Formula 1 drivers have welcomed new race control guidelines designed to simplify how incidents are resolved.
New FIA Formula 1 race director Niels Wittich – who is sharing the role this season with Eduardo Freitas – presented drivers with revised guidelines to show what stewards will base the judgements of incidents on during investigations.
In a departure from past practice, the race directors will no longer advise teams to tell their drivers to return any positions they may have gained illegally by driving off-track. Instead, drivers will be expected to voluntarily give up any places or lap time they have gained through an unfair advantage. If they fail to do so they risk being investigated by the stewards and penalised.
Carlos Sainz Jnr welcomed the new direction. “I think it is the right approach because it’s more real racing,” he said Sainz. “There is no [time] penalty and it can happen more immediately.”
However he pointed out some drivers could seek to gain an advantage by waiting several laps to return a position while the stewards deliberate.
“It needs to happen immediately. You cannot lose three or four laps, then have to give up the position. That’s why the rulebook needs to be super-clear, needs to be applied in a moment that there’s any friction.”
Sainz’s Ferrari team mate, Charles Leclerc also welcomed the change. “I think in some cases it’s very clear what the drivers shall do,” he said.
But Leclerc is concerned that the new approach may not help in the event of an incident involving multiple cars going off circuit, such as at the start of last year’s Mexican Grand Prix.
“There are also quite a bit of a situation where it’s not clear. If you look, for example, my start last year in Mexico. I think it was a good example of things just being very messy. You’re gaining positions but you don’t really know what you need to do.
“So in those cases I hope we still will have the support of the race director, because this is important in the tricky situations, especially. I agree that sometimes it’s just a very easy situation to read and to understand and in those cases the drivers should just be clever enough to give back the position.”
Kevin Magnussen believes that despite the onus being placed on them, teams will likely still have to give their drivers directions over what they need to do in the event of an incident.
“I still think they will tell the drivers to give it back,” said the Haas driver. “It’s just I think they are expecting more from the drivers in terms of giving back the position if you’ve gained an advantage.
“There’s going to be cases where it’s like one driver will feel he got pushed off, the other one will feel he cut the track, and so there’ll be some discussion there.”
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