I am a bit late to the party here, but I want to cover this issue — and a couple of others — briefly now. I am afraid once again real life has conspired against me, and if I don’t push these out quickly before I know it the Spanish Grand Prix will have been and gone.
After all, three races have been since I last wrote about F1. Unbelievable, I know. And I have promised loyal readers and commenters from the old vee8 days, EGC and Can, that I will write about recent events, so I really should. Thanks, by the way, for your continued loyalty!
It has been widely noted that the stewards appear to be more lenient this season. This seems to be an initiative of Jean Todt’s, and many are putting it down to the presence of former drivers in the stewards’ room — an innovation for this season.
I must say that I feel that this new approach is much preferable to the old regime, where often normal racing incidents would bizarrely be punished. The worst points came in 2008, when I feared that Formula 1 was becoming Formula None, where racing is illegal.
However, there is a balance to be struck. There are two incidents in particular that perhaps deserved punishment, both involving Lewis Hamilton.
The first was his weaving down the straight at Malaysia, trying to break Vitaly Petrov’s tow. First of all, full marks must be given to Petrov for managing to get Hamilton rattled enough for him to do this. When I watched it at first I thought it was extraordinary, but also exciting to watch.
For me, this is the sort of racing that is okay. In way, it’s how racing should be — right on the edge, a bit risky, pushing the envelope. Weaving along the straight is okay in my view… Then again, I’m not a driver. 🙂
It would be a very different matter to weave in the braking zone. But Hamilton stuck to his line once he started braking, making it tough but clean racing in my book.
I think it was right for Hamilton to be given a warning. It should not have gone un-noted, but any larger punishment than that would have been too harsh.
What should have been punished, however, was Hamilton’s antics down the pitlane in China. I am thinking in particular about his decision to race Sebastian Vettel towards the pitlane exit.
Too much focus was placed on the timing of McLaren’s lollipop man. I think what the lollipop man did is irrelevant in this instance. I understand that Hamilton is a racer, but once both drivers had reached the speed limit, Vettel was clearly ahead. In this case, Hamilton should have deferred, and lined up behind him in the ‘racing’ lane of the pitlane. After all, Vettel was only ever going to end up ahead anyway, as he could switch off his limiter first.
The pitlane is not a place for racing, and safety must come first. I was therefore surprised to see that, yet again, this sort of behaviour has been let off with little more than a wrap across the knuckles. It reminded me a lot of Felipe Massa being let off for something very similar at the 2008 European Grand Prix. I find it bizarre that something potentially so dangerous is seemingly not taken so seriously by the FIA.
It was also worrying that the stewards decided only to investigate the incident after the race was finished. I think incidents should be looked into as soon as possible, with penalties being applied after the race only in exceptional circumstances.
It is worth looking also at the way drivers enter the pitlane as well as exiting it. Once again, Lewis Hamilton fell foul here, when he decided to effectively drive the wrong way across the race track to enter the pitlane after he had passed the actual entrance. It’s the sort of thing you do on a video game — should it really be allowed in real life?
There has been a lot of talk also about Fernando Alonso pushing his way past Felipe Massa on the way into the pitlane. Very feisty stuff, and very marginal. You might say it ought to be banned, but it was very exciting to watch, and possibly a pivotal moment in the drivers’ relationship within Ferrari.
But then, what are the white lines for?…