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. mvi said on 5th April 2010, 9:54

    Incidentally, what should a driver do if, in the middle of a race, the guy in front (with the fastest car on the straight) starts weaving from one side to the other on a long straight? (I’m not talking about installation laps or following a safety car.) Some have said you can ignore the weaving and choose to go straight but how safe is that unless you slow down considerably? Sounds to me like the equivalent of blocking, or maybe playing around, which is getting away from the racing.

    And what’s the desperation about breaking the tow? Is it just because the driver behind gains some speed? Or does the tow slow down the front car in open-wheel driving? Arriving at the corner will break the tow anyway.

    Sounds to me using the front car’s slipstream on the straight is a natural way to match the speed that has been gained by what the f-duct does.

    Somebody mentioned a possible difference in turbulence behind an f-duct car on the straight making it is easier to follow. Has anyone seen any articles about that?

    • Gusto said on 5th April 2010, 20:59

      I would imagine a stalled wing would give a lower rooster tail turbelance, therefore the turbulent air would settle closer/quicker to the ground for the car following, You can see the sense in all those pitot`s runs!

  2. VXR said on 5th April 2010, 11:58

    A warning was fair. But don’t do it again Lewis. Other drivers are allowed to overtake you as well! :)

    The very fact that Lewis said that he was “breaking the tow”, implied that the following car would probably have overtaken Lewis or would have attempted to overtake Lewis had he only moved once. He was lucky Herbert was the FIAs ‘special guest’ in Malaysia.

  3. Dave the rave said on 5th April 2010, 12:22

    Say what you like about Hamiltons weaving. I was sitting at the last corner from that straight and it was spectacular to watch it from behind as they sped away. And congrats to the Russian ‘rookie’ he performed well.

  4. Bernard said on 5th April 2010, 16:19

    Petrov was FOLLOWING hamilton, he was not blocked nor impeded in any way other than having to re-gain a tow.

    A great battle, unsportsmanlike? Maybe but still perfectly legit moves on each drivers part nontheless.

    • Sandman said on 5th April 2010, 16:33

      He was FOLLOWING Hamilton because Hamilton was weaving. Should he not, Petrov would probably do what he did @ lap 6.

      Anyway, we can easily drop all the “what-ifs”. What Hamilton did, for whatever reason he did it, was illegal. Wasn’t race breaking though, hence no penalty.

      • Mark Hitchcock said on 5th April 2010, 18:34

        And if he hadn’t followed Hamilton then Hamilton would not have been allowed to move across the track more than once.
        The fact that Petrov followed Ham instead of staying where he was and making a move is what makes all discussion of weaving ridiculous.

        • Sandman said on 5th April 2010, 21:05

          The way i see it, Hamilton did his dancing part to not get overtaken back, see lap 6.
          So, clearly, weaving was played to intentionally stop Petrov from overtaking. That obviously counts as more-then-one move while defending.

          • Mark Hitchcock said on 5th April 2010, 21:22

            The weaving was to brake the tow that Petrov was getting.
            Of course he was trying to avoid being overtaken. But he was doing it fairly.
            When a driver defends the inside line he’s trying to stop being overtaken. And as long as he doesn’t cut in front of the attacker’s line he’s not doing anything wrong either.

            If Hamilton had cut in front of Petrov I would be arguing with you guys that it was dangerous and against the rules.
            The reason I think it was fine is because Hamilton was moving into clear track and Petrov was following.

            I’m getting a bit tired of repeating the same simple points over and over again and I’m sure everyone else is also getting tired of me banging on about it so I’ll shut up now!

  5. Realist said on 5th April 2010, 20:00

    The partisanship displayed here is extraordinary. Half of all comments in here would fit quite in a “Lewis Hamilton rules” forum.

    Hamilton has shown a complete disregard for the safety of his fellow competitors. Not punishing him for his inappropriate behaviour will only encourage it.

    • Mark Hitchcock said on 5th April 2010, 21:14

      And the other half could be part of the “Lewis Hamilton sucks” forum…

      Anyone who looks at this incident without any bias can see how it differs from blocking. If any other driver did this the fuss would be minimal and people would be more sensible instead of trying to find someone to find something wrong with it.

      Massa’s much more dangerous blocking in Australia being completely ignored proves that.

      • Kester said on 6th April 2010, 13:25

        Agreed, after trying to discuss this with a few friends that are hardly a fan of Hamilton all seemed to be able to see the difference between braking a tow and dangerously swerving in attempt to stop someone overtake.

        Having said that, it was worth a warning, and I totally agreed with that dicision.

  6. lightmas said on 5th April 2010, 21:26

    I think the FIA don’t really want to give penalties out this year….

    For me..its a clear drive through. Petrov did have a chance to overtake, and maybe he should have stayed on his line, but thats not against the rules…he was only following Lewis who was moving way way too much. It really really surprised me when he did it. I dont remember seeing it before.

    I dont think it was a black flag thing (point came up somewhere else), a warning and a drive through would be fine..but he got away with it really and he got past Petrov earlier than he might have done.

    Quite a few people have been saying.” Ask yourself..if Shumi did it, would that change your opinion?” Wouldent change mine.

    and..”Would Lewis have defended like that on someone like Alonso or Shumi or Massa?” I say no he wouldn’t have.

  7. Ways to improve overtaking:
    Stop messing with the cars and tracks.. and simply remove Lewis Hamiltons mirrors.
    That was some of the worst sportsmanship I’ve seen in a long time.

    • ashes1991 said on 6th April 2010, 1:10

      Worst sportsmanship? Am sorry but racing is all about winning, so why on earth is Hamilton going to give Petrov or any other driver the chance to pass him?

      At the end of the day he wasn’t blocking Petrov from overtaking he was preventing him from getting in his tow!

      If Schumacher, Vettel or any other of the popular drivers did this no one would be complaining, you would all probably be hailing them saying how well they blocked the driver from overtaking!

      • ashes1991 said on 6th April 2010, 1:15

        If he blocked Petrov from overtaking like that it would be deemed dangerous because he obviously has the speed to overtake and could cause an accident if he keeps on doing it, thus breaking the rule.

        Not the same as preventing a driver from getting in his tow!

      • David A said on 6th April 2010, 1:39

        If Schumacher had done it, there’d be at least as much complaining, with people coming out of nowhere to scream “CHEAT!”, striking that point out of the ballpark. Vettel on the other hand, wouldn’t attract so much whinging.

  8. I’m not a Hamilton fan nor a hater, however I thought the move was clever, trying break the tow. It was fun to watch. Hamilton wasn’t blocking he was trying to get Petrov out of the slip stream. It was a fun game of cat and mouse. It would be nice to see more drivers engaging in battles like that, rather the standard get passed, then follow 2 seconds behind move.

  9. Ok lets try this again.. obviously my last statement did’nt make it past the moderator of this topic.. (must be a hamilton fan)

    Lets set aside the fact that all of you think you are professors in racing cars, and you sit here and argue amongst yourself with your computer keyboard’s about what you think is right and wrong about this swerving issue..

    lets take it from a spectators point of view..

    I saw someone blocking another driver from having a chance at outbraking into turn 1 (because of the additional swerve)..

    Therefore I was denied a chance to see an overtake on the track.. (which is what this motor racing is supposed to be right?)

    Isn’t this why they designed the cars to be able to be drivable within the tow? ..so we can see some outbraking into a turn?

    And again, I’ll say that was the least amount of sportsmanship I’ve seen in F1 since Fernando Alonso sat in the box while Lewis Hamilton waited to get in..

    • ashes1991 said on 6th April 2010, 10:52

      It’s racing, it is nothing like Alonso blocking Hamilton in the pits, ask your self why on earth is a driver going to let another driver by so easily, would that be fun to watch cars be let by so easy? It’s not going to be racing if a faster car lets a slower car by just to overtake it again, for the audience, when he could be going on to catch the next driver and try to overtake him, I think that would be better.

      I have no idea why people are taking this so seriously, oh yeah sorry I forgot the topics about Hamilton!

  10. charles said on 6th April 2010, 6:36

    I happy there was no penalties in these times f1 is becoming bland the last things we want to see is drivers getting punished for racing

    if they start doing this like a few years ago when penalties where giving for overtaking a driver. webber would have probably got some sort of grid drop for the little racing incident in austrailia

  11. antonyob said on 6th April 2010, 10:01

    love it, plenty of blogs on the Grand Prix – about 40–80 comments generally. “Lewis weaves” blog and its in the hundreds.

    Lewis was asking for trouble really and if Sutil had done that to him then im sure Lewis wouldve been straight on the radio. Like Alonso and Cheatmacher, the best are always looking & thinking of new ways to push the rules to the limits.

  12. warfieldF1 said on 6th April 2010, 10:31

    Oh how Mr Hamilton splits the viewers!!!!

    Personally i thought his weaving was excessive and he would be in trouble, nice to see the “referees” now excercise the full use of common sense and offer warnings where sensible. I suppose it is a bit like a referee having a word with a football player instead of just reaching immediately for the yellow card
    I thought Webbers incident in Oz was a mistake, but as he was to blame (he said so himself, he locked up)it was sensible to have a word or warning without the need for either ignoring it or slapping a fine or grid penalty.
    As far as i am aware Schumi didnt get a penalty for wheel banging the Torro Rosso in Oz either.
    These were almost cerainly the result of the driver stewards influence as was the decision not to penalise anyone in the first corner of Oz where Fernando caused an accident by turning into Button.

    Note i am not a Hamilton fan, just an avid F1 fan; lets give the drivers a bit of leeway in order to try and see some real racing in F1; and punish repeat offending or really serious issues only.

  13. antonyob said on 6th April 2010, 11:16

    seems fanboys still think there is a massive anti – Lewis brigade out there. Theres not really, well not much, even the most myopic Spanish Alonso fan would say Lewis is a class act but he did push his luck. The rules say no weaving for good reason and if you let Sundays incident go completely unchecked then drivers will use “breaking tow” to justify more dangerous examples until we end up with a serious accident. Its not touring cars, planes take off at lower speeds and open wheels make it super dangerous to touch on a straight. You cant have drivers weaving in front of rookies at 300km/h, quite simple really.

    • Bernard said on 6th April 2010, 12:47

      He wasn’t weaving, get over it – it was unsportsmanlike in that he was trying to break the tow (a vital overtaking tool at Petrovs disposal) nothing to do with blocking or weaving.

      • Bernard said on 6th April 2010, 12:52

        To clarify, I mean weaving in the braking zone, there is nothing at all to stop a driver changing line in any other situation.

  14. antonyob said on 6th April 2010, 11:52

    “It’s not why I love F1….”

    f1 has never been about drivers putting other drivers at risk, quite the reverse. When drivers were killed often in f1 it was rarely as a result of another drivers deliberate actions. Im not sure which sport you need to sate your thirst for sportsmen to have their lives put in danger but its not this one.

  15. rich said on 6th April 2010, 11:55

    So what did Petrov think of the weaving…

    “The first half of the race was great fun and I enjoyed fighting with the cars around me, especially the battle with Hamilton.”

    Seems he wasn’t too upset :)

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