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

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  1. Platine said on 6th April 2010, 13:19

    There is a huge difference, in my eyes, between breaking the tow and blocking.

    I think breaking the tow is skillful and cunning, not unsportsmanlike, and the sight of LH weaving left and right was one of the best bits of the race. By breaking the tow LH was actually avoiding NPs path, not blocking it, NP followed his path.

    Blocking is totally different, trailing car is quicker and on its way past and defender blocks its path, clearly a very different scenario.

    How can there be no defined rule on what is allowed? “One move” is pretty vague too.

  2. Ex F1 pilot Johnny Herbert (R S)gave L H the black an white…well i can’t wait for Schumacher to get on the pole an handout a start line chop …

  3. antonyob said on 6th April 2010, 13:30

    “i can’t wait for Schumacher to get on the pole an handout a start line chop …”

    you may have to wait and wait and wait. Has anyone asked MS if he is actually RS with a false chin?

  4. Pablo Castel said on 6th April 2010, 14:04

    Do you imagine the next pole in China doing the same in the first lap?
    Someone tells me, Mark Webber is repeating that movement for the future, and maybe with his teamate…

    • Patrickl said on 6th April 2010, 16:53

      We have seen the same thing happening in every race this season so far.

      Alonso already did it to Massa in Bahrein and Button did it to Alonso in Australia.

      The both simply braked too late and too the line.

  5. judo chop said on 6th April 2010, 17:57

    What a load of rubbish race fans are willing to write! Since when is Hamilton or any driver obliged to give a following driver a tow? No one was saying anything of the kind before sunday’s race. Besides which if a supposed aerodynamic tow is now so important than why all the talk over the last few years about F1 cars being hard to follow and the need to reduce the effects of “dirty air”? So now it’s a disadvantage to follow a car closely except when you follow Hamilton’s car whereby you conversely gain an advantage.

  6. My opinion is that established racers have a prerogative over the new ones, which is a shame, since they cannot make a name for themselves quicker.
    Petrov showed he has skill, if he had done Hamster in that maneuver, he would have taken another scalp, and in F1 they do not come more often than that.
    F1 is troubled by lack of passing, and making it harder for the new guys is not what F1 needs.
    It is 100% guaranteed Petrov would have been punished for a similar move.

  7. Chris said on 7th April 2010, 4:04

    Clearly Hamilton was just trying to get some heat into his tyres.. Don’t know what all the fuss is about ;-) jk guys

  8. antonyob said on 7th April 2010, 8:59

    judo chop. you should be careful what you write before you say everyones comments are rubbish.

    this is a bit 11+ but dirty air isnt really a problem on straights, hot air might be for the engine cooling on a hot track but not dirty air, thats just a problem on fast and medium fast corners. Getting a tow still reels in the car in front. Lewis wasnt obliged to give him a tow but he is obliged not to drive dangerously, its F1 not touring.

    i stood on the bridge at eau rouge last season and you truly appreciate their pace and ferociousness, telly makes it a bit anaemic but in the flesh, at 180mph cars weaving all over the shop to “break tow” would certainly be daft in the extreme

    • judo chop said on 7th April 2010, 17:49

      I never said “everyones comment are rubbish”. Though I do believe it’s fair to say that comments claiming, as some have, that Lewis is oblige to give Petrov a tow are.

      “a bit 11 +”? If it’s as simple as you write then how come Petrov was the only one hogging a car’s tailgate in this way? Playing caravan to Lewis’s Volvo. Most overtaking moves on long straights involves blasting past on straight line speed and/or out braking the car in front. Old school slipstreaming has gone the way of the Dodo. Look at the the back and forth battle between Button, Massa and Alonso. No tailgating there.

      “Getting a tow still reels in the car in front”. Petrov already had him reeled in from the beginning of the straight. I believe he had it in mind that the best way to pass was to stick as close as possible and then make his move but when Hamilton started weaving he was too concerned with sticking close than actually passing him.

  9. Chaz said on 12th April 2010, 15:45

    I don’t thinl Lewis did anything wrong. The stewards were a little harsh but I understand they needed to tell Lewis they were watching him closely. Indeed its obvious to most Lewis was trying to “break the tow” and not block him. He made long slow sweeping meadering moves and Petrov chose to closely follow him on those moves instead of just trying to grunt past or outbreak him driving his own race. Thats not Lewis’s fault.

    The furor is because its Lewis of course. As the media like to say he is a polarizing driver. If it were Schumacher I expect fists would be waving from many. But if it were a smaller minow, then most would be back slapping each other and whooping a great tactical manoever by a driver.

    I hope the same common sense approach by the stewards continues.

  10. bx said on 1st May 2010, 5:02

    I just saw what matt90 replied as an example of ‘breaking the tow’ and it’s more of an example of a poor attempt at ‘blocking’ by Kimi on Klein rather than ‘breaking a tow’.

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