaining an advantage, and unsafe return onto the track.

      Plus for analyzing a race incident, this article full of whataboutisms is quite poorly written, since it lacks tha actual analysis of the incident..

    18. What a complete load of.
      He should have been instructed to let him past before the next corner

    19. The only reasonable explanation is that the stewards are on Lawrence’s payroll as well..

    20. Let them race means dont be petty when giving out penalties but at the same time the stewards cant allow such blatant dives right off the track. If a driver makes a pass. Goes off track while in the process and gains a position that position should be given back. Otherwise wheres the track limits? On the stands? Luckily the fans are at home watching.

    21. I’m not sure I understand that explanation about shared blame and I fully understand that Daniel is not happy.

      But honestly, and it will probably not be popular here, I did enjoy that battle. That was spectacular (the move but even more the battle with 3 cars afterwards…

      So, I don’t know if this deserves a penalty, but I sure have more respect for Stroll for trying the move (and botching it a bit) than just staying behind. Also as it was in the last lap, maybe it deserved a bit more leniency.

      1. With that reasoning I suggest Bottas shoves Hamilton off the track for him to rejoin somewhere around 10th place. That would ensure a few nice battles and because of that Bottas should not get a penalty

        1. I knew this would not be popular ;-)

          Still you comment is a bit ridiculous, Daniel did not loose 10 places, there was no touch… Again the move was clumsy, and I wouldn’t have been shocked if he got a penalty. But the spirit was not so different as the VER-LEC move 1 year ago or multiple HAM-ROS battles.

          It’s funny because I don’t like Stroll, but I feel that it’s a very comfortable thing to just hammer him because of who he is. So i feel like playing the devil’s advocate on this one…

    22. I am surprised that Stroll just didn’t own it and move on. Can’t rewrite the video which clearly shows Stroll forcing Riccardio off the track with himself. If the FIA wants the fans and teams to take them seriously, stop releasing headlines, limits to be tightened, and actually do it. Creditability becomes an issue when your actions don’t match your PR.

    23. Now that is absolute nonsense.

      While I admire them for following a “let them race” policy, the fact that they didn’t pinpoint Stroll as predominantly to blame worries me. What did Ricciardo do there? he didn’t need to cover the corner because any normal guy attempting a clean overtake wouldn’t have lounged. Stroll did, but that was never going to stick, so Danny had to take avoiding action otherwise they’d have collided.

      I don’t understand it at all. It’s total BS.

    24. Will Masi ask RIC to apologize today at the driver’s meeting for his part in this incident?
      Absolute joke.

    25. Appalling decision on the day and it’s stupid to try and defend it. You can’t use the excuse of let them race after they clearly interfered by penalizing Hamilton the week before on what was far more marginal.
      Do they not have some “newly downloaded” footage they can use as “new” evidence to apply a 5 second post race penalty? Will not get back Ricciardo’s likely 5th place but at least demote Stroll to behind him as is fair.

    26. I have to add my total disgust at such total BS ! “Let them race” does not mean track limits no longer serve any purpose. How was Stroll not totally to blame for running Ricciardo of the track ? Have the FIA sanctioned cheating again because a team owner has the money to buy the result he wants?

    27. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      17th July 2020, 13:31

      The stewards shouldn’t have to justify any decision they make because ultimately they have no idea what they are talking about and it just makes them look even worse.

    28. The incompetence or plain corruption of the stewards and the race director is shocking.

      It’s almost every race now. They are putting the sport in disrepute.

      Something needs to be done. It’s not the 80’s anymore. We expect someone to be held accountable and for there to be consequences.

    29. He might as well have quoted Charles Dickens, because he didn’t say anything related to what the issue was.
      The Stewards room seems to be a place with constantly changing priorities or low retention memory.

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