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Wolff: Backmarkers need "global perspective"

NEWS STORY
18/09/2018

In a move that will surely cause unease among purists, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has said that during races backmarkers should have a better understanding of what's happening around them, in order that as they battle for position they do not interfere with the leaders.

In the wake of Sunday's race, Lewis Hamilton admitted that his hairs stood up when he was lapping Romain Grosjean, who was battling for position with Sergey Sirotkin.

Having ignored a number of blue flags as he battled the Russian, Grosjean caused Lewis Hamilton, who was looking to lap him, to lose almost four seconds to Max Verstappen, the Dutchman almost stealing the lead in the process.

While Wolff appreciates that the likes of Grosjean and Sirotkin have their own races to run, he believes backmarkers need a better understanding of the race in order to prevent them compromising the leaders.

"The first moment obviously you're angry that you have lost the gap," said the Austrian. "But you need to accept that these guys are fighting for position and trying to have their own best race. And we have to respect it.

"I think the drivers need to discuss this among themselves," he continued, "that if the leaders come, and it's close, that maybe they should have more of a global perspective what's happening behind them.

"I think that in a racing car sometimes you don't know what's happening and just see that the leader is coming and you're fighting for your own position. You have to respect everybody's struggle to perform."

Further back, Valtteri Bottas, who was being pursued by Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo, made repeated calls to his team for Nico Hulkenberg, who was ahead, to be blue-flagged in order to allow him through.

However, the rules dictate that blue flags can only be shown when a car is within 1.2s of a slower car ahead, and Bottas was out of range.

Needless to say, Wolff has an answer for that also.

"He was upset because he couldn't close up to Hulkenberg, which was a shame," admitted the Austrian. "Kimi struggled less so, but when you look at Daniel, who was on a fresher tyre, on an ultra, probably raw pace two seconds quicker than Kimi, he couldn't overtake Kimi either.

"So again I think something which we need to look at, whether the gap, the 1.2 seconds, is a gap that needs to be adjusted for street circuits. It's a rule and we have to respect the rule, and if we can optimise it for the future we have to look at it."

In recent years, it has become the norm for drivers to call on their teams to raise such issues with (race director) Charlie Whiting, to the extent that they now sound like whiny children who cannot handle the situation and want someone else to sort it out for them.

At the same, time, these days the midfield battles are usually where the action is, and it seems unfair to expect those battling for 'best of the rest' to have to roll over for the leaders.

Fact is, we should be seeing less blue flags not more.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Editor, 21/09/2018 18:37

"@ Cigarsmoler

Have to admit, that move Mansell made on Senna in Hungary (89), wouldn't have been quite the same if Stefan Johansson had been blue flagged... same with Zonta when Mika and Schumacher went either side of him at Spa."

Rating: Positive (1)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

2. Posted by Cigarsmoker, 21/09/2018 17:58

"Blue Flags are ridiculous! Let them RACE! If the Lewis Hamiltons of the world can't pass the mid-pack cars they should suffer the consequences. I was totally enjoying the fight between the three and if it caused a better race between Hamilton and Verstappen then we should celebrate not penalize. These are supposed to be the best drivers in the world, let them prove it!"

Rating: Neutral (0)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

3. Posted by Superbird70, 19/09/2018 11:00

"If the back markers had worked to his advantage, like Lewis' 'wingman' Wolff wouldn't be complaining."

Rating: Positive (4)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

4. Posted by imejl99, 19/09/2018 7:34

"It was a street race, no that much room, don`t overhype it.

Regarding blue flags pro and con, one thing crossed my mind:
no blue flags + in-race betting deal = screams rigged :)"

Rating: Positive (1)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

5. Posted by Chris Roper, 19/09/2018 6:38

"Toto said:

".......raw pace two seconds quicker than Kimi, he couldn't overtake Kimi either.
So again I think something which we need to look at, whether the gap, the 1.2 seconds, is a gap that needs to be adjusted for street circuits."

I Say:

Rubbish, just simplify the Aerodynamics so that cars can follow then we have no need for any fancy rules, DRS or blue flags. Overtaking will become a skill again, not a reward gifted to the faster cars by a quirk of the rules and technology."

Rating: Positive (7)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

6. Posted by VC10-1103, 19/09/2018 4:36

"Get rid of the blue flag rule, make the leaders work to maintain their position. It is what F1 needs, last Sunday it was one of the few interesting moments of the whole GP when Verstappen caught up."

Rating: Positive (4)     Rate comment: Positive | NegativeReport this comment

7. Posted by francisn, 18/09/2018 22:13

"Too right Chris. I know it is different these days with all the aero problems but it was never a problem for Ayrton back in the day before blue flags. I say "tough" for the leaders if we are enjoying seeing good mid field racing."

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8. Posted by C5, 18/09/2018 22:09

"I disagree that a car being lapped need to just move over. However, the car being lapped need to, at the first (reasonable) opportunity, reduce speed on the straight and/or give sufficient room at the corner for the lapping car to pass.

I think that has generally worked well in the past, and I see no reason to make any changes now. The stewards made clear to Grosjean that he didn't do this, and that's how it's supposed to work. Move on.

Another thing entirely, is the 1.2 seconds. I think that is WAY to generous to the overtaking car. To lap, at the very least you should be within DRS range, and preferably less than that. I'd say 0.6-0.8 seconds would be way more reasonable. If the car's design doesn't lend itself to make that work well for the leaders there's a very easy fix: Quit whining and (re)design the car so it WILL work, if that's your priority."

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9. Posted by PlayF1, 18/09/2018 22:08

"Ha!
More talk of Blue Flag misery.

Just dump them.
Who is going to complain?

... and even if the top 3 do complain; they'll still be the ones winning the championship.
... only that we will enjoy the fight a lot more.

Liberty - the time to set this rule change is now!
(that is, if you truly want to improve the motorsport spectacle)"

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10. Posted by ESTM PRFT, 18/09/2018 19:40

"The backmarkers must understand that because they have less funding and obtain motors from the manufacturers that they are second class and superfluous to the glitz and glamor."

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11. Posted by alvarezh3, 18/09/2018 17:42

"If Alonso is lapping a car in F1, the lapped car must move away from the racing line or else he complains. If he's driving an LMP1 on a WEC race and lapping a slower GTPro Ferrari on the racing line he drives around it- no complaining.

A lapped GTLM doesn't move from the racing line for a DP at IMSA races, you don't hear much complaints either, the faster class car must drive around a slower class one.

You see it in NASCAR all the time, a slower car fighting to stay ahead of the leader to impede being taken a lap down. If the slower car is ahead at the his faster line, he stays there, the lapping car must drive around it.

Why it must be different in F1, I don't know.

It's my understanding that what a lapped car should not (or cannot) do is to purposely impede (by blocking, moving from one side of the road to the other or any other type of restraining maneuver) the overtaking leaders. Impeding maneuvers are only allowed to cars that are fighting for position, a lapped car is not in that situation."

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