Drivers as stewards make presence felt as Hamilton gets black-and-white flag

Comment

The stewards said Hamilton's defence from Petrov was too aggressive

The stewards said Hamilton's defence from Petrov was too aggressive

Lewis Hamilton was shown the black-and-white flag during the Malaysian Grand Prix for weaving in front of Vitaly Petrov. He didn’t receive a penalty, but was warned not to repeat his actions.

It’s been a long time since anyone was shown the “unsportsmanlike driving” flag – and its appearance in today’s race is a sign the addition of experienced racing drivers to the stewards’ office is having an effect.

There is no written rule on what a driver who is defending his position is allowed to do. But it’s generally accepted they are allowed to make “one move” off the racing line and a subsequent move back towards the racing line as they approach the next corner.

Hamilton obeyed this principle when he first passed Petrov at the end of lap five. Then Petrov re-passed him.

But when Hamilton got past the Renault driver again at the end of lap seven, his defensive tactics clearly went beyond what is normally accepted.

As they crossed the line to start lap eight Hamilton crossed from the right-hand side of the track over to the extreme left, pausing briefly on his way, then came back across to the right, back over to the left again, and then to the middle of the track.

This clearly went beyond what the “one move” rule allows. Here’s how Hamilton explained his reason for moving around on the straight on the radio during the race:

I wasn’t weaving for him, I was weaving to break the tow.
Lewis Hamilton

I think what we’ve seen today is the benefit of having experienced drivers assisting the stewards. Driver-stewards have been introduced for the first time in F1 this year. Today it was Johnny Herbert’s turn, and with 160 F1 starts and three wins to his name he knows the sport as well as anyone.

Drivers like Herbert are far better placed to make a call about whether a driver is attempting to run their rival off the track or simply trying to stop them getting the benefit of the slipstream.

Rapping Hamilton’s knuckles without ruining his race with a penalty was the smart thing to do – particularly at a time when so much attention is being paid to overtaking in Formula 1.

When it comes to overtaking, rules and technology stack the odds heavily in favour of the defending driver. The defending driver can have a car that’s two seconds per lap slower and aerodynamics will help keep the chasing car behind.

On top of that the “one move” rule – with its liberal interpretation which allows drivers to return towards the racing line after making their defence – makes it even harder for a car to overtake. Consider that in some series, such as IndyCar racing, drivers aren’t allowed to make defensive moves and are ordered to give up their position if they do.

But I do wonder if the stewards’ decision leaves us with one problem: drivers may now think they can expect to get away with one act of weaving per race with just a warning.

What’s your take on the penalty? Also, can anyone remember the last time the black-and-white flag was used in F1? Have your say in the comments.

2010 Malaysian Grand Prix

Image (C) Renault/LAT

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333 comments on Drivers as stewards make presence felt as Hamilton gets black-and-white flag

  1. John H said on 4th April 2010, 15:26

    Breaking the tow is different to blocking because the former is active and the latter is reactive (hope that makes sense). The weaving was excessive and the stewards did the right thing, but this isn’t the same situation as the one move ‘rule’ in my opinion.

    Of course had he been doing this in 2008 I think a penalty would have been given immediately!

  2. KnottyBwoy said on 4th April 2010, 15:29

    Simple. Petrov thought he could get head to head with Lewis and trying to act as if he’s good enough to spank Lewis. Then, Lewis bullied him by making fun out of him in front of million viewers to awaken Petrov and let him know where he really stands and he’s not yet good enough. Lesson learned! Hahaha! :-)

  3. Salty said on 4th April 2010, 15:43

    Correct decision. He wasn’t reacting to Petrov moving out on him, but obviously trying to break the slipstream. He failed to do so and Petrov still didn’t manage to get the jump on him into the first corner, again underlining that it was the right decision. Well done to the stewards – we don’t know if it was Herbert’s call that swayed it, but either way, a better response than we have seen in recent years.

    As for the move itself? Entertaining and unorthodox, very Hamiltonesque then. Probably won’t see too many repeat performances anytime soon.

  4. Xighor said on 4th April 2010, 15:51

    I’m not defending Hamilton here, but goddamnit, it was fun to watch this overtake attempt! So rarely can we see some really original/surprising/brave etc. overtake, so why ban such actions? In my opinion driver should do everything he can to defend his position, as long as he is in front (apart from certainly dangerous moves as aggresively pushing off the track and various forms of making contact with other car). I want to see some good racing and if drivers have more way to defend it’s good for fighting. We’re not talking about IndyCar series, F2 or other ones. This is Formula 1. The set of the best drivers in the world race there and they really know what they are doing, I don’t see any point in making any boarders around them.
    I am not saying that they are perfect and their every move is well-thought-out – mistakes happen. Aggressive driving as well. But aggressive is when sb really causes an accident, opponent’s spin or whatever.

    Vitaly and Hamilton’s fight was very fun to watch, one of my favourite parts of the race and I don’t really see why such defence moves are banned. You get the driver, you get the car. And then do everything else to get a good position and maintain it. If nobody’s hurt – it’s perfectly good. If it’s also fun to watch – what’s wrong with it now?

  5. JerseyF1 said on 4th April 2010, 15:54

    I don’t see the problem. Lewis picked his own line and Petrov followed. There was no blocking and no danger (and if the weaving was dangerous then Petrov was equally guilty of an offence). The drivers are not obliged to take any particular line in any or straight corner, the no blocking requirement is to stop drivers moving in reaction to a passing car and particularly in a braking zone, that was clearly not the case here. I think it was a poor steward reaction to an unusual situation just because it looked strange and not because of any rule or issue of danger. Fortunately the use of the flag warning meant that the stewards didn’t ruin the race as they have in the past.

    Vettel ‘infringement’ was nonsense, he had no choice but to overtake due to Trulli stopping on the track.

    • Tim said on 4th April 2010, 21:56

      Interesting choice of quotation marks. If Vettel passed another driver under a yellow flag then it counts as an infringement – he either infringed the regulation on yellow flags or he didn’t, it’s black and white, one thing or the other. But the stewards considered the individual circumstances, exercised their discretion and decided (correctly) against a penalty.

      Not long ago, it was a bit of a mantra among some fans that the rules around penalties had to be made “clear” and effectively tie the stewards’ hands. This is a prime example of why a degree of flexibility and discretion in the regulations is just as essential as consistency.

  6. lightmas said on 4th April 2010, 16:03

    Drive though in my opinion.

    He still disadvantaged Petrov..and there is a reason for unwritten rule…for safety.

    • Simon said on 4th April 2010, 16:19

      What was the dis-advantage exactly? Petrov could have just driven straight on, but chose to follow Hamilton to keep in his slip-stream. There was no blocking involved.

      A warning (to discourage the same kind of behaviour in the future) is a much better decision than a drive-through.

      Providing a clear message is sent out as to what a warning means with regards to future races, it seems like a good way to refine the rules.

  7. SoLiD said on 4th April 2010, 16:05

    they handled it perfectly as he wasn’t blocking just breaking the tow… Brundle’s take on it was spot on!

  8. Hollus said on 4th April 2010, 16:08

    Aaaaallll the way to the right, then aaaalll the way to the left. Then aaaallll the way to the right, than aaaalll the way to the left,then aaaalll the way right to the apex. No hindrance at all, and plenty of oppotunities for Petrov to pass. Sure. Aaaaall the middle open to him!
    Honestly, this one move rule has been there for some years, and aaalll other drivers obey it. One defensive move per straight, and one move back to the racing line. Makes 2 swerves per straight maximum. So you take the inside or the outside, and the other driver has a chance. Review Alonso vs Button today for how it works between gentlemen.
    And Hamilton got no benefit whatsoever for staying in front of Petrov and in clean air. None at all.

    • Akiko said on 4th April 2010, 16:25

      Exactly: between gentlemen. ‘Nuff said.

      Unsportmanslike drivers should be banned forever from F1, no matter their showiness.

      • luigismen said on 4th April 2010, 17:02

        I think you’re over reacting, this is why there’s no passing in F1, because whenever we see a interesting and exciting battle for position, then there’s something wrong or illegal.
        I’m glad there was no penalty, otherwise it would had suck

      • James G said on 4th April 2010, 18:49

        If you think that, then I suggest Michael Schumacher should never be allowed to race in F1 again.

      • David BR said on 4th April 2010, 19:37

        Yeah, I remember the good old days too when millions stopped watching F1 because it was sooooooo dull. And why are LH’s personal qualities always an issue, I wonder? Actually, don’t bother, I know why. But don’t try pretending *nobody* has tried to bend a rule, break a rule, get round a rule, ignore a rule, or challenge the sheer utter pointlessness of some rules before, because the list in reply would be enooooormous.

  9. mmck said on 4th April 2010, 16:09

    He was clearly doing it to stop the slipstream attack. You can’t weave to stop someone overtaking – when that person is a couple of metres behind your car, it without question is like Hamilton said, and also how it appeared.

  10. steph said on 4th April 2010, 16:12

    In my opinion the stewards got it spot on.
    I don’t care as much for the reasoning the fact is it happened and therefore something should be done. As to what lengths they go to then the act and then the reasoning has to be looked at and I don’t think it was to block Petrov and as such the penalty was rightly fair by being just a warning and not excessive.
    I don’t agree with arguments that this is only being talked about because it is Hamilton. There is not some anti-Hamilton conspircy but thisn is a British site so I expect he has a lot of interest. Renault will undoubtedly be arguing for a more severe punishment and it was an unusual incident which had to be looked at which is why it is getting the attention.

  11. David BR said on 4th April 2010, 16:18

    Wrong decision. I really don’t see why we should be applauding the stewards for penalizing a racing move on track that wasn’t a risk to anyone.

    As salty points out, maybe a bit inadvertently, this decision means yet another ‘exciting and unorthodox’ maneouvre (I’m quoting salty) won’t be seen again soon. It’s like: whatever you dream up Lewis, we’ll ban it! Two questions: is he really the only driver who’s willing to be unorthodox, push the envelope? I don’t think so. But if so, that seems pretty dire for the sport. And if not, that seems to indicate LH is picked out far more. I go for the latter.

    • Kubica at the pits.

    • Gustav said on 4th April 2010, 16:29

      To give him a penalty would have been madness – but a warning is fair enough, we should cars weaving down the main straight with 300 km/h just to break the tow. But it seems he is the only one able to really pull off some overtaking, even though you “need a car that is 3 seconds faster” than the car in front of you to overtake. Hands down he had a beautiful race.

  12. sato113 said on 4th April 2010, 16:19

    hang on a tick. As Petrov hadn’t made an attempt to pass on the main straight how was Hamilton blocking him?

    To summarise- there was no blocking involved as Petrov wasn’t close enough and was not pulling out to overtake Hamilton.

    • RFB said on 4th April 2010, 16:32

      On which side do you pull out to overtake a car that’s weaving as much as HAM did ?

      • fare point, but i think Hamilton wouldn’t of bothered if Petrov wasn’t hogging his rear as much.

      • wakenabeb said on 4th April 2010, 17:06

        Well, Petrov didn’t need to pull out to overtake since Hamilton did move out of the way. Since Petrov moved back behind Hamilton to get closer, Hamilton moved away again. Fact is, had Petrov not follow behind Hamilton, Hamilton won’t be swerving and the this whole topic would be a non-issue.

        • Mike said on 5th April 2010, 9:35

          Your right, it was wrong, indecent and improper for Petrov to try and use the slipstream of the much faster Mclaren! Evil Petrov evil!

          Seriously, It could have ended with a very big crash, I can easily believe that Hamilton was trying to break his slipstream, but weaving like that is dangerous, no matter what the car behind was doing.

          (I suppose if there was an army of streakers….. but I disgress)

      • sato113 said on 4th April 2010, 20:13

        you can’t decide! that’s what HAM was trying to do to PET, try to make him unable to choose which side to overtake on.

  13. Fer no.65 said on 4th April 2010, 16:25

    Here, in Argentinean motorsports, such thing IS a rule. You can’t move twice. Only once. You get penalized if you do so.

    The stewards even ask the circuits to paint a white like dividing the track in half through the whole lap. It doesn’t look good but you it’s easier for them to see it and take actions.

    Maybe it’s time to clear those grey areas in F1. If it isn’t a rule everybody will do it. Not that it happens that much often, but still.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th April 2010, 16:30

      The stewards even ask the circuits to paint a white like dividing the track in half through the whole lap. It doesn’t look good but you it’s easier for them to see it and take actions.

      I never heard of that before. So they treat the track a bit like a ‘court’, really? That’s very interesting…

  14. Hamilton was agressive as usual and on the edge of breaching the rules, that’s how he won his title. But to wave the car all over the track is quite dangerous.

  15. Ken Martin said on 4th April 2010, 16:32

    I was disgusted at Hamilton’s driving. I’ve supported the Brits for years but what Hamilton did today offended my sense of fair play and honour amongst sports men.

    Many people have levelled a charge of arrogance against Hamilton and after today it is impossible to deny. Clearly he thought Petrov was a lesser competitor and Hamilton was prepared to use any tactic to beat him as he fails to respect his fellow competitors.

    It is about time governing bodies took a stronger line in teaching these sports ‘men’ who fail to act better than spoiled children a lesson.

  16. Victor said on 4th April 2010, 16:34

    As an answer to Keith’s “other” question… wasn’t the only time this flag was used before Spa 1989 on Eddie Cheever blocking Mansell in the wet?

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th April 2010, 20:54

      That’s what I thought but surely it’s been used in the past 21 years? That was about the third F1 race I watched!

      • Victor said on 5th April 2010, 12:50

        It’s rare to use this flag, so surely any season review would emphasize the fact that it’s been used. But watching through season reviews from ’89 to present day, there’s absolutely no mention of it except for Spa ’89, so it’s pretty much certain that it hasn’t been used since.

  17. adaptalis said on 4th April 2010, 16:38

    I think its the right decision. But i think they should be clear about penalizing the next person who does it. Here we are complaining that we don’t see sufficient overtaking, but we’re encouraging drivers to ‘break tows’ so as to defend and discourage overtaking. Slip streaming is about the only main source of overtaking that we see already and ‘breaking tows’ will totally kill it altogether.

    I say right decision based on no other precedence, but should be prevented in future.

  18. wakenabeb said on 4th April 2010, 16:44

    Quite clear really. Hamilton moved first to break the tow, and then Petrov followed him on each swerve. It’s not as if Petrov moved out first to start a pass and hamilton comes to block him. Big difference. Hamilton did not cut in front of petrov but moved away from him. Petrov merely followed. I highly doubt hamilton would be swerving had Petrov not followed him. It’s not Hamilton’s fault if the person behind him wants to follow behind him.

    • wakenabeb said on 4th April 2010, 16:53

      Some people here obviously don’t know the difference between blocking a move and breaking away from a tow. Watch carefully as petrov reacts to hamilton moving aside instead of Hamilton reacting to block Petrov. In this instance, Petrov WANTED to stay behind Hamilton. It’s like the difference between cutting right in front of someone walking beside you as opposed to moving aside so someone BEHIND you stops following directly behind.

      • Hotbottoms said on 4th April 2010, 17:30

        You are missing the point. Hamilton was defending his position and he was allowed to make one move but he did more. If Petrov wanted to stay behind Hamilton, Hamilton should’ve let him.

        Many of you talk like there would be something wrong in following the driver in front of you in order to get less air resistance, but all the drivers have been doing it for years – yes, even Hamilton.

        • wakenabeb said on 4th April 2010, 17:48

          Yea, and I’m not saying slipstreaming is wrong. I’m just saying, it’s not dangerous, so why penalize? The only way a collision could happen is if Hamilton braketested him, or Petrov misjudging how close he is to Hamilton.

          • David BR said on 4th April 2010, 18:24

            I agree wakenabeb. People are totally losing sight of the fact that weaving is banned because it’s dangerous – if it wasn’t, it would be a perfectly OK maneouvre. But if no attempt to pass is being made, it’s not dangerous – or no more so than driving a car at 300kmh anywhere might be. So why was Ham weaving? To break the tow. Why should that be punishable?! I don’t see the need even for a warning. Of course it could be argued letting it go would encourage people to do this all the time and at *some* point someone would weave when the other really was trying to pass. But that strikes me as over-anticipation.

          • Einar AI said on 4th April 2010, 18:46

            I agree with hotbottoms – in fact, we see drivers gaining slipstream advantages behind each other all the time. Take Massa at this race – he was gaining an aero advantage behind Button before pressing his ‘overtake button’ and moving inside. Pretty much the happened when Alonso (unsuccessfully) tried to get past Button. Overtaking in such a “slipstream” manner is only normal on the dry track. And yet, the defending driver almost never starts swerving in the braking zones to “break the tow” or otherwise.

            Petrov wanted to gain a slipstream advantage – and according to the rules, Hamilton should have let him do that (albeit only after the former survived the first two swerves – Hamilton is allowed to do as much).

            Whether such swerving should be allowed in the case if it doesn’t constitute dangerous driving – is another issue. I firmly believe it should be – I’m never in favor of artificial rules and believe that driver can defend his position as long as it doesn’t involve wrestling your opponent off the track. To be honest, some of the current rules of F1 regarding overtaking are quite restrictive – for instance I don’t see why the defending driver should “leave room” or not move across when his opponent is waiting to stream past.

            Obviously, the stewards’ job gets tougher as the complexities of those rules get appreciated. For instance, if rules allow not “leaving room,” the drivers will start brake-testing each other and calamities will result. Similarly is drivers are allowed to swerve, they’ll also start blocking each other even if the attacking car is already in the process of an overtake. Then we’ll just see lots of “unsportsmanlike behavior” and crashes. That is why I see that current rules, while being restrictive, allow for the sensible relationship between the opposing sides in a track battle between two cars.

            In the case with Petrov, I believe that Hamilton was morally justified “to break the tow” as long as it wasn’t dangerous towards Petrov – and since the track at the segment was quite wide and the latter had space to “escape” – I believe it wasn’t. Though considering the overtake rules, he should have let Petrov gain a slipstream advantage.

            All in all, I believe that stewards released their statement in accordance to official F1 rules that ban excessive “swerving,” and yet decided not to penalize Hamilton according to the racing principles I described above. So we’ll only have to sing praises for such a decision.

          • David BR said on 4th April 2010, 18:56

            That’s reasonable Einer. But the point is that a warning is a deferred penalty. So we have to presume next time breaking tow like that will be punished. We can have this same discussion next time – when this kind of ‘undangerous weaving’ costs someone a race because of a penalty – or think about its implications when we decide whether or not the stewards apparent ‘compromise’ was a good precedent for future races. I don’t think so.

          • Salty said on 4th April 2010, 20:51

            Great post Einar AI. One issue needs clarification here though. There is no ‘one swerve’ rule. It’s a driver ‘understanding’ which is used with regard to defending lines into a corner. It purpose is to prevent early blocking and breaking into corners. Even within the bounds of the understanding, Hamilton was not doing that.

            Like you, I believe the current regs on what a driver may or may not do are overly constrictive. When Senna was racing people used to think he pushed a little too hard, was too aggressive. Schumacher played the tactical game a lot harder, but was a slightly less aggressive driver. Hamilton has Senna’s aggressive arrogant style. No idea if he is as quick, but that is where Hamilton comes from. Hamilton hasn’t the tactical brain of Schumacher, or possibly even Jenson, but he does share the big cojones that made Senna damn fast.

          • Salty said on 4th April 2010, 23:34

            Correction – there IS a written rule – International Sporting Code, Appendix L, Chapter IV, article 2.b – tis more than a bit fluffy and open, bless the FiA, to interpretation.

            Thanks to Lawrence Southern for the edification. Check down the thread…

  19. I think it’s wrong that Renault are bringing this back up after the race, even with the steward giving a warning to hamilton. Hopefully the Stewards will hold their ground and tell Renault to be quiet. This wouldn’t of happend if Prost was the race steward.

  20. macahan said on 4th April 2010, 17:06

    the driving didn’t deserve a penalty. Nobody was in danger, Petrove didn’t attempt to overtake he, followed Ham line Ham stopped before breaking zone. Warming tires way to much weaving for that and looked to “planned” with the stop at the edges, tire warming they do multiple weaves in a fluid motion and then stop. Dangerous weaving koybayashi in Brazil last year. That is the weaving that needs to be avoided and penalized. I’m not a Ham fan but didn’t see this warrant a penalty, warning yes I think that was justified. Now precedent is set that hey guys this is NOT ok to do. Now all drivers know next driver doing it I could see will get a penalty.

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