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


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. Icthyes said on 4th April 2010, 15:14

    Correct decision. A bit naughty, but entirely fair by Hamilton, but not something he should be encouraged to do, hence a warning being the right penalty. At least he wasn’t weaving in the braking zones, unlike Massa in front of Webber in Australia (and there wasn’t any action for that, so at least there’s been some consistency). It looked as though Hamilton really was just trying to break the tow, and it was Petrov reacting to Hamilton’s changing of lone, not the other way around, which would of course been more of a transgression.

    Meanwhile Vettel gets away with overtaking under a yellow flag:
    Again, sensible decision, because he was lapping the Lotus and it wasn’t done dangerously. I just wonder what the uproar would have been had it been another driver? Hamilton? Schumacher? Alonso?

  2. Neil said on 4th April 2010, 15:15

    For a long time I have known exactly what the problem with stewards is – they represent the governing body and it is in their interest to make the races as ‘exciting’ as possible.

    Today was a good example of this. Hamilton clearly deserved a penalty for performing several dangerous swerves in front of Petrov. However, he didn’t receive one and there’s one reason for that.

    Had the stewards given him a penalty, we wouldn’t have seen him chasing and overtaking the cars in front. The penalty would have dropped him back in the field and we would have missed the opportunity to see this former world champion racing through the field.

    The penalties themselves can provide excitement and interesting twists to races, but in this case the excitement that a penalty for Hamilton could have created was far outweighed by the excitement of him making his way into a points paying position.

    Until we see a truly independent body of stewards, poor decisions like the one today will keep on happening.

    • David BR said on 4th April 2010, 15:57

      Yes, let’s have tedious races, nobody should dare to try bending the rules a bit. More FIA bureaucracy please!

      • macca77 said on 4th April 2010, 21:03

        So, according to you it’s okay to risk safety in the name of not having ‘tedious races’ ?. That’s nonsense.

        • David BR said on 4th April 2010, 21:27

          The question is whether Hamilton’s weaving *was* dangerous and this a safety issue. I don’t think so and I seriously doubt anyone else directly involved did.

          • Richard S said on 6th April 2010, 9:56

            He wasn’t weaving, more drifting across the track followed by an aggressive change in direction (or three). I thought it was an absolutely stunning piece of driving, both from Hamilton and Petrov – well done what a show! (but please don’t do it again)

    • wakenabeb said on 4th April 2010, 16:59

      The thing is, Hamilton was trying to move away from Petrov. Petrov followed, so Hamilton moved away again. It’s different compared to Hamilton moving in front of Petrov had Petrov moved away from behind Hamilton first. The only way a collision could happen is if Hamilton braketested him, or Petrov misjudging how close he is to Hamilton.

    • Salty said on 4th April 2010, 17:31

      It is precisely because we had race stewards who were politicos and not drivers themselves, that we did see so many poor and intrusive dicisions which interfered with the racing on track. This year every race will see ex-F1 drivers joining the 3 race stewards to give a realistic drivers opinion. Thus today’s good decision.

      There was nothing dangerous about Hamilton trying to break the slipstream tow. Petrov wasn’t pulling alongside Hamilton and they weren’t passing any other cars. Over-zealous stewarding was deciding races off the track instead of letting the drivers race. Today we saw a good example of the reversal of this trend.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th April 2010, 22:37

      For a long time I have known exactly what the problem with stewards is – they represent the governing body and it is in their interest to make the races as ‘exciting’ as possible.

      I don’t think there’s a serious amount of evidence to support that. On the other hand, look at the races and Spa and Fuji in ’08 and you have plenty of evidence the stewards do the exact opposite.

      • Richard S said on 6th April 2010, 10:03

        Historically some of the decisions made by the stewards have made them look like they were just pompous, overbearing, nincompoops drunk from the success of rising to the frothy top of the club hierachy. The antithesis of Johhny Herbert in fact.

        Thank god that era is over then…..and good riddance to it (and him – you know who).

  3. slr said on 4th April 2010, 15:18

    I think that’s a good decision. Don’t know why I think that, but I just do.

  4. bobo said on 4th April 2010, 15:24

    “drivers may now think they can expect to get away with one act of weaving per race with just a warning.”

    This is my only concern.

    • Tim said on 4th April 2010, 21:42

      I don’t think the decision to issue a warning rather than a penalty is a free pass to do this once a race. If a driver receives a warning about poor driving then continues to drive in that manner a penalty is then on the agenda. And I’d expect the stewards to consider driver behaviour over the balance of a season, not just race to race.

  5. Chris said on 4th April 2010, 15:25

    I think Martin Brundle on the BBC got it right: Hamilton wasn’t blocking Petrov so nothing should have been said or done. Petrov wasn’t making an attempt to pass, therefore Hamilton was well within his rights to try and ‘break the tow’. Had we seen Petrov jink out behind Hamilton and Hamilton following suit, then Petrov jinking the other way and Haliton moving again, then, yes, that would have been one move too many. This case clearly had Petrov reacting to Hamilton, not the other way around.

    • pSynrg said on 4th April 2010, 15:52

      “This case clearly had Petrov reacting to Hamilton, not the other way around.”


      • James Alias said on 4th April 2010, 18:41

        Great cheeky move by Petrov though, I’m beginning to like him already! ;)

        • sam said on 5th April 2010, 0:16

          spot on, the first respectable decision by the stewards in years :)

          more fuel for the blind hamilton haters that can’t see he’s the most exciting of the top team drivers out there :P

    • Kirk said on 6th April 2010, 4:16

      If Petrov wasn’t attempting to pass then why was he desperately trying to stay in the slipstream?

      A pass encompasses more than just driving around a competitor – it is getting a better exit from a corner, closely following a rival out of the corner, and then gaining track position before or into the following corner.

      Lewis going out of his way (swerving is not optimal) solely with the intention of disrupting the tow (i.e. interfering with the pass) is definitely unsportsmanlike. Which is why he got the unsportsmanlike flag.

  6. 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!

  7. 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! :-)

  8. 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.

  9. 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?

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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!

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

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