Drivers welcome new guidelines placing onus on them to reverse illegal overtakes

2022 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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Formula 1 drivers have welcomed new race control guidelines designed to simplify how incidents are resolved.

However some raised queries over how well the approach will work in practice.

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.”

Mexico start drama left Leclerc confused
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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2022 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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43 comments on “Drivers welcome new guidelines placing onus on them to reverse illegal overtakes”

  1. Self-policing doesn’t help when the stewards sometimes decide it’s OK to overtake off track and keep the position anyway.

    You’ll just end up with drivers in corner cases rather keeping their gains and hoping for leniency from the governing body.

    1. This is really very hard to work with self policing. When even given directive to do so, some drivers refuse to do it, saying its only 5 sec, i ll drive faster and ignore the penalty’s effect.

      Max for example has done this so many times! Vettel/Max in mexico for instance an extreme example. And last year Brasil, and Jeddah cases…

      there should be warning given officially, to acknowledge the issue first, within 2 laps for example, if the position not given back, exponential time penalty added for every lap (for example next 5 laps) then 5/10 drop in final positions or if not enough laps left at the end, drop 10 position or full dsq… This will make them think twice about questioning it or tap on the wrist issues…

  2. If they fail to do so they risk being investigated by the stewards and penalised.

    Unless the penalty is disqualification I don’t see a driver giving a position back instead of risking the penalty.

    1. I’d imagine they can impose a harsher penalty. Because I can see this being exploited at corners like the final chicane at Canada or the first corner at Sochi (even though no longer racing). Imagine if last year, Hamilton just attempted to cut turns 1-2 at the race here on his first attempt to overtake? With his pace in the race, I believe he would have just blitzed Verstappen and win by 20-30 seconds. Okay, if this happens this weekend, and the driver wins by 30 seconds. Will they impose a 30 second penalty or a disqualification?

      1. @krichelle Exactly, and Verstappen admitted to “playing the percentages” with the overtake on Hamilton in Bahrain last year … he initially wanted to keep going but the team realised he wouldn’t get 5 seconds ahead by the chequered flag, so they told him to give the place back.

        1. @red-andy No in the Bahrain case Ver wanted to stay ahead because he thought he could pull the 5 second gap before the end, but the team told him they had been given an instruction by the stewards to give the place back so had to comply. If you don’t comply with the stewards or race control you could be dq’ed.

    2. The Dolphins, I would agree that the penalty often isn’t strong enough to discourage that sort of behaviour.

      We’ve even had some drivers indicate in the past that, because they were usually only getting 5 second penalties for overtaking off track, they though it was sometimes better to pass off track and then just rely on building enough of a lead to neutralise the penalty. It’s going to put a reasonable amount of pressure on the stewards when they do have to deal with such a case, because we are likely to see a case soon enough of a driver deciding that they’d rather just take a gamble on what the stewards might say.

  3. Stewards are there to officiate… well, OFFICIATE. We know there are certain drivers who are never wrong and some teams who are never wrong. Some of those drivers driver for some of those teams. So why have the shenanigans? Just officiate, do your job, end of story.

  4. The stewards will still let drivers from big teams keep their position but penalise the others. Just like white lines in qualy.

  5. Drivers could always give back the position if they chose to. I don’t see what is new.

  6. This is not going to work, I’m afraid…

  7. How can we make fewer controversial decisions? I know, lets make fewer decisions!

    1. only to create more controversial outcomes…

  8. There seems to be some misunderstanding judging by some comments.
    The rule is that race control will not offer instructions or advice to hand back a position. Which also means teams cant ask race control if they need to. The driver and team must decide on their own, but risk a penalty if they don’t if its investigated.
    The point being they will still be investigated and penalised if they get it wrong.

    1. without official instructions and exponential and discouraging penalty offered (not like puny 5 sec if it is first quarter/half of the race) they will 100% ignore it, and try to take 5 sec if they are significantly faster

      1. @mysticus Exactly. For this to work the penalty must always be greater than the benefit gained by retaining a position illegally. Sometimes the benefit is only a couple of seconds and one position, but sometimes it could be multiple positions and 10+ seconds. So that means variable penalties for the same offense depending on the situation. I don’t see how this is better than just making a quick ruling and instructing drivers to arrange themselves in the correct order on track.

        1. Honestly i think penalty should be upto including a drive through. They only need to make an example of one driver.

        2. this will create more confusion and controversy instead of solving/preventing it. they should put down guide lines on what will happen exactly, after first warning, second warning etc… if people get variables for the same offence, there will be more much more controversies and chaos! like the wording “any lapped cars” explicitly meant all the lapped cars, but people butchered the word and created the most disturbing race fixing in f1 for a long time! this was worse than renault crashgate which was quite early in the race, unlike “any lapped cars” which was the last lap.

          what if following car drives the leader off in the last lap, and other car gets stuck or gets passed by multiple cars. he gets 5/10 sec or whatever but still end up ahead of the pushed car, and this gives huge advantage to dirty driver?

          i m sure many will come up with many better scenarios what can go wrong, and i m not sure how FIA cant see this issue

  9. Ah of course. I think we won’t have to wait long before the “I’m not giving up that position cause he pushed me off” radio messages start flying.

    1. or i ll drive faster and take the joke 5 sec penalty and ignore its effect and radio buzz

      1. But from what I understood (though I can’t find it in this article) is that drivers have exactly one lap after overtaking another competitor to hand back the place if they (or their team) deems the pass illegal.

        I’d say that if after that lap the stewards decide to investigate, by that time they can already tell if a driver is trying to pull a gap to make up for an incoming penalty. If so they can apply a heavier penalty to compensate for this behaviour.

    2. This. So much This.

  10. Good thing we now have VAR so the stewards can leave the decisions to the drivers anyway.

  11. Seems to me like they’re wanting to avoid inconsistent steward decisions by not getting them to make any.

    Drivers and teams have always known that they’re supposed to give a position unfairly gained back, but the fact is they won’t (or don’t) because they generally believe their move was justified.

    Let’s see how this works in practice, but unless penalties are significant, which is unlikely, I don’t see anything really being any different.

  12. The best solution is to encourage self policing. If the driver does not give back the place within 3 laps the other driver’s team can appeal to stewards. If they are successful the offending driver is penalised one position at the end of the race. If the stewards disagree but view it as a borderline decision no penalty. If they view it as a spurious appeal penalise the team 1 constructors point or the points they would stand to gain with a successful appeal.

  13. As long as the penalty for not giving the place back is harsher than a 5 second post-race time penalty. I could imagine a scenario where a driver on fresh softs towards the end of a race could make an easy pass off track and open a 5 second gap within 7 laps or something.

  14. There is at least one driver who will fail to complain, no matter how obvious the move was a cheat.

    1. *will fail to comply
      An EDIT button will be greatly appreciated.

  15. I’m sorry, but the only drivers welcoming this are the ones planning on doing the illegal overtaking since they will likely get away with more than they already are. IMO two steps backward and just as inane as “let them race”.

  16. They should get rid of the 5 sec penalty pronto. Alonso back in 2010 got a drive through for not giving the position back. The penalty should be as much of a deterant as it is a punishment. 10 secs minimum.

    1. Agree, the onus should have always been on the drivers / teams to take a conservative view – i.e. give the position back if there is ANY doubt. Only way to achieve this is a drive through penalty if you force the stewards to review and are deemed to have overtaken illegally.

  17. Self-regulation is an unreachable goal in any field where competition, money or power are involved. I mean it’s a lovely thought that these top-flight drivers competing for the WDC at the pinnacle of Motor Sport would act in a way as to not seek advantage through unfair means, but it’s a thought that’s all it is nothing more.
    We know who would be less likely to give back a position and have the full support of their team in doing that. We’ve seen it with the rules (sometimes) being enforced.

  18. This sounds pretty bad I must say. It should be a very quick and decisive action from race control anytime someone clearly overtakes off track. End of. Expecting most F1 drivers and especially someone like Max to just admit they did something wrong and rectify it quickly is really wishful thinking. What if they cut a corner and win the race on the last lap?

    Punishment must be sever for anyone infringing track limits to gain an advantage if this is the case. That’s the only way self policing may eventually work, once ALL the drivers understand what they risk.

    I’m still taken aback that the stewards didn’t see anything wrong about Max pushing Hamilton miles off track, even if it was last year. This new philosophy just sounds like a recipe for disaster.

  19. I didn’t have a problem with Masi’s efforts in this regard, not even the extended slow mo version we saw in SA. Of course it’s the primary cause of too much back and forth with race control and so is a direct pre-cursor to the farcical conclusion last year.
    This would also be simplified if it was fairly immediate one way communication from RD that he’s pushing it to the Stewards – no teams input required.
    However given that track limits simplification seems worthwhile, happy to see how this goes but not optimistic that it will be better.

    1. Also, this is Alonso’s hobby horse, what does he say?

  20. I think this will work. What I think it means is that the race director himself is not going to get involved in such incidents. He will let the teams do self policing. If teams don’t give up unfairly gained / unfairly defended positions, then stewards will get involved and issue penalty / issue instruction to relinquish position. The race director will not interfere in individual incidents.

    This works. That way, the stewards can focus on individual incidents and race control will focus on the live race.

    Masi got involved in all the incidents himself by putting himself in the middle. He decided which incidents go to stewards, which don’t require investigation and which can be fixed by fixing position. He tried to be a steward and a race director both and couldn’t handle the workload after that.
    This is a step back to the Charlie era where race director works on race director duties – yellow flags / safety cars / blue flags, etc. A good step.

  21. Interesting.

  22. Has there been any other direction regarding wheel to wheel racing? I thought the racing in Bahrain was much cleaner than last season – I don’t recall seeing any of the deliberate running the other driver off track whilst taking/retaining a position that was so common place last year. And the racing was much better for it.

  23. I would like to see a race where drivers themselves are the judges. I’m not sure how many sports are doing it but curling is one of them. It’s highly unlikely it would work but if they want to “spice things up” they could have put Max and Lewis in the same room after some of last years Gp’s.

  24. Unless the rules are clarified of what is allowed and what the penalty is gonna be I don’t see how this is gonna work.
    Most driver/teams will argue that they have been pushed off track and therefore don’t have to give the position back.
    Then the stewards will deliberate for ages and maybe or maybe not (Hamilton in Abu Dhabi) hand out a five second penalty which doesn’t help the one who’s been illegally overtaken because the other car is long gone.
    Bring back drive thrus for that.

  25. Why does F1 go so far out of it’s way to protect cheats. If you overtake off track then you either give the place back immediately or if the stewards investigate and find you guilty you get a drive through penalty. If you force another driver off track as Verstappen did several times last year to defend a place you either give up the place or risk a drive through penalty from the stewards. Why protect dirty driving tactics. Also if you do give the place back then you must fall back to 2 seconds behind the car in front briefly to ensure you don’t blast back past the car on the next straight. If being 2 seconds behind means another car overtakes you then tough, don’t cheat.

  26. Like many others have said, I can’t see that working. We had already countless cases of a driver asked to give the position back and opting for a 100% sure penalty instead, gaining an unfair advantage. If now the 100% penalty becomes an hypothetical penalty, what sucker would still give a position back ? Unless, of course, the penalty is bigger, at least a drive-through, which would be a completely different story, and which I think was already called for under the old rules.

  27. And advantage-based penalty is difficult to call in any sport. Basketball and soccer have these kinds of fouls. The problem is that at least there you can take a goal off the board, give a free throw, etc. In racing you can’t stop the game and restore some status quo ante. All the more reason you need immediate, decisive enforcement, even if the refs get it wrong some of the time. I don’t agree with “letting them race” and then having a 5s penalty applied Sunday night after the race.

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