Confusion over racing rules “very dangerous” for championship conclusion

2021 Qatar Grand Prix

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The confusion over Formula 1’s racing rules created by the stewards’ handling of the Sao Paulo Grand Prix incident could spoil the conclusion to the championship, says Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.

Several drivers have said the stewards’ decision not to investigate or penalise Max Verstappen for his now notorious incident with Lewis Hamilton sets a new precedent and will lead them to change their approach to racing.

Mercedes tried to force the stewards to investigate the incident using the right of review procedure, by submitting video evidence which emerged after the race. This was rejected by the stewards on Friday.

The implications of the decision were discussed at length in a meeting between the drivers and FIA Formula 1 race director Michael Masi on Friday evening at Losail International Circuit. According to Hamilton, the subject was raised by many drivers, who were told different stewards may not necessarily give the same verdict on similar incidents in future.

The lack of clarity over what constitutes an acceptable racing move threatens to create a controversial conclusion to the championship, said Wolff.

“I think it’s very dangerous because I think what happened yesterday and also in Brazil is kicking the ball in the high grass and hoping the ball disappears,” he said.

“If we have a controversial situation in any of the three races that are to come, can you imagine the polarisation and controversy this that this will create, just simply because it’s not clear, it wasn’t clearly formulated.”

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Wolff was disappointed the deliberations over his team’s request for a review had not resulted in a clarification of the racing rules.

“I would have wished that, even if the outcome was negative for us in Brazil in terms of the immediate judgement, I would have taken that if the consequent analysis would have been, ‘that’s not on’. Because I think that would have been easier for everybody, for the next races.”

The handling of the case has prompted calls for Formula 1 to appoint permanent stewards who attend every round of the championship and rule on all incidents, to improve consistency. Wolff said he isn’t convinced that is a necessary change.

“I think we had good stewards, to be honest, in Brazil,” he said. “I very much rate Tim Mayer who was the head steward there.

“I think it was just the circumstances were bizarre. They are under so much pressure taking the right decision and I wouldn’t want to say about any stewards that they are good or bad because I wouldn’t want to be in that stewards’ seat because somebody is always going to complain and the other side is always going to be quiet.

“So I think being a steward is a professional job and it should be well-paid, the pressure should be rewarded. Whether it’s a permanent institution, I don’t know.

“But in any case, the best people should be doing that and I think we’ve seen many good stewards and I still trust in any outcome.”

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2021 Qatar 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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63 comments on “Confusion over racing rules “very dangerous” for championship conclusion”

  1. This is the lowest point of F1. No clear rules, no transparency.
    How can anyone still trust in F1? What’s the point of watching fixed competition?!

        1. I might as well be watching wrestling!

    1. If you want to kill Verstappen…you’ll never do it. You will fail and you will be verbally killed by me in return, p—k.

      1. And yet i get modded all the time.

        Social media is the worst invention in history

    2. Exactly! Rubbish hollow season, triggered by Lewis at Silverstone. Mercedes threw the gauntlet clearly not able to withstand just one car getting competitive after 8 dominant seasons. Bump your opponent off, destroy their car and still win. From that moment on I knew Mercedes will do anything. Tot admitted it to, to regard politics as an instrument. They got the FIA to change the pitstops and even the tyres (!) in season. I feel this team does not belong in F1.

      1. If Silverstone, Monza and Interlagos didn’t happen, I would call 2021 an epic title fight.
        Racing incident 100%.

  2. So, in short, we all now agree with Alonso’s claims on consistency.

    1. Alonso showed how corrupt is FIA. It was evident already then.

  3. “I think it was just the circumstances were bizarre. They are under so much pressure taking the right decision

    Bizarre? What was bizarre about it? If a championship on the line is “too much pressure” for the stewards, they can we’ll find another job…

    A permanent group of stewards is a must. Also because if a rule is in need of clarification, they can all agree on how to police it better instead of hoping all the other stewards all over the world understand the same ..

  4. I think it was just the circumstances were bizarre. They are under so much pressure taking the right decision and I wouldn’t want to say about any stewards that they are good or bad because I wouldn’t want to be in that stewards’ seat because somebody is always going to complain and the other side is always going to be quiet.

    From time to time, Wolff is a sensible team principal. This piece is quite a contrast considering the things he said during the racing weekend in Brazil.
    But anyway, this so-called media of “neutrals” have been incredibly partisan lately. They never did that for Red Bull, not a coincidence, for sure. But it’s not only the nationality that matters, as media feeds on polemical topics. The ones raising polemics most of the time this season were Mercedes, so… It’s a perfect wedding.

  5. I don’t think there is any confusion with the rulings. Max will not be penalized until he has secured the championship.
    He touched a competitor’s car, no penalty.
    He exceeded track limits and gained an advantage, no penalty.
    He did not leave room on the track for a competitor that was along side, no penalty.
    During qualifying, a car ahead lost the front wing, spreading debris across the track, puncturing a tyre, and stopped the car, Max’s competitors were shown a yellow, but was changed to green for Max even though the debris and stopped car were on the track.
    Max’s rear wing flutters sometimes but not other times, no investigation.

    1. +1

      Add to that giving points for Belgian GP as VER was on pole. FIA is determined to have a new driver’s champion this year.

      1. If Max wins this year, he will not be legitimate Champion of 2021 season in my eyes. Enough is enough even for cheating FIA and Max.

        1. Ah, ofc, but the 45 points (still) overall lost through bad luck in comparison to hamilton would, in case hamilton won, make him a deserved champion…

          In short I think verstappen, even with questionable penalties, is waaaaaay more deserving than hamilton this year, there’s been huge luck difference.

          1. Having good or bad luck is a part of motorsports; “that’s racing”. Ignoring track limits and trying to cause accidents to limit damage from being overtook i̶s̶n̶’̶t̶ shouldn’t be.

            F1 has gone back to Senna Prost days there is no doubt, Masi is making Balestre look competent. At least Balestre took a firm line regardless of how wrong it was. Masi is like a wet noodle.

          2. Jay (@slightlycrusty)
            21st November 2021, 8:20

            @skipgamer Wet noodle is the perfect description of Masi. A good man, but no backbone. He’s not right for the job.

        2. He’s a traitor, so that makes sense!
          And when he says he’s fighting for the championship, then he’s right – just not the championship.

    2. Lewis sent Max to hospital, totally destroying his car yet is allowed to win that same race. Mercedes can actually turn the compound of the tyres to their advantage in season! Furthermore they actually got the FIA to change RBs strength by altering the pitstop process. Oh and oeps Hungary we did it again. This season is corrupt and the title hollow and it makes you wonder to what extent Lewis’ titles of the past have been heavily politically supported too. Mercedes is not worthy of participating in this sport. In fact the FIA would do well to reject factory teams as the same trades could be seen at Ferrari in the past. You cant mix this level of commercial interest with sport apparently since it attracts wolffs

  6. …the subject was raised by many drivers, who were told different stewards may not necessarily give the same verdict on similar incidents in future.

    Paraphasing: Don’t think you other drivers can get away with what we let Max get away with.

  7. F1, the FIA, and Liberty have gotten themselves in quite a jam. Liberty and F1 have clearly stated they are attempting to attract new audiences. Those audiences will likely contain more casual viewers who do not have encyclopedic knowledge of the rule book and rely on the stewards for clarity in what is and what isn’t a penalty.

    The last time I saw a professional sports body admit their officials were inconsistent and highly subjective was in figure skating. After a bunch of casual fans were turned off by the highly inconsistent judging and controversies, they were forced to overhaul the judging system.

    If the FIA continue down this path of stewards being so inconsistent and totally subjective in their rulings, they will only drive casual fans away who will be unable to understand why some drivers are penalized and some aren’t.

    1. I would not surprised to see future decisions made by “Paul the Octopus”. That creature is as consistent as F1 stewards.

      1. Sorry, I meant, famous Paul the Octopus was more consistent than F1 stewards.

        1. I think Paul passed away… Perhaps Roscoe will be the the new judge in F1. I wonder if will be impartial.

  8. Liberty are turning F1 into the wild west for the sake of ratings. The regulations are now little more than suggestions, that can’t be allowed to interfere with the show.

  9. Wolf is a sore loser.

    1. That’s a stupid argument. In fact you have not not posed a point at all.

    2. Almost all the drivers say they need clarity and you are focussed on Wolff

    3. Correct, and worse his followers over here believe every lie he puts out there.
      This forum is getting very toxic.

      1. … Said toxic forum member #2 as he agreed with toxic forum member #1.

        1. … Okay, to be fair, none of you are in the top 5. Top 20? Definitely.

    4. Sure, Wolff is a sore looser. So’s Horner, that is very clear. But when you’re leading a business that has been teens of billions on success then you’re going to be.

      But that’s for nothing to do with the point of the article. The rules need to be applied consistently whether sporting, technical or financial.

  10. It feels that in all things drama is the way to get the eyeballs and, so, F1 has joined in.

    Drive to Survive, while entertaining, and having brought new “fans” to F1 has absolutely changed the tone of reporting on F1 in the last few years — culminating this year to be the worst I’ve seen.

    I see more and more articles about Wolff vs. Horner than I do about how the Mercedes is looking like it’s running a pretty high rake for a Mercedes and is that how they’ve managed to claw back performance? Or any other actual article about what actually matters in F1.

    I hate all this drama crap. I’m sure Liberty are loving it and how it appeals to the low hanging fruit that have suddenly become interested in this series because of it.

    In my many, many years of following F1, this is easily the first year where I don’t check F1 news daily, because I’m sick to death of the drama.

    Wolff absolutely has a point here — he says as much when he stated that even if the outcome of reviewing the footage was the same as before this footage came to light. The fact that we have, what appears to be, an FIA that is now ruling based on what will keep the drama alive is turning this “sport” into a reality TV show.


  11. New Nightmare Announcement:

    NETFLIX has announced that the F1 Stewards have been replaced by a celebrity panel featuring Simon, Piers, Paula, and Wonder Dog. So called “Rules” will be discarded in favour of “entertainment value”.

    1. A person somewhere
      21st November 2021, 8:16

      Would probably yield more consistent decisions than the current system…

  12. A risky message indeed.

  13. Worst championship conclusion in history.
    And probably most kills in history.

  14. Jay (@slightlycrusty)
    21st November 2021, 8:17

    Wolff is right about the stewards, they should be well-paid professionals, not amateurs. In football the referees gain qualifications at each level of the sport which allows them to move up to the big games. F1 ought to follow that route, there’s no need to have the same people every race, but the stewards ought to have professional pride in their job. Brazil was an embarrassment for Formula One. The FIA ought to be ashamed. Jean Todt has done so much to clean up the sport, I hope he looks into this.

  15. Last weekend was the clearest example of championship meddling by the FIA that I can remember, and I watched during the Prost/Senna, Schumacher at Benetton and Ferrari years.
    I’ve never seen anything so blatant being ignored, and selective rulings being made.

    I fully expect it to continue.

    I would bet that at some point RBR will protest and it will be upheld – but only if it looks like Lewis might overturn Max’s lead.

    I will also bet on Max doing something stupid and getting away with it. Again. And again.

    A ludicrous position for the sport to be in, that is the start of a truly slippery slope if the competitors and fans let it continue.

    1. Would you have said the same if it was Lewis Hamilton instead of Max ?
      If position were reversed ?
      Just questionning.

      I notice on this type of comments, that it’s mostly “i’m bothered that Lewis is not having things”.
      So it’s Rules are against Lewis

      but when it’s the opposites in facts, “Rules are normal”.

      Rules are the same for everyone .
      Not matter wich side we are.

      For exemple.
      I’m for Max, but i found the wagging on straight in Interlagos was not correct.

      I’m for Max, but the way he did in Imola was limit limit, not totally correct.
      But Max get penalised in Monza, when Lewis did the same than Max.

      The difference is the two have been avoided each other in Imola.
      What would have happened if Lewis hit Max in Imola ?
      Would have been Penalized?

      Most of poeple critize Max in Interlagos, but forget that Lewis has done this kind of move, when he was even older than Max.
      Maldadonado in Valencia

      And the attack on Felipe Massa in Monaco 2011 was kind of “hey, Felipe, get out, it’s my corner”, pushing him all the was of the corner, and making him having a puncture.

      So, if you want to talk about rules consistency, it requires some consistency itself.
      Not being for Max or Lewis.
      But being based on facts, and being neutral.

      If Max does something stupid, it’s his responsability.
      If Lewis does something stupid, it’s his responsability.

      No matter for who you are, acts are acts, and no one can get out of his own responsability.

      That’s the difference between being passionated and fanatic about something.
      When we are passionated, we try to stay neutal.
      When we are fanatic, it’s like one is super-hero, and the other is the bad guys, and everyone is against the super hero.

      We’re not in Netflix or Marvel.

      They are humans with they skills and their weakness.
      Not super-heros.

      1. I’m a fan of the sport, the technical brilliance and the spectacle. Not of any particular driver. And that’s why I’m boycotting it until such time as it becomes clear to me from reading about it that things have changed.

      2. Lewis has never run an opponent metres off the track deliberately as Max did in Brazil, that’s a lie. He has indeed run drivers on the outside off the corner but that was when the rules didn’t forbid it but he never did it to the extent he didn’t attempt to make the corner. If Hamilton ran Vestappen off track like what happened in Brazil then absolutely I’d expect him to be penalised. Nobody should mind Hamilton running a driver to the edge of the track after Leclerc’s move in Monza 2019 showed its perfectly fine.

  16. Everyone: “Verstappen should be penalised”
    Hamilton: “Don’t worry, I’m solving this.”
    Mercedes 5-0 Red Bull, all goals scored by Hamilton. Period!

    1. Reading this and several other topics, Lewis fans are convinced he can only win by penalty

  17. A lot of money and prestige is at stake. So it’s frequent to see teams trying to benefit from clever tactics in the backstage using the rules as a way to achieve their goals, rather then accept the results in the competition field.

  18. There seems to be consistency. Hamilton never gets penalised for pushing people off the road. And neither did Verstappen. What’s there to whinge about

    1. Aaaaaaah thank you !!!
      Finally a balanced comment, not fanatic about Max or Lewis, but balanced !!
      Happy to see people with some neutral opinion :)
      Thanks :)
      My opinion too.

      1. Fanatic?

        An F1 Fanatic on Racefans; Lol

    2. When you can’t find anything wrong with a person’s complaint, in order to reject the document, you start looking for stuff like gramatical errors, wrong use of punctuations, undoted (i)s and uncrossed (t)s.
      If you can not tell the difference between maintaining your line and staying within the confines of the race track without losing control of your car and deliberately driving off track by a country mile you are better off watching football.

      1. I love your comment :) and makes me think about an image :
        “arghhh arghhhh, i’ve been hit by a wrong use of punctuation, arrrgh ” <– Neymar rolling over on the floor

  19. What amuses me is that Toto were insinuating that Honda’s motor was illegal earlier this season, because he founds that Honda had too much speed in straight lines and that it was suspicious.
    He was saying “i don’t understand why Horner prostest as much as suscpicions”.

    Now that is it reversed, the same Wolf says “I don’t understand why Horner protests at our rear wings or our engine”

    Wich side it is, they just play dumbs.
    It kind of annoys me.

    It’s not only a matter of cohenrences of rules, but also a matter of coherence by yourself, Mister Wolf, and mister Horner.

    Stop playing frightened virgin.
    Marketing has limits, and fans .. hum… well, i would say, passionated people who havn’t extreme opinions, are not that blind ….

    “Look, he’s done something bad !!
    what ?
    Me too ?
    I don’t see what you’re talking about.
    I’m innoncent as hell !
    not me, promise !”

    Both Verstappen and Hamilton pushed this other one off track this season.
    Both Mercedes and RBR have been in position to be suspected and have been supecting the other one.

    I feel like in kindergarten or stubborn guys dialogs.

  20. The problem is the ‘no investigation’. I also think they need to stop broadcasting radio between Masi and the team principals. Let’s see if Max gets penalised today.

    1. Well, Lewis didn’t get any investigation for pushing Perez on pit entry at turkey …
      And i’m sorry but there wasn’t any undesteer.
      Perez proved he could stay in line.
      Lewis does the same than Max.

      What is the difference between one driver pushing another driver off track, no matter how he is ?
      If Max should get penalised, why Lewis shouldn’t?

      I don’t understand the logic of this

      1. Because Lewis stayed on track and Perez got the position so ultimately there was no advantage gained. It reminds me of Verstappen and Leclerc at Austria, for which I supported Max’s driving at the time.

        The running people wide thing does need clarification I agree, but what Max did was one step further because he himself made no attempt to stay on track. Sorry, I can’t put it any clearer than that, but I agree Hamilton in Turkey should be cleared up too.

        Shame I can’t do the at sign so you know I’ve replied, lots more anonymous accounts lately it seems.

        1. How so anynimous ?
          I do comment here since 2 years.
          I’ve a nickname and a mail.

  21. LibFlix has reduced F1 to a soap opera drama. Meanwhile worldwide viewing figures crash.
    Shame on them for demeaning, devaluing, debasing one of the greatest of sporting spectacles.

  22. Let’s be honest deep inside everybody wants to see Hamilton and Verstappen fight, run wide, touch, collide, tension, sparks!

    This is fantastic! (c) Murray Walker Japan 1989
    This is amazing! (с) Murray Walker Japan 1990

    The only thing that matters is which side are you on.

    1. I side with Racing Incident. It’s shameful people can’t say it.
      Silverstone and Monza clearly are. 100%.

  23. Enough half measures, just nu ke Brack Ley

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