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Drivers unclear on 'rules of engagement'


The decision not to review the Lap 48 incident in Sao Paulo has left drivers confused as to what is allowed and what isn't.

Ever since the infamous incident on the 48th lap of last week's Brazilian Grand Prix everyone has an opinion... and is only too keen to share it.

Fans took to social media while former drivers, TV pundits and the rest also shared their thoughts.

On Friday, once the FIA had rejected Mercedes request of a right of review, the drivers that comprise this weekend's grid discussed the issue as part of their customary driver briefing.

Despite a longer briefing than usual, they came away as confused as ever.

Asked what counts as hard and fair racing, and what, on the other hand, deserves to be penalised, Lewis Hamilton admitted: "It's not clear...

"Every driver, except for Max, was asking just for clarity," he continued, "most drivers were asking for clarity, but it wasn't very clear.

"So, yeah, it's still not clear what the limits of the track are. It's clearly not the white line anymore, when overtaking but... yeah, we just go for it.

"We just ask for consistency," he added. "So, if it's the same as the last race then it should be the same for all of us in those scenarios and it's fine."

"It is clear in that way that, if it's a similar incident to Brazil then that's OK," added teammate Valtteri Bottas, "but obviously it's always a fine line.

"But, yeah, consistency," he continued. "That's the key. For us to know exactly.

"I don't think we got really an explanation like what we actually can do, or not. So, I mean, every overtake, every defending is different.

"I'm sure they try to do the best job, giving the best penalties, or no penalties," he continued, "so I don't think it really changes anything.

"We'll obviously go for it and at least we know what Lewis and Max ended up having in Brazil, that is OK, so that is a good thing to know."

Told that there is talk doing the rounds that the stewards wouldn't necessarily make the same decision in the same set of circumstances as Brazil, Bottas replied: "That would be a bit weird, then we don't know what we're supposed to do, if that's the case. I don't know what to say."

"It's not clear, as I said," added Hamilton. "They said it's going to be different with different stewards, so... it could be different with different stewards is what they said. We have the same ones as last week so this week is one way and we'll see."

"For me, the thing I don't like... I mean we discuss these kind of things and they don't need to go to the media," said Verstappen. "We talk to the experts and I think it's more important that we discuss these things with the experts and not just throw things around on social media for nothing.

"I don't really what to comment on that," he admitted. "I prefer to talk to the people in charge and just discuss with them about future things in general, not only like an incident or whatever."

Asked, in light of the review and the general feeling at the drivers' briefing, if he will change his approach, be more aggressive, Hamilton admitted: "Yeah, I guess so.

"Potentially, can't really... I would assume so, yeah."

"Yeah," added Bottas. "I mean if that's most likely going to be OK then obviously they can do it. It just depends on the situation, it's not like something had suddenly changed but it was good to get at least 20% of a confirmation that is OK. As they said, maybe it's not, maybe it is. We'll see."

Meanwhile, Lando Norris referred to the incident during the Styrian Grand Prix that saw him penalised after Sergio Perez went off whilst battling for position.

"Some of the things that we now understand means that I shouldn't have got a penalty," said the McLaren star. "But then also what types of surfaces are on the outside of the circuit, whether that's a hole or tarmac or whatever, can also have an effect, which I don't think may be fair or true.

"I think if you know there's gravel on the outside, and if you're not completely alongside me, which Perez wasn't, he's put himself in that very risky position," he continued. "That's the only thing that I believe now must have been the difference.

"He wasn't alongside me, all the way alongside me, it was like half a car. I gave still a bit of space for him to back out, it wasn't like I shoved him off, and there was no contact made.

"We only recently now believe that there was gravel and not tarmac," he added. "I feel like it's an unfair penalty that I got, but that's what I have to believe now is the difference from Max's one last weekend and my one, is that I had gravel."

Teammate, Daniel Ricciardo referred to an incident involving Lance Stroll at last year's Austrian Grand Prix.

"The fact that he attempted to pass and didn't make it, like he went off track, then that's not a pass," said the Australian. "There's no way someone should be able to keep a position by lunging from miles back and not staying on track.

"It's maybe the same as the situations last weekend," he added. "But yeah, it is true that the consequences do dictate a little bit of the overall decision, I believe."

"We will always try to race at the limits of what we are allowed to do," said Charles Leclerc, "and that's what I will do in case these things are allowed.

"Honestly, I really don't mind whatever is allowed, I just want it to be clear as a driver," he added. "That's the only thing that matters to me.

"If this is allowed, then overtaking around the outside will be very difficult," he admitted. "But yeah, whatever the situation, the decision is, I'll just adapt my driving to it, so I'm fine with both."

"The one thing that at least is clear in my head, or should be clear, if you attempt an overtake - so most likely you're on the inside and you attempt to undertake - and you don't stay on the track, and then the other guy obviously gone off the track as well that's a failed overtake.," said Ricciardo, who referred to last weekend's incident on the opening lap involving Leclerc and Perez.

"In a way, they were consistent with two of the same moves in Brazil, with Charles and Carlos, and Max and Lewis; they didn't give penalties, or make them swap positions for those two," said the Australian. "Whether that was right or wrong at least they showed consistency in two very, very similar incidents."

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1. Posted by kenji, 22/11/2021 1:11

"@ Defiant...Good post. I rather think that in the absence of any evidence to support 'intent' there should be no penalty and classified as a racing incident. The fact that they both went off track and there was no contact supports that theory. Hamilton's vastly superior speed meant that he should've waited and passed him where there could be no likely contact. I am slowly coming around to the thought that he, Hamilton, suckered Verstappen in, knowing full well that there would be a vigorous defence on offer! All in the past now...."

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2. Posted by Defiant, 21/11/2021 21:33

"@kenji I do not think anyone was accusing Max of opening up his steering, everything I've seen says Max was not turning into the corner until the edge of the track, so in turn forcing Lewis off track. I do think it was deserving of a penalty, but not the corner antics themselves, I'm referring to the fact he kept his position by breaking the rules, this happens all the time with other drivers, so I think that he should have lifted a moment on the next straight and let Lewis by, then if the timed it right he could've fought into the next corner. Either way, the fact that the FIA hasn't clarified the correct way of dealing with future issues is just another poison symptom of the current rights owners and Netflix staged hype."

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3. Posted by kenji, 21/11/2021 11:43

"There appears to be some clarity on this issue...that is, that there is no overriding solution that fits all scenarios due to the complexity of each individual incident. There are no doubt guidelines to help the decision making process but no overall 'one size fits all' solution. What visually appears to be a cut and dried action is anything but. Looking at the 'new' video from the front facing camera on Verstappen's car proved beyond doubt that Verstappen didn't open up his steering and force Hamilton off. To arrive at any other decision would be a false assertion that they knew 100% what the 'intent' was! That's a dead end. It's true that there is much confusion but a lot of this is being whipped up by the media. Drivers will have to assess their own driving intentions and subsequent outcomes.... and be prepared to suffer the consequences if they go too far. I would suggest that people musing on this situation consider the criminal law as a basis for arriving at some form of understanding, in general, whereby the difference between murder and manslaughter is based on intent. A very difficult question to answer."

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4. Posted by F1nerd, 21/11/2021 10:20

"Stay on the circuit, if you go off than prepare for a punishment. It obviously depends on circumstances for instance if Max was sliding due to going too fast into the corner with Ham passing on the outside he obviously also went wide to avoid hitting the Red Bull. So what is the verdict? I don't think Max deliberately forced him off the circuit. But, I do agree that consistency is the most important thing to keep it fair & tell the drivers exactly what they are allowed to do (at all tracks)."

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5. Posted by Mad Matt, 21/11/2021 8:12

"It's almost as if the FIA know the stewards decision in Brazil was wrong but can't say it...."

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