A move too far: Schumacher forces stewards to take a stand

CommentPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Michael Schumacher, Mercedes, Hungaroring, 2010

There was only one thing more shocking than Michael Schumacher’s move on Rubens Barrichello in the closing stages of the Hungarian Grand Prix.

It was the announcement a few hours later that he was being punished for it.

Previously it seemed drivers could do what they liked to defend position. Yesterday’s decision will hopefully set a new precedent for a better standard of driving in motor racing.

Time and again we have seen drivers make questionable defensive moves that have gone unpunished. It would be wrong to say Schumacher invented such driving, but many of the most shocking examples bear his name.

Yesterday’s attempt to intimidate Rubens Barrichello was straight out of the Schumacher playbook. He did much the same to Mika Hakkinen at Spa ten years ago, only on that occasion the track was bordered by grass and not a solid wall.

He dished out the same to his brother the following year and did it again to Fernando Alonso at Silverstone in 2003. The stewards turned a blind eye every time.

It’s scarcely surprising that drivers who wanted to beat Schumacher chose to do so by adopting his tactics. After all, it was clear the stewards weren’t going to stop them.

But we’ve rarely seen other drivers be quite as uncompromising at high speed as Schumacher. Remember how Mark Webber defended his position from Felipe Massa at Fuji two years ago:

Robust stuff and, like Schumacher on Sunday, Webber continued to move towards Massa even as the Ferrari drew alongside. The difference was that as Massa had already cleared the end of the pit lane he was not pinned up again a barrier as Webber leaned on him.

Schumacher said today he accepts the stewards’ decision. They have set a potentially significant precedent by punishing him, one that could force him and other drivers to be more restrained in similar situations in the future.

This is good news for two reasons. It’s clearly better from the point of view of safety. The crash in the Superleague Formula race at Brands Hatch this weekend showed the violent accidents that can happen when drivers veer towards each other during overtaking moves:

Driver Chris van der Drift, who was sent skywards by Julien Jousse, suffered a broken ankle and other minor injuries.

Clamping down on this sort of driving may also help encourage overtaking, as defending drivers know they mustn’t go too far in their efforts to keep an attacking driver behind.

The stewards – bolstered this year by the long-overdue inclusion of former racing drivers – deserve applause for taking a stand against reckless and dangerous driving such as this.

But the policing of driving standards in Formula 1 remains unsatisfactory, largely because so little of it is spelled out in the regulations. Schumacher was punished for “illegitimately preventing a legitimate overtaking manoeuvre”. But there are many questionable things drivers may do to keep rivals behind which are not considered “illegitimate”.

For example, pushing a rival clean off the track is allowed. We saw that when Robert Kubica did it to Fernando Alonso at Silverstone this year, and when Kimi R??ikk??nen did to Lewis Hamilton at Spa two years ago, to name just two particularly memorable examples.

And the rules about respecting the track’s limits make no sense at all, based on recent precedents.

Drivers may gain an advantage by going off the track on the outside of a corner (as Schumacher did at the start last weekend and as R??ikk??nen did at Spa last year) and they may cut corners when a rival is trying to overtake them to keep position (Schumacher defending in Canada this year).

But they may not gain a position by going off the track on the inside of the corner (Alonso at Silverstone this year) nor if both cars go off the track (Webber and Alonso at Singapore last year).

These are clear double standards. Either a driver is allowed to go off the track and gain an advantage or he isn’t. It shouldn’t matter whether they’re on the inside or outside of a corner.

There have been some improvements in the quality of stewarding this year, particularly as we have seen fewer penalties for minor infractions – a welcome relief after the excessively punishment-prone stewarding in recent years.

And I was impressed that the stewards intervened over Schumacher’s driving this weekend as it’s the sort of dangerous move they’ve turned a blind eye to too often in the past.

But a re-thinking of the rules of engagement is still needed to make racing fair between the drivers and clear for the fans to understand.

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219 comments on “A move too far: Schumacher forces stewards to take a stand”

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  1. Schumacher just went over the line. In a big way. Nothing more. The stewards haven’t changed their position on anything.

    Indeed the fact that Kubica was allowed to push Alonso off track while defending his line in Silverstone showed this.

  2. Kinda start to like the Indycar rule that prevents blocking and defending your position. You stick to race line and that is it. On some road tracks they on specific corners specify “lanes” where you can only take the inside lane if your overtaking to prevent defending issues. Gives lot of overtaking and action. Sure all car are spec with their own individual setups. There are numerous hundreds of thousands different setup choices (combination’s) that can be done on the car and each driver and team do their own setup work.

    1. Yes, it’s like watching slot cars zip around their little lanes. What exactly is a pass if the driver ahead is bound by rule to let the guy behind drive up the inside at his leisure? Even with this contrivance IRL drivers can’t resist slamming into each other with all four wheels locked or slamming the door way too late. Did you see Toronto? It looked like a kids kart race.

  3. Forget all rules and all the discussions about them. Just take a look at the second video above – it is exciting, man. Schumacher vs Hakkinen, Prost vs Piquet, Senna… If these guys were in place of Massa in that race, they would have said to engineer: “Of course he is faster than me, so what is preventing him from overtaking me?” hahaha…

    1. Yes, it is very interesting, I assume Massa, from your point of view, would say the same thing to Kimi at Interlagos when Kimi overtook him (easyly) to win the championship, or Kovalainen to Lewis when he did the same thing or etc. etc.
      Come on, Doy you really think it does not happen every time (“Save fuel! Button”).

      1. Kimi overtook Massa by putting in a batch of FLs after Massa pitted.

        Whilst Massa probably would have let him past for the WDC (which you’d hope would be a gentleman’s agreement between the drivers rather than coming down to team orders), that’s not what happened.

    2. Like Barrichello did when Button claimed he was 2 seconds faster:

      Shows exactly what the difference is between simply telling a driver that his team mate is faster and the way Ferrari said it to Massa.

  4. @Keith
    “For example, pushing a rival clean off the track is allowed.”

    Good point.

    “Drivers may gain an advantage by going off the track on the outside of a corner (as Schumacher did at the start last weekend and as Räikkönen did at Spa last year) and they may cut corners when a rival is trying to overtake them to keep position (Schumacher defending in Canada this year).”

    Although you keep referring to Schumacher, which is fair enough given that this is an article about him, I can think of at least 10 other drivers who have done this more so than Schumacher. Cutting corners especially.

    1. From Keith’s article i gain he is in no way saying there’s not a whole bunch of others doing questioable moves, using only a few examples to show there is not much their not allowed to do.
      That is exactly the point of the artickle, as it states this is the first time the defender is penalized for a move and it might help in curbing the overagressive defending we have seen in the last years.

    2. Well name them then. The only driver I can come up with who got warned for cutting corners is Massa (Monaco)

    3. I can think of at least 10 other drivers who have done this more so than Schumacher.

      Please do. Schumacher at Canada this year was the first one that came to mind. I remember Ralf Schumacher doing it a lot at Suzuka once when he was with Williams but I’m not sure if it was while he was defending a position.

  5. I’m glad you addressed the fact that many drivers seem to be going off track more and more while gaining a position. Personally, I’m already irritated that so many corners have the tarmac which leaves mistakes unpunished. SOMETHING needs to be there to deter going “out of bounds,” otherwise you get things like Silverstone’s new Club corner. I don’t wish to see drivers wreck, but the thrill and challenge seems to be less when there’s nothing more than a few tenths lost for going wide.

    I DIGRESS, I got off topic. I did notice Schumacher going wide at the start of Hungary and many drivers going wide at the start of Germany. But because it’s chaos, it’s hard to dish out punishments. I’m not sure what they can do because there’s surely other parts of the race that need to be focused on rather than spending hours going over the start to see who gained illegally. But, this is also argument for what I spoke of before: that there needs to be a greater deterrent for leaving the track. Something immediate and not necessarily damaging, but certainly effective in slowing the driver. I know time and time again, Paul Ricard is brought up for it’s abrasive run-offs. Maybe that should be looked into?

    1. weren’t the drivers told before the race that they could use the runoff area first corner on the first lap?
      Sliverstone and here in Hungary.
      that was what i heard correct me if im wrong.

  6. Apparently Schumacher words:

    “Yesterday, right after the race, I was still in the heat of the action, but now I’ve watched the moment with Rubens again I must say that the stewards are right with their assessment.”

    “The manoeuvre against him was too hard. I certainly wanted to make it hard for him to pass and I also clearly showed him that I did not want to give up the inside line, but I didn’t wish to put him in any danger with my manoeuvre.

    “If he feels that I did, then I’m sorry because that was not my intention.”

  7. I love the way everyones banging on about shuey senna did much more dangerous things in cars that were not half as safe as they are now but everyone says he was the best driver of all time. The only thing a drivers thinking about is winning not I could kill someone if they did they would never make any sort of move.the fact is racing at that speed is dangerous and always will be even if you replace them with robots. Without the near misses and the danger we wouldn’t watch. Ps Becken Lima schumacher isn’t the STIG.

    1. Jraybay-HamiltonMclarenfan
      3rd August 2010, 0:55

      Senna was a great clean blocker he wouldnt turn into somebody who is half a car lengths beside him. What are you on about?

      1. What? Senna is probably the most famous after Schumacher for dirty driving.

        1. You must be one of these 20 year old guys here that never really saw Senna race. Senna was so admired because he won through raw talent. Mansell was much more hot headed at those days, not malicious, just hot headed.
          Prost crashed on Senna on purpose in Suzuka 1989 and Senna, for the disappointment of many, did somewhat the same the next year. That tells it all, he had never done that, he didn’t need it. He knew how to win and how to lose, as his years with weaker cars show.
          Martin Brundle was the ‘best of the rest’ in F3 when he raced Senna. You can’t compare 1980 F3 with current F1, just look at the enormously stupid moves we see in some access categories.

          1. I’m glad someone pointed this out. All I hear these days is “Senna and Schumacher” this and “Senna and Schumacher” that. As if they drove the same way, or had the same mentality.

            Senna did a couple of things I wouldn’t defend. I would never defend Japan 1990 because two wrongs don’t make a right. He was fouled by Prost in ’89 to seal the WDC, wrongly persecuted by Balestre for it and then screwed again when Balestre personally intervened to make sure that Senna’s pole would be on the dirty side for the start in Suzuka 1990 (only after Senna had already won the pole and it had been offically agreed it would be on the clean side). All of this was wrong, horribly wrong, and I sincerely hope that Balestre’s death was an uncomfortable one. But I still say, and always said, that Senna should not have taken Prost out at turn 1, because two wrongs don’t make a right, and there are wider consequences.

            All this was a far cry, and way, way different a situation to Michael on Barrichello on Sunday, or Rascasse 06, or Jerez 97, or Adelaide 94, or on Alonso/ Hangar straight in ’03, or pushing Ralf against the pit wall in Germany. A far cry. Because those were just cynical acts of opportunism and thuggery, where none of those people had done anything bad to him at all, other than (gasp) challenge his speed. In Adelaide he had already thrown it off the road and ended his own race, for heavens’ sake, and he still came back to foul his way to the WDC.

            I also think Senna’s block on Prost in Estoril 88 was too hard and, again, the fact that Senna said he was incensed that Prost had just driven sideways at him off the grid to take P1 still didn’t make it OK. Again, two wrongs don’t make a right. But what the replays have shown here is that it was actually very mild compared to what we just saw at Hungary. There was still far more space and he didn’t drive Prost anywhere near the pitlane exit. Just not comparable at all, in severity.

            None of this will stop the “Senna and Schumacher were utterly ruthless” meme but I think it needs pointing out. Senna’s worst deed was in the context of a bitter feud where there was plenty of blame to go around, including a personal and vindictive intervention from the French head of FISA, Prost’s personal friend, trying to exclude Senna from the sport altogether, to end his career. But where are all these other horrible deeds from Senna? How severe do they really look now, in a 2010 context? Please show them all. He was actually a very clean, pre-emptive blocker and someone who could race inches from others *without* taking them off. Look at Silversone ’93 against Prost, wheel to wheel, no acrimony. Look at Barcelona on the straight against Mansell, wheel to wheel, inches to spare, no problem. Where exactly are all the cynical and disgusting fouls which are truly comparable to the ones we all list for Michael? Did he ever park a broken car on the racing line in order to get the race black-flagged? The truth is that Senna was hard as nails but was only occasionally unfair. He did push the boundaries of what was considered fair at the time, something that was always going to happen with the arrival of the carbonfibre monocoque safety cell, and whether it was too far in particular cases will always be open to debate because the actual ‘line’ will always be undefined. But he actually had a very strong sense of sporting fairness, which is what he was (wrongly, in my view) using as his frame of reference in Japan 1990, and the notion that Senna and Schumacher are just peas in a pod, equally ruthless and cynical, is way, way, wide of the mark.

            There will always be a fine line between being a competitive racer who puts peoples’ noses out of joint, and someone who steps over that line into unfairness. Then there is serial thuggery and theft. The two are different things.

            In short, please stop tarring Senna with the same brush as Schumacher. The rights and wrongs of his actions can and should be judged on their own merits, and I think it’s a pity he’s been lumped in with F1’s worst ever in terms of sporting fairness.

          2. @Sean

            You seem to forget that Sennas ‘streak’ ended. Michael has been in this sport for almost 20 years. It’s like comparing apples to oranges. Same thing when people compare what he’s done in his career to other drivers currently racing. He’s 10-15 years older!

            and @fyujj
            “You can’t compare 1980 F3 with current F1, just look at the enormously stupid moves we see in some access categories.”

            My point exactly. Crashing into each other just belonged to the sport back then which Michael was part off. He’s an old School racer. So him crashing into Hill is also shouted WAY out of proportion considering all the greats used that tactic back then. Just because it was Hill it’s still the main reason why MS is hated nowadays. No-one is talking about Senna or Prost doing the exact same thing.

    2. Is this not a sport? If all a driver thinks about is winning, he should be taken off the track. What drivel. What about going fast within the rules? What about not killing yourself or leaving some other family fatherless? People who say nothing matters except results don’t understand Formula One. Sport is about excelling while playing fairly. No steroids. No unnecessary roughness. No cheating. No dirty driving and no late hits. You “results only” people will kill the sport.

      1. You make me laugh Bridge. You almost make me believe that you think every driver out there is a perfect saint and that every Championship is won by an angel. Oh.. every one except the ones won by the EVIL Schumacher… haha

  8. Jraybay-HamiltonMclarenfan
    3rd August 2010, 0:54

    It was poor blocking of schumacher. But I also give credit to Barri for keeping his foot in the throttle :D

  9. Somewhat unrelated, but with the recent fines I got to wondering. Where does the extra income end up going? Does it get donated to charities like sports leagues in the US?

    1. Goes into the FIA’s coffers – and apparently they’ve got a bit of a budget shortfall at the moment. The $100K from Renault and Mercedes will have helped.

  10. Not like I’m defending Schumacher or anything, but it appears Schumacher gave Barichello just the exact amount of a cars width. I’ve seen other drivers do much worse.
    What is more worrying is the vehemence with which Barichello complains lately. Even when Hamilton was trying to break a tow from Petrov, the way Barichello went on about it, one would think the drivers were staring death in the face.

    1. If Michael is the King of Dirty Tactics.. Barrichello is the undisputed King of Whining.. He whined when he was No 2 at Ferrari (deservedly so), he whined that he was Number 2 at Brawn (even though there was absolutely no proof of that besides his poor results) and now the saga continues.. hardly a surprise lol..

      1. I agree, Robert. Michael is the king of dirty tactics.

    2. He’s supposed to leave Barrichello enough room to stay ON track. That’s inside the lines. Instead he pushes him 2 meters over the line and almost into a wall.

  11. Senna took Prost out at the first corner by getting alongside and just ramming him off the track ending prosts race doing so sealed him the championship and sennas response after the race (I do whatever it takes to win) and in a gp2 race he rammed Martin brundell for trying to overtake him and his car came to rest on martins head I’m not knocking senna hes the greatest ever but I’m under no illusions about what made him great but people only remember the wins and when shueys gone all people will remember is 7 times wold champ I’m not a shuey fan but I’ve got to admit the guys a legend.

    1. when shueys gone all people will remember is 7 times wold champ

      People used to say that when Senna was gone all people would remember is that he’s a three times champion. Clearly you remember him for more than that and the same will be true of Schumacher.

      1. I think this orginated from Jacques Villeneuve’s comment that Schumacher wouldn’t be remembered when he’s gone. Prior to him returning I think this was true. He won’t be remembered with same affection as Senna IMO.

        As for now, or after this season, difficult to say.

        1. Yeah Senna actually showed great racing. I don’t remember much great things from Schumacher. Only the endless barrage of cheats, unfair driving, FIA interference (veto + 80 million a year), team orders etc etc etc

          1. Now you’re just being ridiculous. You just remember what you want to remember. Only a McLaren fanboy/Ferrari hater would say such nonsense.

          2. I just don’t. Same with Prost though. Or Button.

            All the same type of driver who mostly get their points from consistency and/or being in the fastest car.

          3. “Yeah Senna actually showed great racing. I don’t remember much great things from Schumacher. Only the endless barrage of cheats, unfair driving, FIA interference (veto + 80 million a year), team orders etc etc etc”

            This made me LOL! This just shows how clouded some of the peoples judgements are on here! Nicely done Patricki.. proves a lot I’ve been thinking right..

      2. Actually from Neil saying of Senna x Brundle in gp2 he must have been using diapers at the time if he was born at all.

  12. Back in 2004 (if I’m not mistaken), Schumacher overtook Jarno Trulli using the outside run-off of Hockenheim’s hairpin corner. Renault was going to protest then, but as Schumacher retired from the race, the issue was put to rest.

    It was interesting to see that Kimi did the same last year in Spa and got away with it. What’s your opinion, Keith?

    1. Like I said in the article, they need a consistent rule on whether drivers are allowed to go off track and gain an advantage. Current enforcement of the rule is rife with contradictions.

      1. At the start it is so crowded. It’s seen better to avoid accidents and it is tolerated. But imo they might want to look at the american racing and if this sort of thing happends they should tell the driver immediatly to for example drop a place if it gained an advantage. But they need to be much faster then what they are right now.

    2. When you go offline on the outside of a corner you lose time. That’s not an unfair advantage.

      Of course when Kimi went wide to avoid the collision of Trulli and Heidfeld, the people behind lost even more time. Besides Kimi had KERS and he would have had an advantage there anyway.

      Why do people keep droning on about how Kimi went wide in Eau Rouge anyway. Look at what Barrichello did at the end of Kemmel in Les Combes. He just went straight through skipping 2 corners and passed half a dozen cars!


  13. Come on – this is all a bit over the top – he doesn’t actually hit him. Vettel (or Webber depending where your from) actually hit his team mate earlier in the season in a battle for 1st and 2nd and gets no penalty.

    I’m sorry, but an actual accident is worse then squeezing some one. Not saying its not unnecessary or cringe-worthy but if there was no wall there what would people be saying?

    1. The track ends at the white line.

  14. I agree billatron vettel tried putting alonso in the wall in Germany but there was no fuss let something actually happen before banging on Rubens kept his foot in so he didn’t think it’s was that dangerous or he would have hit the brakes he thought the point was bigger than the risk.

    1. Vettel’s move wasn’t that close to the wall. Sure it wasn’t so clean, but he left more than enough space. And the speeds weren’t that high either!

  15. Yeah but Senna was cut off in his prime unfortunately.

  16. Looking at the replay gives me shivers, Barrichello said on the BBC that he’s really lucky that the wall ended, which is very true! After he passes the wall he continues to go right, if the wall was there God knows what would have happened!

    Wow that Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna clip is amazing! Never saw an F1 car drift like that.. Cool stuff!

  17. Exactly what would we do without legends like them not watch f1 probably.

  18. Rubens could have hit the brake they both wanted the one point and neither of them would let it go Rubens had the speed advantage he could of held back and took shuey later they both played a part.

    1. Schumacher is so pathetic that he would have done anything for that one point. He’s only got 38. Rosberg has 94. Schumacher is probably afraid that Barrichello will finish ahead of him in the points at the end of the season driving a Williams-Cosworth. He’s only eight points behind and doing well.

      1. GWBridge you don’t half talk a lot of rot.Time and time again.It gets really boring.Perhaps you are in the wrong sport.
        Tennis may suit you better?

        Barichello will never attain memorable heights,just like Alessi,a nice chap, BUT, end of story.

  19. The one of Nelson Piquet on Aryton Senna was very spectacular indeed.

  20. It’s only MS who pulls stuff like this currently and this and is part of the reason why I find the sport exciting. And what does he get? A 10 grid penalty.

    Yes the move was dangerous, but NOTHING HAPPENED! I could list 100s of other instances where the driving was dangerous and something could’ve happened. 15 years ago nobody would’ve blinked twice and the cars back then were nowhere near as safe as today.

    It was previously mentioned that he was risking HIS life more then Barrichellos. Only MS has the nerves to do such things. And look at the result.. We get a contender for ‘Pass of the Season’.

    I find such articles a disgrace. Improve rulebooks? REALLY? Haven’t we had enough penalties and rediculous steward decisions this season? Do we really need more?

    F1 is becoming more and more of a joke and all about the politics and Rules.. Where is the racing? I wanna see action.. I wanna see drivers pushing themselves off the track.. I wanna see dangerous driving. This is why they are paid millions of dollars and this is why they love doing what they are doing.

    All the rule book is doing is making this sport as dull as possible. So NO Keith.. PLEASE .. no more ‘policing of driving standards’.

    1. Haven’t we had enough penalties and rediculous steward decisions this season? Do we really need more?

      Compared to previous seasons I think they’re definitely doing better. What decisions do you think were ridiculous?

      I wanna see drivers pushing themselves off the track.. I wanna see dangerous driving. This is why they are paid millions of dollars and this is why they love doing what they are doing.

      All the rule book is doing is making this sport as dull as possible.

      If drivers are allowed to drive towards each other in the kinds of speeds F1 cars can achieve people will be killed. I want to see exciting, wheel-to-wheel racing but you have to set boundaries and what Schumacher did on Sunday went far beyond what could be termed acceptable driving.

      1. Well said Keith. I think the stewards are much more dependable this year, and it would be good if they could decide on clear guidelines for the drivers. Without Mosley seemingly happy to be able to use the stewards to be puppets in his politics, that has a chance of working.

      2. It was exciting,it was wheel to wheel racing Keith.

      3. “Compared to previous seasons I think they’re definitely doing better. What decisions do you think were ridiculous?”

        Maybe not rediculous, but there was certainly enough to last for the remainder of the saison. Every little thing is put under a microscope and analysed. Every small driver error is penalised. How is a young and inexperienced driver supposed to try to overtake someone when his mistake will cost his team a 5 grid penalty? It’s racing for crying out loud. You’re supposed to have crashes, touches, people pushing themselves and their cars to the limits. At least this was the case 10-15 years ago. Look at your videos again and instead of using them as examples for ‘improper conduct’, how about showing off great driving and encouriging it?

        “If drivers are allowed to drive towards each other in the kinds of speeds F1 cars can achieve people will be killed. I want to see exciting, wheel-to-wheel racing but you have to set boundaries and what Schumacher did on Sunday went far beyond what could be termed acceptable driving.”

        Could’ve..should’ve. I repeat again that nothing happened. The two most recent Major crashes during a race which I remember was the Kubica crash in Canada and Webber this year and it had nothing to do with ‘driving towards each other’ (and not to mention that both drivers walked away relatively unhurt). Your article falls flat on it’s face based purely on the fact that there isn’t one recent example where a serious crash was caused as a result of what you’re saying. All we got was exciting racing which gave us those beautiful videos you posted above. Barichellos move will be remembered now.. and why? Because of the “EVIL” Schumacher.

        1. Something I forgot to mention…the Superleague Formula Crash can hardly be used as evidence. Looks like a clear driver error. He had plenty of time to back off but for some reason drive straight into the back of him. I don’t think a Formula 1 driver would make a mistake like that and even if they did, it wouldn’t prove your point. The driver infront had every right to close the door.

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