Sergio Perez, Red Bull, Red Bull Ring, 2021

Verstappen case shows need for clarity on drivers forcing rivals wide – Sainz

2021 Qatar Grand Prix

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Carlos Sainz Jnr says Formula 1 must enforce its rules on drivers forcing rivals wide consistently as the stewards consider whether to investigate an incident between the championship contenders at the last race.

Mercedes has asked the stewards to review their decision not to investigate whether Max Verstappen broke the rules when he and Lewis Hamilton ran wide on lap 48 of the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.

Sainz pointed out similar incidents in previous races have resulted in penalties for the drivers considered responsible. He said the rules should be enforced consistently across different tracks and between different drivers.

“I think, independently of where you’re racing, you need clarification and we need some sort of knowledge and assumptions when we go racing, if not it’s going to be very difficult to keep any kind of consistency,” said the Ferrari driver. “We saw it in Austria this year how running someone off the track was a five second penalty and how in some other circuits it cannot be exactly the same.”

Lando Norris was given a five-second time penalty at the Red Bull Ring for forcing Sergio Perez off the track. The same was given to Perez on two occasions later in the race for similar incidents involving Charles Leclerc.

“We need to keep improving as a sport to make it clearer for us when we go racing because especially for two guys that are playing for such high stakes they need to know what they can do and what they cannot do,” Sainz added.

His team mate Charles Leclerc said such incidents would be less likely to happen if circuits had more gravel run-off areas instead of asphalt, as there is at the corner where Verstappen and Hamilton went wide.

“I just wish all of that talk was over by just putting some gravel on the outside of these corners and then it’s over,” he said. “Then, of course, it’s not always the best solutions for every track.

“When there’s no gravel, situations like last week happen. I’ll leave the decision to the stewards, I don’t want to get too much involved in it.”

The stewards began the hearing on whether the incident should be reviewed at 5pm local time at the Losail International Circuit, over two hours ago.

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2021 Qatar Grand Prix

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29 comments on “Verstappen case shows need for clarity on drivers forcing rivals wide – Sainz”

  1. If you put gravel then the driver who been pushed is on a race-ending situation. The driver who’s pushed the driver on the gravel can carry on driving. I do not see why gravel would help. Anyone can enlighten me?

    1. This is exactly what I wrote in my earlier comment on this article

      If there is gravel there, they won’t take the risk because they will end in the gravel. Verstappen would have been braking earlier and so would Hamilton. Of course there is still a risk of one pushing the other off, but it cannot be as ridiculous as this one where they are 10 meters outside the tracklimits.

      1. LH was on the outside at racing speed AHEAD of MV approaching the apex, intending to stay on the tarmac. No one can ever say if he would have made the corner for sure, but it is likely. Otherwise an off track overtake would mean giving back the position, so the idea that LH should have been braking earlier is not a fair take on the circumstances. The only reason MV just got to the apex before LH was that he was carrying too much speed to make the corner.

    2. Jay (@slightlycrusty)
      18th November 2021, 17:48

      I’m a fan of gravel. Verstappen wouldn’t have been able to run off track, therefore he’d have had to have gone in slower in order to make the corner. Given that Hamilton was about a car length ahead he’d probably have come out in front. Had Verstappen bashed Hamilton off track he would have been held entirely to blame and (in theory) got a really heavy sanction, which makes it less likely he’d have done so.

      I realise you can’t use gravel everywhere, but any corner with a big run-off ought to be gravelled.

    3. @slightlycrusty I agree.

      To me, racing is drivers competing on a track with physical boundaries or deterrents. Letting drivers go off the defined track with no physical consequence and meting out time or position penalties based on white lines is like playing golf on a course with no rough or bunkers but a white line where they should be, with a 25-yard distance penalty applied to every shot taken in the painted areas. It’s a poor facsimile of the real thing.

    4. Maybe did you noticed these kind of ‘accidents’ are on corners with asfalt runoffs.

  2. Trying to overtake around the outside has always been a risky thing to do because that will always put you at risk of been crowded off the track, That is the way it’s always been & why in the days before DRS & tarmac runoff outside overtakes used to be extra difficult & gained tons of praise when somebody managed to pull one off.

    The flat kerbs & no grass/gravel on the exit of many corners has created a situation where the driver on the outside is less likely to back out & more inclined to simply try & hold on & use the kerb/tarmac runoff & then argue about it later. And at the same time DRS has made things like this more likely because attacking cars now often pull alongside with so much more speed/momentum that drivers often seem less likely to want to back out of the move than they would have been in the past where the speed differential & momentum pulling them alongside would have been less.

    1. All true, but not really applicable here @stefmeister, because the only reason it wasn’t a collision is because here, the driver on the outside, Hamilton, did effectively back out of it. But Verstappen, the one on the inside, didn’t leave him any place on the track; that one would hope might change with gravel as if Verstappen would still behave the same, then the only thing gravel would have done here is end that fight with a DNF for HAM, hopefuly a penalty for VER (but unless it would be considered a decider that it’s like MSC/VIL and thus throw VER out of it, he still would effectively have won the WDC then and there – regardless, race would have been ruined, and season too).

      1. @bosyber +1 Exactly, well explained.

      2. @bosyber If there had been gravel and nothing else changed, Hamilton and Verstappen would both have been in it — more Prost/Senna than Schumacher/Villeneuve!

        While that would certainly have been controversial, that kind of drama, to me, is much preferable to the artificial, lifeless drama of penalties, track limits, and post-race reviews, which we are now in the midst of litigating. I like track limits with consequences that reveal the intent of drivers in wheel-to-wheel combat, for all the world to judge. White lines and endless tarmac gives drivers more space to posture and argue for the officials. Although unforgiving gravel traps may reveal that some drivers are capable of shameful behaviour on the track, the fact that racing can reveal that about one’s character is one of the things I love about it.

        As it stands, as @stefmeister says, driving competitors off the road — even onto gravel — is accepted practice (if you are far enough alongside), and drivers on the outside must take their chances. The point in this thread that I agree with is that it’s nicer to see drivers engage in extended wheel-to-wheel combat. But I think the better way to encourage that is to change driver standards and mandate that they give each other racing room on the track, not build more tarmac so they can run each other off it.

        1. If there had been gravel and nothing else changed, Hamilton and Verstappen would both have been in it

          No, Max isn’t stupid. He is an expert driver. He would have “braked too late” just enough to have forced Lewis off the track, i.e. Lewis would have been out of the race and Max would still be racing. Max might have gotten a paltry punishment, like a 5 Second time penalty (because they had to bring out the Safety Car while Lewis’s car was removed).

          1. @drycrust I said “and nothing else changed.” If we, in this alternative scenario, allow the drivers’ inputs to vary in response to the gravel, Hamilton may not have tried going round the outside in the first place. He knows better than most about 5 second penalties for running drivers off the road…

  3. ‘He said the rules should be enforced consistently across different tracks and between different drivers.’

    Yeah how about this? Emphasis on enforced consistently. This is all that we need.

    Driver should be allowed to make a defensive move and then leave a cars width if the other car is alongside.

    It is hard enough to overtake around the outside, running the other driver off the track should be made illegal.

    I am all for letting them race, but there are moves that ruin racing, and then there are moves that enhance it.

    Rules should be clear and enforcement consistent.

    It seem to me Verstappen went off track and gained lasting advantage, and did not leave enough room on the outside, for the car alongside him.

    Should be forced to yield the position or gain 5s penalty.

    Now if crash were to happen, then harsher penalty.

    1. Jay (@slightlycrusty)
      18th November 2021, 17:53

      @jureo I agree. If there are rules, enforce them consistently without regard for the drivers involved. If that is not possible (though I struggle to understand why) then the rules must be removed so that there is a level playing field. If drivers understood that forcing another driver off-track always resulted in a penalty, they wouldn’t do so – at least, not on purpose.

    2. Agreed. The rules are largely pretty obvious, just need to be enforced equally. The worst thing about this incident was that the stewards for some bizarre reason didn’t think this was even worth looking at closer. That’s concerning.

      1. @davidhunter13 Concerning indeed.

        Masi’s radio message to Ron Meadows on behalf of the stewards succinctly demonstrates the lack of competence the decision makers have:

        “Ron, having looked at it all completely, it was one of those – and obviously we’ve had a good look at it, that’s why we’ve gone with no investigation.”

        First of all, they hadn’t looked at it all completely. Masi himself said so after the race when it emerged Max’s onboard was unavailable.

        Second, “it was one of those”? What does that even mean? Without context or a reference point it’s a completely useless statement.

        Finally, “that’s why we’ve gone with no investigation”. “Why” would suggest that a reason has been given. As already mentioned, “it was one of those” is not a reason.

        From this it’s easy to see why the competency of Masi and the stewards are quite rightly being brought into question.

  4. Overtaking incidents (be it offensive or defensive) must follow strict rules similar to track limit enforcement during qualifying. If you are on the inside line to defend or overtake and if you exceed track limit, you give back the position. It doesn’t matter if you are an inch outside or 5 car lengths outside.

    Make runoff areas wider; but have a second boundary for the car on the outside. As long as the car on the outside doesn’t exceed the outer track limit, the pass is valid.

    Gap between inner and outer track limit is at least two car widths.

    If you don’t have rules to protect the car on the outside where it can legally pass the car on the inside, the car on the inside will always play dirty tricks.

  5. Or a slippery surface material besides curbing, nothing else is needed – no gravel, grass, astroturf, sausage curbs, small bumps, etc., just a flat material that’s both effective at killing acceleration speed & safe.

  6. Sainz and Leclerc are talking about two different things.
    Yes, put gravel, as Leclerc says.
    But then you must blackflag drivers who put other cars out the track. It`s becoming ridiculous to see drivers forcing others out of the track, to the point that in Interlagos Max didn´t even bother to take the turn to avoid being overtaken by Hamilton.

    1. It still doesn’t prevent someone like VER on the inside to beach someone like HAM on the outside if there’s a 21 point lead that could be preserved. Even with all of this, the penalty has to be significant.

  7. I think, independently of where you’re racing

    Sorry Carlos, you didn’t get the memo. Max was ‘hard racing’. Normal racing, which is what you do: rules apply. ‘Hard racing,’ only for the likes of Max: feel free to invent your own track limits.

  8. Leclerc said something similar. That like after Austria 2019 when the rules changed he adjusted his racing to the more unfair side of things since he feels he has to maximize and look for the limits of what’s allowed.

    Now the rules have apparently shifted even further into the dark side. Into the direction that divers can make sure they will never be overtaken on the outside by simply going straight and drive the overtaking car off. So he needs to know if he can block all attacks that happen in a corner like Verstappen does.

    Which he says means it will be pretty much impossible to overtake on the outside since they will just be driven off even when they are well ahead at the braking point. And the inside they can simply cover off.

    So the stewards have implemented “Let there be no racing at all unless it’s a drive-by on the straight”.

    Not sure how Leclerc and Sainz think gravel would make any of this better. It would just make it worse. At least Hamilton knows he can evade Verstappen’s dirty driving if there is a runoff. If there was gravel he would be put in the gravel by Verstappen ending his race. Hamilton is too smart to take those odds.

    1. @f1osaurus Great point. That’s what occurred to me too. By making sweeping another driver off track permissible, even when you go metres off track yourself, Masi and the stewards have made overtaking on the outside even more difficult. So more DRS then. You’d hope someone with some recognisable intelligence, like Ross Brawn, might have a word with them about that. What use is there redesigning the cars if you’re going to allow any kind of defence?

      Or is it just special rules for Verstappen? Sorry, ‘championship contenders’ (when they happen to be Verstappen). Maybe.

      1. @david-br It’s just bizarre right.

        Brawn already responded that he thought it was all fine I think. But then yeah he’s not going to present an opinion that goes against his own stewards. He’s not like Ecclestone or Mosley.

        If anything, “let them race” should mean they need to leave each other space. While it’s always going exactly in the opposite direction every time they feel the need to allow for whatever Verstappen has been doing.

        1. @f1osaurus Exactly, Formula 1’s rulebook was torn up when Verstappen shunted Leclerc off track for a win at Austria 2019. Since then ‘let them race’ has become the mantra for, very simply, FIA/Liberty to allow Max to drive however he wants. It’s basically a commercial issue, ‘fans’ want to see controversial, aggressive moves. My understanding was that you can shunt a driver on the outside off the track if you stay on it. Why Hamilton got a penalty at Silverstone is something of a question, therefore, given that the outcome of an incident isn’t supposed to count. But basically it seems to have been that the car on the outside has to turn in and pick up damage and/or be spun out for any penalty to actually arise.

          What FIA now seem to have decided is that the car on the inside can completely outbrake themselves and go off track too in order to defend a corner. Gasly did a similar move on Norris in France and was allowed to get away with it. However he was ‘only’ one or two car widths off track, arguably a ‘misjudgment’, not 5 car widths off as Max was, blatantly deliberate.

          Looking forward to see what they allow next.

    2. @f1osaurus, this is exactly the point I made two days ago commenting on the verstappen front view video release article :

      “The real problem is that now the stewards have ok’d this behavior for anyone “racing for a championship” (or at least those named Max). If you aren’t racing for a championship, it is illegal. If nothing is done about this, it will give any leader in the championship (or at least those named Max) the green light to prevent all attempts of a pass in a corner by any means necessary. There are no limits on the lead driver on what can be done to prevent it. From now on, only fully completed passes on a straight are allowed and protected by the FIA. Lets hope they don’t take that away.

      This isn’t good for racing. I don’t care who you root for.”

      1. @sidziner Agreed.

        And then for Hamilton it was considered illegal in Silverstone. He missed the apex by half a meter and suddenly was predominantly to blame even though the stewards acknowledged he was far enough alongside at the braking point to have claimed the racing line.

        And then all those Austria penalties make no sense anymore either.

  9. The Stewards should have demanded Max relinquish the position to Lewis. This will come back to bite them.

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