Hamilton Should Have Received A Penalty….
Knee jerk reactions are a dangerous thing, which is why I sometimes breathe a sigh of relief when the words “To be investigated after the race” flash up at the bottom of our screens on a Sunday afternoon. This Sunday in Bahrain controversy was not hard to find, so it was not surprising that the two incidents involving Nico Rosberg apparently running Hamilton and Alonso off the track in an attempt to defend his position, were not swiftly dealt with but calmly thought about after studying all the evidence. As this was the case, why in the world did the stewards get the decision so very wrong???
Now my not very accurate and sometimes emotionally charged knee jerk reaction was to reprimand Rosberg for his dangerous driving. From where I stood and from the images I saw at first, it was clear that he was in the wrong. Hearing Fernando over the radio complaining that he was not left any room, and that you must always leave room, only served to fuel my rage at Rosberg and his under performing Mercedes. But the race continued and a few hours later Nico was told that he would serve no punishment for his driving. To understand this decision we need to look closely at the rules.
Let’s look at the incident involving Lewis Hamilton first. The rules changed this year to prevent drivers swerving aggressively in order to defend their position, this change was influenced in no small part by the driving of Nico’s team-mate Michael Schumacher in the Italian GP last year, where he was swerving very dramatically in order to keep a faster Lewis behind him for lap after lap. Now I was under the impression that under the new rules you must always leave a cars width when you move across to defend in order to prevent pushing another driver off the track. Alonso clearly also believed this was the case judging by his radio transmissions to his team. But we are wrong. Article 20.3 of the sporting regulations states that a driver is permitted to make one move to defend his position, and upon returning to the racing line he must leave a cars width. As Nico was not returning to his line he was not doing anything wrong when he moved to the very edge of the track to defend his position. Had Lewis been beside him when he started his move then he would have been in breach of article 20.4 that prevents crowding a car off the track, but this was not the case so does not apply. However a rule was broken in this exchange, and it was broken by Lewis Hamilton. Article 20.2 states that drivers must stay on the track at all times, and as Rosberg moved across the track, Lewis had the speed to travel across with him, all the time building speed until he was along side Nico and eventually passing the German driver whilst all four wheels were off the track. As the steward’s came to the decision that Rosberg had moved early enough and had done nothing wrong, then it is very clear to me that Lewis should have received a penalty! The only excuse he can have for overtaking whilst off the track can be if he was forced there by another driver, but the stewards feel very strongly that he was not….
Now, let’s look at the incident with Alonso. Earlier the steward’s used article 20.4 to defend Rosbergs actions against Hamilton, the rule claims that if one driver is along side another then they must not be crowded off the track. Alonso was clearly starting to climb alongside Rosberg before he swerved to defend his position, and were it not for the avoiding actions of Fernando we could have witnessed quite a big accident. Apparently exactly how far alongside a driver you have to be before they are no longer allowed to drive you off the track is a bit of a grey area, and again the ruling fell in Nico’s favour as he escaped without punishment for this little incident too.
This is a grey area that needs colouring in fast as it’s not going to be very long at all before this rears its head again. Added to that, we now have a group of drivers who yet again are racing without a clear grasp on what they can and cannot do in order to defend or attack. Things are going to get very messy very quickly. Whilst I’m sure this was thought about very carefully before a final decision was made, I can’t help but feel this has sent a very unclear message to everyone involved.
The suspicious side of me feels that with all the negative coverage F1 has received over the last week, a controversial penalty for Lewis or Rosberg was the last thing they wanted. But, by not having the courage to stick to your convictions when the pressure starts to mount, you set a very dangerous precedent indeed… Want to be a guest writer on VitalF1.com?
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