Kobayashi and Sutil spark complaints over driving standards after crashes

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Kobayashi's weaving caused Nakajima to have a huge crash
Kobayashi's weaving caused Nakajima to have a huge crash

Adrian Sutil and Kamui Kobayashi faced the wrath of their rivals after the Brazilian Grand Prix after two crashes which eliminated a total of four cars.

Jenson Button was among the drivers to voice his complaints about rookie Kobayashi’s driving. And Jarno Trulli was handed a fine after arguing with Sutil at the side of the track following their collision.

Kamui Kobayashi and Kazuki Nakajima

Button complained to his team that Kobayashi was “moving around in the braking zones” while he was trying to pass the Toyota driver during Sunday’s race.

Button eventually found a way past unscathed, but Kazuki Nakajima was not so lucky when he took on his compatriot. He clipped the back of the Toyota, lost his front wing and left the track at high speed, his Williams coming dangerously close to taking off:

The stewards decided not to punish Kobayashi. In fact, there’s no sign they even bothered to investigate the collision with Nakajima. This is surprising and quite worrying as Kobayashi’s driving seemed to be some way below the accepted norm.

Having already made the prescribed one move off his racing line to defend his position, Kobayashi then moved back towards the racing line, as is also usually allowed.

But his third move, swinging back to the left, which caused the contact with Nakajima, is not normally permitted. If the stewards are going to allow driver to weave in this fashion we are going to see more collisions like this and possible some very serious accidents. It was a similar accident to this that caused the last fatality in F1 – the death of marshal Graham Beveridge at Melbourne in 2001 following a collision between Ralf Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve.

Adrian Sutil and Jarno Trulli

Some were quick to blame Trulli for his collision with Sutil but the Italian obviously felt very strongly that the Force India driver was to blame. Afterwards he said:

I am not angry because of the result, I am angry because of the manoeuvre which was extremely, extremely dangerous. We know it is an easy flat out corner, and he should have given me enough space not to go on the kerbs. We were in sixth gear and we were lucky that no one got injured – but this was something really bad.

I thought if I could pull away, Sutil would stay there and I was coming with much more speed. He went on the inside so I went on the outside, and we went side-to-side to him. There is an onboard camera showing my front wheel next to his wheel, so if you looking at the back then I am not there.

He might say that he drove on the racing line. Yes, but I am still on the racing line in this case. So if you decide to stay on the inside, then stay on the inside. Don’t pull on the outside because I am there ?ǣ and you can see him there. The problem was that he put me over the kerbs ?ǣ and once I was on the kerbs I lost car control completely.

And the fact that I hit him on the back is that once I was on the kerbs that car got unstable. I lifted off and then I hit him on the back ?ǣ even though at the time I was next to him.

You cannot do that. It is like a straight ?ǣ you are flat, and he basically sent me onto the kerbs and grass when I was on the straight. I cannot accept any apology, I am sorry. It is clear to anyone in the paddock that you cannot do that.
Jarno Trulli

The stewards didn’t agree. They said:

The Stewards met with the two drivers and their team representatives, considered the video evidence and the telemetry data and concluded that this was a racing incident and no further action is required.

Sutil, inevitably, defended himself:

His manoeuvre was dangerous, I was flying over the gravel there and lost control. I didn’t see anything and just drove my corner and he crashed into my car so I don’t know what his problem is.
Adrian Sutil

From the replay it’s clear that if Sutil didn’t know Trulli was alongside him he wasn’t paying attention (remembering 2004 we may call this the ‘Schumacher defence’). The Force India clearly lost ground to the Ferrari ahead – presumably because Sutil has lifted the throttle – and the replay from outside the car shows Trulli fully alongside him.

At that point Sutil pushed Trulli off the track. The crazy thing is, drivers are allowed to do this, and Sutil hasn’t done anything against the rules. But if you push a rival off the track and they lose control and crash into you then, frankly, that’s called reaping what you sow.

It baffles me that drivers are allowed to push each other off the track but the stewards have quite consistently refused to punish people for it – whether it’s Michael Schumacher on Fernando Alonso (Silverstone, 2003) or Juan Pablo Montoya (Imola, 2004) or Lewis Hamilton on Timo Glock (Monza, 2008) or any others.

It’s not hard to see how allowing this sort of thing could end with someone getting hurt. Alonso was taken out of the race by Sutil’s out-of-control car in a manner not too different to Nick Heidfeld’s violent smash into Takuma Sato in Austria seven years ago.

Again,this sort of driving needs banning before someone gets hurt.

The clarity of the rules

It’s worth pointing out that the ‘rules’ referred to above, about how many times a driver can change their line, and whether they can push a rival off the track, are not written down – these are inferences drawn from past incidents.

The unclear rules on driving standards became a subject of debate last year after controversial decisions (or non-decisions) at Spa, Monza and Fuji. They were explored in greater depth in this article: Four of F1?s ??unwritten rules?.

Following the controversies of 2008 we were promised the stewards would issue more reasoned decisions and share video evidence. None of this has happened. And the rules regarding acceptable driving are every bit as opaque as they were 12 months ago.

It seems to be the case that if a collision doesn’t involve one of the front runners the stewards don’t really care. And while we’re on the subject, how on earth did they fail to give Heikki Kovalainen his penalty before the race had finished?

Read more: Four of F1?s ??unwritten rules?

2009 Brazilian Grand Prix