What on earth are we doing to ourselves? Sport is an entertainment product. Despite this, the last 20 years have seen the FIA desperately trying to sterilise Formula 1 in the name of safety and ‘fair’ competition. The last couple of seasons have seen the beginnings of the realisation that this is, indeed, a sport. The influence of Liberty, Americans who understand the value of excitement has also helped, however the penalty for Verstappen proves we still have a long way to go.
I’m getting royally frustrated with this notion of track limits. The white lines define the boundaries of the circuit, however if you’re going to put grip outside them, then it should still be free to use. A driver should be able to maximise the environment given. If you don’t want them to go somewhere then put a deterrent there like grass or astro turf. If it’s more difficult and they still manage to make a move work, fair play to them.
Verstappen’s move on Raikkonen was hard but fair. They didn’t touch, Raikkonen’s line gave Max no choice but to go to the inside, intentional or not. Verstappen had the momentum, the skill the space and the grip. Lets also not forget he had to bounce over the kerb, you can hear it in the onboard footage. Yet he still managed to avoid contact. Masterful.
He also had the cojones to make the move. Something only one or two other drivers on the current F1 grid have. Not saying they never had them in their earlier career but they’ve been neutered by an overly overbearing governing body who penalises going for it. As a famous F1 driver named Senna once said “If you no longer go for the gap, then you’re no longer a real racing driver.”Embed from Getty Images
This is a sport that has already acknowledged its own problem. The overtaking working group was established to figure out how to make overtaking easier – it was an abject failure but that’s a discussion for another day. The the FIA follows up by shooting itself in the foot when a driver uses the resources available to him to make a pass. This is pedantism at its finest. Max Verstappen was not the only driver to attack or defend while outside track limits today. The FIA seems to have chosen to apply the rule when it suits them, rather than evenly.
Space, grip, skill and cojones. For great sport, that is all that should define a legal overtake.Embed from Getty Images
The Precedent is Wrong
Vettel’s overtake on the outside of Button at Hockenheim in 2012 was the beginning of this rubbish. On a track that is notoriously difficult to pass at, he was pushed wide by Button but kept his foot in it and finished the overtake on the tarmac runoff area. It was hardly a shortcut, and the ground on the outside of the corner was dusty and filthy, limiting traction. He got the move done, the interesting part of a mostly processional race yet he was still penalised.
Martin Brundle in commentary explained that we need these rules “Otherwise you’d have drivers going all over the place.” That’s precisely what we want! Less follow-the-leader and more aggressive, hard racing.
So to the letter of the law, the penalty is correct. All four wheels went over the white line and he gained an advantage in doing so. Black and white.
That doesn’t make it right though.
Niki Lauda, speaking to Autosport, put it the best; “This decision is the worst I’ve ever seen, he did nothing wrong. We’re racing drivers, we’re not on a normal road, it’s ridiculous to destroy the sport with this kind of decision.”Embed from Getty Images