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

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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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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…

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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…

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. Bud said on 4th April 2010, 17:17

    Non issue, let them race, and race Hamilton does.
    I smell the stench of political correctness in some of the comments here… “lesser competitor”… “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.”
    How many races have the ‘governing bodies’ already messed up with their all seeing wisdom?
    Petrov was following…..and obviously slower.

  12. FLIG said on 4th April 2010, 17:18

    I don’t even think the main problem here is if there were illegal moves or not. Some people already mentioned it; what Hamilton did was unsportsmanlike. For me, not because it was illegal, but because he was probably making fun of Petrov. That move, the way I saw it, that was Hamilton hurt for having passed Massa, Alonso and Button “easily” to get there and have a comeback from the russian rookie. Then he went right and left and back again, almost like saying “I’ve got my McLaren here, dude, try to follow it! Or will you try to stay straight? Ahn? Ahn? Where am I now? Gone…”.
    Great driving; the most exciting moment of the race, in my opinion, also because Petrov did a hell of a job in the first attempt. But Hamilton is not exactly a gentleman.

    • David BR said on 4th April 2010, 17:51

      What relevance have your personal projections concerning Hamilton’s character got to do with F1 regulations? The issue with weaving is safety. If LH wasn’t a risk to anyone and on-track, any outside intervention strikes me as over-regulation.

      ‘Hamilton is not exactly a gentleman.’ I wonder why that makes you sound like a 19th century colonialst?

      • FLIG said on 4th April 2010, 19:52

        “‘Hamilton is not exactly a gentleman.’ I wonder why that makes you sound like a 19th century colonialst?”

        Well, that’s just because some people are always eager to jump to stupid conclusions and start arguments on the internet.

        I’m just saying I THINK it was not nice of Hamilton to do it, and if I were to be right, I think Petrov would be much more offended with that than “weaving in break zones” or stuff like that.

        • David BR said on 4th April 2010, 20:35

          Well that was precisely my point: jumping to stupid conclusions is precisely what *you’re* doing by interpreting Hamilton’s racing in an entirely personal and negative why. How does it feel?

          • FLIG said on 5th April 2010, 0:15

            Feels quite ok. I just jumped to stupid conclusions as everyone else here (some of you are getting the right ones, of course), I’m not trying to start arguments.
            Cool man, you don’t agree with me. And Hamilton doesn’t care, really, so why should you?
            Anyway, it’s just a way of seeing the more humane side of the whole thing. We all know it’s not really just those smiles and photos they take together after they’ve raced each other.

          • David BR said on 5th April 2010, 0:46

            Fair enough FLIG. I still think the answer’s more practical, though: he was weaving to shake off Petrov. Winding other drivers up unnecessarily is never a good idea (not that Hamilton hasn’t indeed done that in the past) since you’re certain to come across them on the track in the next race or so. And they *never* forget.

    • wakenabeb said on 4th April 2010, 17:52

      I doubt that’s the case. It’s probably more of the opposite where Hamilton probably game Petrov some respect, knowing that he is perfectly capable of passing him if he continued to let him drive in the slipstream. The only way a collision could happen is if Hamilton braketested him, or Petrov misjudging how close he is to Hamilton. Not illegal, not dangerous, not unsportsman like.

  13. Rohan said on 4th April 2010, 17:43

    I’m sorry Keith, but that’s rubbish. Hamilton weaved back and forth more than twice and it was clearly dangerous driving. It’s what I’ve come to expect from the hoon.

  14. Peter said on 4th April 2010, 17:49

    Well Petrov did the same (only 2 changes not 3) on the back straight one corner earlier and still nobody talks about that…

    • Hotbottoms said on 4th April 2010, 20:24

      I believe drivers are allowed to change side once and then back. So technically that’s two times. Correct me if I’m wrong.

      (Having said that, I can’t recall the episode you described so I don’t know if that was the case).

  15. Antonio said on 4th April 2010, 17:52

    So, if we put today a rule about speaking to the team through the radio and tell all the drivers; we should penalise the second driver that does it leaving the first one with hos promise not to doit again,or should we start with a penalty from the first one who breaks the law?

    I just cant understand how you get to fool yourselves,
    he is a liar and no gentleman

    • JerseyF1 said on 4th April 2010, 18:04

      The point is that there has never been such a rule. Had a rule been broken, fair point, but no such rule exists so how can you penalise any driver for breaking it?

      • Mike said on 6th April 2010, 6:20

        I’m sure dangerous driving is mentioned and I’m sure there is a clause that says the stewards may improvise at the time…

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