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BELGIAN GRAND PRIX

 WE DON’T NEED ANOTHER THUG

   Max Verstappen needs a large clog up his Khyber Pass, because if he doesn’t get it he will end up with a large F1 car there instead and who knows what the consequences will be. And it’s Charlie Whiting and the race stewards that need to wield the clog – NOW. Don’t get me wrong, I like Max. He is just about everything F1 needs right now. Young, fast, exciting, a demon overtaker who will surely become a world champion if he lives long enough. He just needs to reign in his overly aggressive defensive swerving. Because if he doesn’t, someone will get hurt. Someone will not back off like Kimi did at Spa and when that happens, either Max or that someone will have an almighty accident.

 

  The stupid thing is that what Max did at Spa was almost entirely within the rules as they stand. And the equally stupid rules will probably not be changed by the hypocritical FIA until someone does get hurt – or worse. But those same people who insist on safety cars starts in the (mildly) wet and those abominable bloody halo things are the same ones who refuse to enact certain parts of their own regulations to prevent this upcoming tragedy. The rule that Max hasn’t broken is as follows, Article 27.6 of the FIA's sporting states: "More than one change of direction to defend a position is not permitted. Any driver moving back towards the racing line, having earlier defended his position off-line, should leave at least one car width between his own car and the edge of the track on the approach to the corner." 

Well Max only made one change of direction on the Kemel straight so technically he was within the letter of this law. It’s just that his move was late and on a rapidly closing car that had to brake to avoid an enormous accident. 

  And this is where the stewards should have broken out the clog. Articles 27.5 and 27.8 state in part: "at no time may a car be driven unnecessarily slowly, erratically or in a manner which could be deemed potentially dangerous to other drivers or any other person" and "manoeuvres liable to hinder other drivers, such as deliberate crowding of a car beyond the edge of the track or any other abnormal change of direction, are not permitted". Swerving late into the path of a rapidly closing car would have to be, in any sane view, considered as driving erratically with an abnormal change of direction in a manner which could be deemed potentially dangerous to other drivers or any other person and liable to hinder other drivers. Just imagine what the cops would do if they saw you doing this on a highway? It unfortunately seems that the only way to get Max to understand this is to hit him, or any other driver using such odious methods is to hit them with ever increasing penalties. First offence – 10 seconds. Second offence – drive through. Third offence – start at the back of the grid. Fourth offence – race bans. 

  The overriding problem though is the bloody stupid rule 27.6 allowing one change of direction to defend a position in the first place. It was bought in to try to codify what had until that point been the unwritten rule that you did not swerve about on a race track, because you just might kill someone. Those two class A thugs, Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher had concluded that as there was no such written rule, they could pretty much do whatever they wanted and receive no penalty – think Senna on Prost at Estoril or Schumacher on Barrichello at Hungary. Sadly they were right, the FIA did bugger all and suddenly every up and coming driver thought it was OK to drive others into concrete walls. So the very badly thought out article 27.6 came into being. And being worded the way it is, it can be read as it is OK to drive others into concrete walls, so long as you only do it with one move. Brilliant….

   The obvious rule that should have been introduced is the one that has been in use in Indycar (and the CART series before that) for many a year. That is you are allowed to take any racing line you like onto a straight or into a corner so long as you do not then alter that line in reaction to an attacking car. Put simply – you are not allowed to block another car from passing you. And do you know why you hardly ever see blocking in Indycar racing? Because the stewards there impose penalties ruthlessly. And they don’t bugger about with small time penalties either. They start at drive-throughs and escalate to disqualification and race bans very rapidly. 

  So Charlie please, enforce your own existing rules regarding dangerous driving and Max, please, go on and win those championships, but please, please, please, we don’t need another thug. 

Sam Snape

 30-08-2016