Following the controversy of the Belgian Grand Prix, they needed to do it. And thankfully they have — the FIA have finally clarified once and for all exactly what they expect a driver to do if he needs to use an escape road.
During the drivers’ regular meeting with Race Director Charlie Whiting, it was made clear that drivers who cut a corner will not be allowed to challenge at the following corner as Hamilton did to Räikkönen at La Source in Belgium. This will come as a relief to fans and drivers alike who were previously left in the dark as to what the precise limit is.
On Thursday David Coulthard called for clarification in the rule. Meanwhile yesterday his Red Bull team mate Mark Webber expressed his relief saying, “generally, it is pretty clear for people to probably not attack immediately again, which wasn’t mega, mega clear in the past.”
Moreover, the solution is a broadly sensible one as it is relatively easily defined and fans and drivers will now know more clearly when a driver has pushed the rules too far. For this, the FIA should be applauded.
However, Charlie Whiting apparently raised eyebrows as during the meeting by revealing that this rule has actually been in place for two years! According to Ian Phillips (Director of Business Affairs at Force India) commentating during Friday Practice 2 on Radio 5 Live Sports Extra yesterday, Mr Whiting was adamant that the rule was originally clarified two weeks ago — but team principals could find no written record of the rule. It has already been established that neither the Formula 1 Sporting Regulations nor the International Sporting Code mention what a driver is expected to do after cutting a chicane.
Given Charlie Whiting’s apparent certainty of the rule, it does raise the question: why did he initially give the Hamilton move the “okay” in Belgium? Ian Phillips speculated that Charlie Whiting was only saying some things during the meeting because an FIA bod was also present in the room at the time. Whatever, it is another interesting twist in the story of Charlie Whiting’s behaviour surrounding the infamous incident in Belgium.
After this news emerged, we were discussing in the liveblog the implications of the new rule. Robert McKay made a very good point (at 1:25 during Friday Practice 2).
it’s also an interesting “rule” because there are some tracks where the definition of a “corner” is not clear – when Brundle says “some teams call this turn 5, some 6” or whatever.
This was a particular issue at Valencia, where some small kinks in straights were given a turn number. Take a look at the map. Let us say, for the sake of argument, a driver cuts the chicane at turn 5. Can he scream up behind a driver through turn 6 then go on the attack at turn 7? Or should he wait until turn 8? I know which would seem fairer — waiting until turn 8. But under the strange definition of a “corner” applied to the Valencia Street Circuit, it’s not exactly clear cut.
Also, Charlie Whiting’s “clarification” only appears to clarify what should happen when a driver is on the attack. What about a driver who is defending, such as Michael Schumacher was during the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2006? Should a driver in this situation let the driver behind by? Because Schumacher didn’t — and he didn’t get punished for it.
Today’s clarification makes the situation with cutting chicanes much clearer. But even under the new situation, there is still scope for another controversial incident to occur one day.