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Rule on lapped cars amended

NEWS STORY
15/03/2022

In the wake of the Abu Dhabi debacle the FIA has made a subtle change to the Sporting Regulations relating to lapped cars should the Safety Car be deployed.

In rejecting Mercedes protest last December, the Abu Dhabi stewards admitted that "Article 48.12 may not have been applied fully".

Article 48.12 of the 2021 Sporting regulations read: "If the clerk of the course considers it safe to do so, and the message 'LAPPED CARS MAY NOW OVERTAKE' has been sent to all Competitors via the official messaging system, any cars that have been lapped by the leader will be required to pass the cars on the lead lap and the safety car.

"This will only apply to cars that were lapped at the time they crossed the Line at the end of the lap during which they crossed the first Safety Car line for the second time after the safety car was deployed."

However, the latest version of the regulations, issued today sees Article 55.13 state that: "If the clerk of the course considers it safe to do so, and the message 'LAPPED CARS MAY NOW OVERTAKE' has been sent to all Competitors using the official messaging system, all cars that have been lapped by the leader will be required to pass the cars on the lead lap and the safety car".

It was the ambiguity of the word 'any' that was at the centre of the storm, race director, Michael Masi having allowed only those five cars separating race leader Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen to pass the Safety Car and un-lap themselves rather than all the cars that had been lapped.

It was the 'removal' of those five cars that gave the Dutchman a clear run on his rival when the race finally resumed with just one lap remaining.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Bill Hopgood, 16/03/2022 17:54

"Last night I watched the final episode of the DTS.
The reaction of Horner and Wolff has been well played out in general media, as has radio messages between them and Race Control.
What is most interesting in the DTS is the reaction of the drivers not allowed to overtake the safety car.
As many posters have already pointed out, it was the midfield that got messed up as much as the leaders.
I don't think Red Bull or Merc had much of an affect on Masi the Race Director, going by the edited footage.
I'm with @Editor in that someone else got involved.
Sooner or later we'll find out what happened.
Something the DTS does do well is explain what usually happened up to that point however I think they have done that to stir things up for this season moreso to explain why Merc, Bottas, Hamilton and so many others were confused and peeved at the time."

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2. Posted by Defiant, 16/03/2022 15:40

"Just for clarification, I didn't believe that there was any ambiguity in the rules PRIOR to the day in question. I still think that what history has shown in regard to lapped cars was ignored that day, and like Editor I'd like to know who's orders where being followed.
What happened just shows how the "minds of some" work in reference to the language of the rules. This has always been the task of clever engineers or lawyers employed by the teams, the part that frustrates me is that the race director and his CYA team had a go at these tactics. The race director and FIA as a whole should apply their rules rigidly in the spirit they where written. What I was talking about was that I'm pleased that on this issue alone, they won't be able to twist what they do in the future.

I do however agree with most of the other comments too, where does this nonsense end? I'd have thought that the FIA would know what they intended when the rules where written and that we could trust them to follow.. unfortunately however, we where all proved wrong 3 months ago.

"

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3. Posted by Editor, 16/03/2022 10:43 (moderated by an Adminstrator, 16/03/2022 10:46)

"Unable to sleep after what I had witnessed, in the early hours of the 'morning after' I felt compelled to get out of bed and share my thoughts.

Three months down the line I stand by them. While Masi made the call I want to know whose orders he was acting on.

Furthermore, at a time Toto Wolff shares the fact that he has previously sought assistance for his "mental wellbeing", I do trust that some though will finally be given to Michael Masi's mental wellbeing also, the Australian having endured three months of endless public criticism."

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4. Posted by ian_w, 16/03/2022 10:34 (moderated by an Adminstrator, 16/03/2022 10:46)

"@JS, I don't think there is "ANY one" who wanted a safety car finish. I also believe if people had not asked Masi so much about Saturday's incident where a car went off exactly where Latifi did and he said he'd not pull a red flag there, the right thing would have been for Masi to immediately drop the red flag when Latifi hit and then there would have been a good 2-3.laps from a standing start we could have all enjoyed much more and w/o controversy. But I think Masi's objective decision making was clouded by that. There still needs to be more clarity and simplification of the procedures."

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5. Posted by phantom, 16/03/2022 9:15

"To ian_w:
I think Sainz was the most cheated. Had the cars between him and Verstappen been 'unlapped,' he would have been ready to pounce in the event of a mistake by the two leaders. You never know . . ."

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6. Posted by Mad Matt, 16/03/2022 8:58 (moderated by an Adminstrator, 16/03/2022 10:46)

"After the Eifel GP 2020 Michael Masi said “There’s a requirement in the sporting regulations to wave all the lapped cars passed”. That was after Lewis and Max had complained about the length of the safety car period as they felt their tyres were losing heat.

He simply made a mistake in Abu Dhabi, perhaps under pressure from Red Bull/Merc or from Liberty......

So the FIA knew how the rules should be interpreted, as did the teams which means this "clarification" is a bit of smoke and mirrors. Better just to own up to a mistake, say what they'll do to fix it and move on."

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7. Posted by JS, 16/03/2022 8:48

"Why does everyone care about this so much. Masi made the right decision and gave us a finish to the season we deserved and both drivers deserved. If you asked Lewis before the restart whether he'd rather have fresh tyres or track position he'd probably have said track position. Maybe he'd go the other way but either way it's a close call and both drives had a great shot with one lap to decide the title. Why does everyone want a safety car finish. I'm so sick of the safety car, look at Spa, what a joke. Masi should have red flagged earlier or let the cars through earlier. But the race director should be able to decide and they should be able to make every effort to not finish the race under the safety car because no one wants that"

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8. Posted by ian_w, 16/03/2022 5:29 (moderated by an Adminstrator, 16/03/2022 10:46)

"Further to @Roli's thoughts, it would be great to get some historical context as to why the "unlapped cars can unlap themselves" came into being and if the justification for its existence is even still relevant. I recall the days when the almost the entire field was lapped cars, some multiple times lapped. Leave them as they are with a blue flag rule and compliance (w/penalties) when the green is dropped?

I also can't believe "any" lawyer or layperson could find ambiguity in the rule as previously written, but glad its changed. There was no ambiguity.

I of course can't wait for the next giant wordoversy, when a lapped car strategically chooses NOT to overtake since it says 'MAY NOW OVERTAKE', not 'MUST NOW OVERTAKE', contradicting the 'required to pass' wording , thereby aiding the teammate driver's position.

And yet, no language regarding by how much the lapped pack must clear the leader of if the entire pack must catch up before the green flag is dropped? That was the other half of the botchup. @Hondaunearthed, the rule never said "and rejoin on the back of the field".

The ones who should have protested the ADGP result was McLaren and Ricciardo who was denied the unlapping opportunity and any chance to catch Vettel or LeClerc for that last point, you know in the midfield, where the most competitive battles always take place."

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9. Posted by Great_white_shark, 16/03/2022 4:16 (moderated by an Adminstrator, 16/03/2022 10:46)

"I didn't realise "any" could be ambiguous in this context. I also remember top lawyer firms at the time commenting the same thing.

“Any” does not mean all, however it does mean “of all cars, those that fit into the relevant category” i.e. cars which are lapped, this could mean zero cars, 10 cars etc.
“It is difficult to see how Article 48.13 can override Article 48.12 as that would be an admission the two articles conflict,” Taylor Heath explained. “It is also difficult to see how Article 15.3 which gives the Race Director ‘overriding authority’ to control the use of the safety car gives him authority to ignore or override a regulation.

“Perhaps arguably if safety concerns dictate but it cannot be argued that was the circumstances here as it was clearly the fact the race had only one lap left that was the reason for not allowing all cars to pass.

“Accordingly you would expect the panel of the Court of Appeal made up of esteemed legal minds would agree that FIA has incorrectly applied their own Regulations.

“There is a significant difference between a protest that an official has been incompetent in the way they have exercised their judgment or simply failed to apply a rule and an allegation an official has willfully and knowingly not applied a rule.”"

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10. Posted by Max Noble, 16/03/2022 3:11

"Remind me of the classic old air crew joke;

Pilot note after flight: “Something loose in left-hand under-carriage”
Ground Crew Response: “Something tightened in left-hand under-carriage”

You drive for infinite prescription… you get infinite pedantic… "

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11. Posted by TokyoAussie, 15/03/2022 22:22

"There wasn’t “any” ambiguity about the wording. Only a lawyer could try to p**** that clause to cover what happened. And what happened is a totally different procedure was made up on the fly for a common situation, breaking all precedent. It was not a good look. "

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12. Posted by Hondaunearthed, 15/03/2022 21:31

"It really isn’t that confusing, and nor should it have been interpreted any different to the clarity we now have. Simple, when word goes out, all lapped cars pass and rejoin on the back of the field."

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13. Posted by Defiant, 15/03/2022 20:54

"I'm pleased they have removed any ambiguity on this, It's important so word play cannot be used in future, but lets be honest here, Masi already knew what should have happened in those circumstances as it has been done many many times before and what he did had not.

It's always the teams that have used loopholes and ambiguity to their benefit before and will continue to do so at any opportunity. I doubt anyone expected the race director to do so.
"

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14. Posted by Roli, 15/03/2022 19:18

"What a daft and confusing rule. Why just stay in whatever position the backmarkers are, safety cat takes the lead car and slows the whole field down. It couldnt be simpler and not open for mis-representation"

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