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. ConcedoNulli said on 4th April 2010, 17:57

    If that is the rule so be it… but “breaking the tow” is still blocking. The following driver has done the hard work of getting into the dirty air of the leading driver and so deserves his overtaking opportunity. I say ban all blocking/weaving/”one defensive moves”, and we’ll have a lot more overtaking.

    • Salty said on 4th April 2010, 21:09

      A lot more overtaking, but not real racing. These guys have been racing, that is catching a tow, jinking, wrong footing and out driving the opponent, since they were kids. They know how to deal with it a lot better than the stuffed shirts who get to steward these races. Let them race. This is a race track, not our town center. We need to promote real racing, not more legislation.

  2. both Hamilton and Vettel decisions are ok to me.

    Hamilton trying to avoid giving Petrov slipstream (that’s not blocking, that’s being stupid to let the other pass).

    Next briefing it’ll be discussed. If accepted, we’ll never see again another pass in F1. If not, that’s accepting the aerodinamics are so terrible that they must collaborate to gest past.

    Vettel is another case of Hungary 2006 free practice Schumacher penalty, with the other racer running so slow it could only overtake him.
    Fortunately somebody with some brains was deciding the penalties today.

  3. gazzap said on 4th April 2010, 18:11

    What did Hamitlon do wrong??? He was in front. Petrov didn’t have to follow him. Petrov hadn’t made a move to overtake. If petrov had moved out at any point to be side by side then of course you cant weave in front of him. I hate the way good driving is again and again supressed. what a shame he even got a black and white flag – he should be praised for quick thinking.

  4. Antonio said on 4th April 2010, 18:25

    So then, all the other 99,9% of drivers with a f1 license (with a 7 time world champion among them) are stupid for not weaving 4 times when they have another car behind them in the main straight?

    • David BR said on 4th April 2010, 18:33

      Oh get real. So a 7 times world champ parking his car on the track during qualifying has never thought of testing the rules? Or Alonso making regular use of run-off to motor past rivals (Spa being a favourite)? Some tricks turn out OK, others not so (Schumacher’s being a case in point – stopping anyone else from actually driving being an extreme interpretation of ‘reule beinding’ some might argue!)

      Stick to the point at hand.

      • macca77 said on 4th April 2010, 21:14

        Nice way to try to trash a fair question, Antonio is saying that nobody else was doing that kind of weaving in THIS gp (2010).

        Schumacher was penalized when he did that in Monaco btw.

        Antonio was sticking to the point IMO.

        • David BR said on 4th April 2010, 21:31

          No that’s not what he was saying IMO.

          • Mike said on 6th April 2010, 6:29

            David, read it again,

            Would you like to see this happen every single time one car tries to use the slipstream of the car ahead?

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th April 2010, 20:56

      So then, all the other 99,9% of drivers…are stupid for not weaving

      I can’t imagine what made you think that was my point.

      • Hotbottoms said on 4th April 2010, 23:06

        I don’t think Antonio was refering to your article but to the discussion and the argument that “Hamilton is just thinking out of the box” in general :)

        • Realist said on 5th April 2010, 5:24

          Stealing is acquiring property through “out of the box” methods, then…

          Hamilton was clearly protected by the stewards. There’s no other interpretation, there’s no way around this.

          The point at hand is simple: there are rules and rules exist to be followed, not to be tested or broken. If you want weaving to be legal, making Hamilton the ultimate “moving chicane”, then push for a change of rules.

          • Hotbottoms said on 5th April 2010, 9:38

            I think you misunderstood my comment, I was just clearing Antonio’s comment. If you read my other comments in this thread, you’ll notice that I agree with you.

  5. Rohan said on 4th April 2010, 18:26

    Well, Renault have lodged a complaint according to here http://f1.gpupdate.net/en/formula-1-news/231837/renault-complain-about-hamilton-weaving/

    Let’s hope this gets taken further.

    • James_mc said on 5th April 2010, 0:20

      Ooh that is what F1 has been missing recently; a race decided after the podium ceremony. Excellent idea to improve the show, this should be adopted in all races I think. Let’s spice it up a bit and say that penalties are dished out to ensure a 1-2-3-4-5-6 finish of new teams. :-)

      • Rohan said on 5th April 2010, 11:22

        So you’d willingly accept miscarriages of justice just so the results of the race wouldn’t be changed once the race has finished? Good thinking!

        • James_mc said on 5th April 2010, 12:54

          No, that’s not what I said. My statement implied unnecessary interference post-race. In this case; unnecessary.

          • Mike said on 6th April 2010, 6:37

            You may have noticed from my other post that I strongly believe the black and white flag was justified, But a drive through would have been excessive, and a penalty post race? unthinkable.

    • David A said on 5th April 2010, 2:32

      At least Renault are making a late attempt at an April fool.

  6. Antonio said on 4th April 2010, 18:27

    That should had happened on a Xbox game, not a real race.

  7. Steve said on 4th April 2010, 18:38

    If he was blocking then why was petrov clearly following him back and forth across the track? Of couse Hamilton was trying to break the tow. It is absurd he even got a warning.

  8. matt88 said on 4th April 2010, 18:52

    Jean Alesi said that that move deserved a drive through penalty.

  9. Towerade said on 4th April 2010, 18:53

    Sporting regulations (Art. 16.1)

    “Incident” means any occurrence or series of occurrences involving one or more drivers, or any action by
    any driver, which is reported to the stewards by the race director (or noted by the stewards and referred to
    the race director for investigation) which :

    -illegitimately prevented a legitimate overtaking manoeuvre by a driver

  10. Captain Caveman said on 4th April 2010, 19:03

    I may have my dates wrong and my analogy could be regarded as weak, but was there not a precedent in 2006 in Monza when Alonso was penalised for affecting the turbulance/tow in qualifying when ahead of the Massa ferrari. ( which was rubbish in my view)

    I appreciate it is very very weak, but if it was regarded as something that could be penalized a few years ago, then it goes to show it should apply now. ( at least if they want to be consistent,

    Personally i felt it was fair enough today, as Petrov seemed to be following, so i am not looking to be seen as putting down lewis, as i was genuinely enthralled during that part of the race.

    • Tim said on 4th April 2010, 22:01

      I agree with you about the Monza 2006 penalty – but would you prefer the stewards to make consistently bad decisions or inconsistently good ones?

  11. gazzap said on 4th April 2010, 19:06

    I haven’t read any comments from Petrov but I am pretty sure if asked he would say that Hamilton did absolutely nothing untoward. It was his decision to follow him inch for inch.

    • James_mc said on 5th April 2010, 0:35

      He said that he enjoyed it. Eric Boullier said it was “an exciting battle”. clearly they forgot in the post-race excitement that they’d clearly been robbed by that dastardly cheating Englishman….

  12. gazzap said on 4th April 2010, 19:10

    Certain drivers past and present have an agenda against both Mclaren and Lewis so you cant always take an opinion of a driver as being fair. I have no idea what the relationship between Petrov and Lewis is like. If its good Petrov wont complain I am sure of that.

  13. Captain Caveman said on 4th April 2010, 19:13

    @ Gazzap, a good point, although i would add that some teams have issues with others.

    i.e Renault complaining heavily about the legality of F-wing when it was deemed legal by the authorities. Renault were not happy…..

    I can imagine that petrov my just be a pawn on this issue.

  14. Chip said on 4th April 2010, 19:17

    I hope Renault get their protest thrown out. I think it’s about time that protests were banned. Results should stand at the end, no further arguing allowed. Stupid decisions by stewards made a mockery of race results over the last few seasons, both during and after races. Let’s leave it on the track. Done and dusted.
    If we have to have protests there should be potential comeback on both sides. If the protesting teams argument is upheld the infringing driver is penalised, if not the protesting team should be penalised, make em think twice.

    • David BR said on 4th April 2010, 20:50

      I think Renault should keep very, very quiet for the next, what? 20 years while we all forget Singapore 2008.

    • Tim said on 4th April 2010, 22:07

      Renault haven’t made a protest – the team boss mentioned he was unhappy with Hamilton’s driving but hasn’t lodged an offical protest.

      Leave it on track? But what happens if someone wins a race in an illegal car? In a sport as technologically sophisticated as F1, results will always be provisional until cars can be inspected after the race.

      Ban protests? So anyone who feels a decision was unfair has no comeback? Sounds a bit iffy to me.

      There has been at least one example of a protesting team being punished – Jordan protested Eddie Irvine’s one race ban in 1994 and got it increased to a three race ban.

      • Patrickl said on 4th April 2010, 22:59

        Maybe not a protest, but apparently a complaint that Hamilton “blocked” Petrov. Which is absolutely absurd. he didn’t block Petrov, he tried to get Petrov in clean air. It’s quite the opposite.

  15. Lawrence Southern said on 4th April 2010, 19:28

    I think Hamilton could consider himself lucky to a certain extent with this move.

    The ‘one move’ rule is NOT unwritten, it is quite clearly written in the International Sporting Code, Appendix L, Chapter IV, article 2.b):

    “2. Overtaking, car control and track limits

    b) Overtaking, according to the circumstances, may be carried out on either the right or the left.

    However, manoeuvres liable to hinder other drivers, such more than one change of direction to defend a position, deliberate crowding of a car beyond the edge of the track or any other abnormal change of direction, are strictly prohibited.”

    The fact that Hamilton was not strictly blocking the Renault is irrevelant – the rule does not state anything about blocking necessarily (although, of course, weaving/blocking can be very dangerous and is therefore governed in other sections of the rules) – it says that more than one *change of direction* to ‘defend a position’ is ‘strictly prohibited’. And I think it’s hard to argue that weaving across the track four times to disrupt slipstreaming is not an attempt to defend your position. Further, the part that states that ‘any abnormal change of direction’ is prohibited pretty much has this move covered.

    I think we simply need to think about any other instance of slipstreaming in F1 to see that the drivers understand that weaving around the track repeatedly to disrupt a tow is not acceptable; and that the ‘one move’ rule clearly applies here.

    As it was, the stewards didn’t consider this to be an Incident (as defined in Article 16.2 of the Sporting Regulations) worthy of formal investigation and decided to go for the safe (perhaps sensible?) option of using the flag system to warn Lewis about unsporting behaviour.

    Indeed, I think this is technically shown on the request of the clerk of the course, not the stewards – Appendix H of the International Sporting Code, 2.4.4.

    Had the stewards investigated it as an Incident, they would have had to either punish him with a drive-through or stop and go and, whilst this may *technically* have been the correct option to go with, sense has prevailed in this case. It would have ruined a good ending to the race (although seeing Hamilton having to pass a bunch of cars again would have been fun!)

    Conclusion: technically speaking, a rule breach which could have been punished quite severely, but in the end, perhaps the most sensible option was taken.

    Given that I think drivers already knew this kind of move was not allowed (hell, even Lewis must have, I can’t recall him ever trying it before!), the warning will probably suffice to prevent a repeat.

    • Salty said on 4th April 2010, 21:35

      Okay…

      “However, manoeuvres liable to hinder other drivers,”

      Petrov was not within striking distance, so was not hindered. Do you think his telemetry will show him having to lift? Hamilton moved Petrov followed – flat out I’m sure.

      “such more than one change of direction to defend a position, deliberate crowding of a car beyond the edge of the track”

      Hamilton wasn’t defending as Petrov wasn’t moving out on him. Hamilton positioned his car, Petrov decided to follow. If Hamilton was weaving to stop Petrov getting alongside, thus threatening to put him off the circuit, then fine, but he didn’t. Hamilton and planted his car in the middle before they hit the braking zone. Most recent case of “deliberate crowding of a car beyond the edge of the track” was actually Alonso on Button at Melbourne last weekend. Although Kimi at Spa on Lewis also fits that category.

      “or any other abnormal change of direction, are strictly prohibited”

      Weaving to warm tyres? Vettel’s exuberant weaving across start/finish today? Any car going off the racing line? Cornering? Ban overtaking perhaps. This is a rule that indicates, if taken literally, that if a driver doesn’t drive processionally, if he shows any flair or tries to ‘improve the show’ he’s gonna get punished.

      We want and need passionate racing. Stop trying surpress it.

      The move was one of the highlights of the race today and expect it will be on shorts of this race, and the season, for years to come.

      • polishboy808 said on 4th April 2010, 22:00

        Salty, are you crazy? Hindering. If petrov wanted to draft, and he weaved four times, i’m quite sure thats hindering. Your last two examples are very poor. Weaving to warm tyres? Really? Yes that should be done before the start, but unless any other car is there, it is legal. Same thing with vettles “exuberant” weaving. Cornering? WHAT! You use cornering as an example of abnormal change in direction!? Highlights of the race….. What, do you watch F1 just for controversy?

        • Salty said on 4th April 2010, 23:19

          Crazy – somewhat. Was trying to make a point that racing cannot and should not be defined by bureaucrats. This rule is hampering racing. All the examples I provided could be cited by an over-zealous steward.

          Let me turn this on it’s head for you.

          You are driving a car with your butt 6 inches off the ground at 200 miles an hour at 50°C. You need to get past another guy doing the same thing. You pass. He gets back because you weren’t aggressive enough to negate his response. So you sweat round another 4 miles, he loses it wide, you dive through. He’s trying to get in your slip. Do you in 4 seconds down the Sepang main straight;

          A. Cover your postion. LOL. He’s trying hard. Yep, still there. Okay hangon. Position. Brake. YESSS!!!

          B. Recall International Sporting Code, Appendix L, Chapter IV, article 2.b and know that you STILL have not ‘shut the door’

          • Lawrence Southern said on 5th April 2010, 17:42

            To keep it short and simple:

            1. Yes, the move hindered Petrov. If Hamilton made the one allowed move to the inside and had Petrov on his gearbox down the straight, Petrov would have been in a position to overtake into the corner.

            2. Hamilton *was* defending his position. He didn’t take this line on any other lap, did he? The only reason for him to weave was, as he readily states, to break the tow. This is done to defend his position from attack, clearly. Hamilton got on the radio to say something along the lines of “I wasn’t weaving to block him, but to break the tow” – so he clearly thought this was fine. To put it plain – he obviously isn’t aware of what he is and isn’t allowed to do on the track as defined in the ISC!

            3. Weaving to warm the tires would not be covered by the ‘any abnormal change of direction’ element because weaving to warm the tires is not liable to hinder other competitors. Cornering…well…if it isn’t obvious why this is not an issue, just think about it. The drivers are expected to take the corner – it is not an ABnormal change of direction.

            To repeat some other important points:

            – Every other driver until now (including Lewis!) seems to know that this move would not be acceptable – I certainly can’t recall anything like it before.

            – I don’t think it would have been a good decision to bring Hamilton in for a drive through despite the rules technically saying it should have been so. He was always going to win the fight against Petrov whether that lap or the next. This warning should suffice to let him and the others know that the move is not allowed and, in future, will be punished more severely.

            – Clarifying that this is not allowed will not decrease overtaking – as I said, I can’t recall anyone else defending like this before. Allowing ridiculous weaving like that prevents the following driver from attacking and would DECREASE overtaking. Only allowing one move means that the following driver will have the chance to line the guy ahead up for a pass. This is ideal.

        • I think he was joking lad… calm down

    • What Is “abnormal” about trying to break the tow by moving from side to side – it’s been happening for years in most forms of motor sport so is not abnormal surely?

    • Rodrigo V said on 5th April 2010, 23:08

      @Lawrence Southern

      This kind of response is what makes it worth digging into a thread with “Lewis Hamilton” on the title. You have my respect.

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