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

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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?â?ńikk?â?Ânen 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?â?ńikk?â?Ânen 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

  1. Neil said on 3rd August 2010, 1:40

    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.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 3rd August 2010, 8:06

      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.

      • tobinen said on 3rd August 2010, 9:43

        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.

        • Patrickl said on 3rd August 2010, 10:54

          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

          • Manu said on 3rd August 2010, 12:09

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

          • Patrickl said on 3rd August 2010, 14:08

            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.

          • Will07 said on 4th August 2010, 0:10

            “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..

      • fyujj said on 3rd August 2010, 13:46

        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.

  2. duke said on 3rd August 2010, 1:46

    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?

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 3rd August 2010, 8:05

      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.

      • SoLiDG (@solidg) said on 3rd August 2010, 10:25

        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.

    • Patrickl said on 3rd August 2010, 11:03

      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!

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9S8AYa8Jh0

  3. billatron said on 3rd August 2010, 1:51

    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?

  4. Neil said on 3rd August 2010, 2:04

    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.

  5. Neil said on 3rd August 2010, 2:22

    Yeah but Senna was cut off in his prime unfortunately.

  6. LAK said on 3rd August 2010, 2:24

    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!

  7. Neil said on 3rd August 2010, 2:36

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

  8. Neil said on 3rd August 2010, 3:02

    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.

    • GWBridge said on 3rd August 2010, 4:25

      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.

      • Dianna said on 3rd August 2010, 20:35

        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.

  9. wasiF1 (@wasif1) said on 3rd August 2010, 3:23

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

  10. Paul said on 3rd August 2010, 3:28

    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’.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 3rd August 2010, 8:04

      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.

      • bosyber said on 3rd August 2010, 12:30

        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.

      • Dianna said on 3rd August 2010, 20:39

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

      • Paul said on 4th August 2010, 0:31

        “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.

        • Paul said on 4th August 2010, 1:29

          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.

  11. rayan said on 3rd August 2010, 3:36

    schumi was watching his mirrors…..and pushing rubens hard near the wall….but i feel he is causious enough to be safe…as you guys can watch in the video that he moves left to avoid rubens to land up in grass or something……HE KNOWS WAT HE IS DOING…..but he is punished for that…..rather webber in turkey not punished…neither anyone is punished

  12. GWBridge said on 3rd August 2010, 4:30

    Barrichello will finish ahead of Schumacher in the final points at the end of the season driving a Williams-Cosworth. That’s the rivalry to watch. Schumacher only has 38 points. Barrichello’s only eight points behind and doing well. Schumacher has Barrichello in his head, not the other way around.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 3rd August 2010, 7:26

      We’ll be all looking forward to hearing Rubens say the same Mark Webber said when lapping Schumi in Hungary.

    • Dianna said on 3rd August 2010, 20:43

      @GWBridge Yes,so you keep saying over and over again……..you sound like an old gramaphone needle stuck in a groove.

      Has Schumacher personally assaulted you in a dark alley?

      • GWBridge said on 4th August 2010, 20:52

        Dianna, if Schumacher could gain a championship point, he would assault anyone in an alley. And I do mean assault. I’ve never witnessed such desperation in a driver since I started following this stuff forty years ago.

        And, yes, Schumacher has Barrichello in his head, not the other way around. Barrichello will finish ahead of Schumacher in the final points at the end of the season driving a Williams-Cosworth.

  13. theRoswellite said on 3rd August 2010, 4:42

    Why has the highest level of motorsport on the planet permitted such an aggressive level of blocking to persist?

    The behavior is unsafe and unprofessional.

    The stewards should treat each occurance as a significant safety violation and suspend drivers accordingly.

    Mr. Schumacher seems to to have lost much of his former speed but little of his penchant for succeeding through intimidation.

  14. Mike said on 3rd August 2010, 4:47

    WOAH! wait wait wait!

    I think, this is being taken WAY out on context, Now, We all realise that F1 is dangerous, And we also all realise that what Schumacher did was very stupid, But I think, a lot of you guys, Are crucifying him, possibly because he is Schumacher. That’s not cool.

    We see stunts like this, ALL the time, Can anybody remember Sepang with Lewis weaving all over the track? Or numerous other incidents that have occurred and been mentioned by other people, what about Alonso and Kubica fighting over the chicane, This stuff will happen, And I don’t think cutting Schumacher in two will A) make them go away or B) stop anyone from doing these things, it’s racing, sometimes it gets dangerous. And I’m sure many other drivers would do the same thing. Even if they wouldn’t admit to it.

    Keith, is it really fair to use that crash to demonstrate your point? I mean, look at what happened with Webber and Kovy, you could point to that and say fast cars shouldn’t be racing alongside slow cars.

    I know, what happened was very dangerous, but the amount of people who have jumped on this Schumacher is evil bandwagon is astonishing, The amount of comments suggesting Schumacher was purposefully trying to hurt Rubens is just absurd, I think, in the end, We should look at this incident and say, what a great battle, Because it was, an epic piece of overtaking.

    All I mean is, We have seen far worse, don’t let Schumacher’s reputation skew your opinion.
    Pretend it was two other drivers.

    • Paul said on 3rd August 2010, 5:00

      I love cool and collected posts like this. Thumbs Up Mike! ;)

      You have to remember that alot of people here are just waiting for a Schumacher mistake so they can jump on his throat. Nothing new.

      • Oliver said on 3rd August 2010, 8:16

        Cool collected post but one that misses the point and confuses non issues or accidents with deliberate actions.
        Hamilton weaving was no threat to anyone beacause if you watched the race you would notice that his move was immediately copied by petrov hence wasn’t a blocking move Webber Kovi accident was exactly what it was, an accident cause by a driver who through no fault of his, misjudged the performance of the car ahead.

        If he had compared this move with, Massa and Kubica china 07 or even one of Massa and Webber Keith highlighted above, then his comments would have been sensible

        • Mike said on 3rd August 2010, 12:37

          Oliver, that’s not very fair, I did say, “what Schumacher did was very stupid” and I meant it.

          Hamilton’s move was clearly dangerous, and could have ended very badly, I think, as long as you say what Schumacher did was potentially dangerous, you must see the chance of Hamilton’s antics being dangerous as well.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 3rd August 2010, 7:30

      But Keith uses this incident with Schumi only to point out, that this move was just a more extreme version of what we have seen all over racing in the last years (just like you say for yourself).
      And he goes on to say the fact it actually got punished might be (hopefully) the start of clearing what’s allowed to curb back on going off track to overtake/not fall back, push people of the track etc.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 3rd August 2010, 8:11

      Keith, is it really fair to use that crash to demonstrate your point? I mean, look at what happened with Webber and Kovy, you could point to that and say fast cars shouldn’t be racing alongside slow cars.

      Do you mean the Superleague crash? Yes, it’s absolutely fair to use that as a point of comparison. This was the kind of accident Schumacher’s driving could have caused on Sunday.

      The Kovalainen and Webber thing only proved that when you’re racing a driver in a slower car you should have the sense to realise he’s going to brake earlier for a corner than you are.

      • Mike said on 3rd August 2010, 11:55

        Sorry Keith, My comment was uncalled for.

        It’s just unfair to accuse Schumacher of trying to hurt Rubens on purpose, something others have suggested, but clearly you weren’t.’I took your comments way out of context.

        @BasCB – Your right on the money with that.

      • Paul said on 6th August 2010, 7:48

        “Do you mean the Superleague crash? Yes, it’s absolutely fair to use that as a point of comparison. This was the kind of accident Schumacher’s driving could have caused on Sunday.”

        As I’ve mentioned on the last page, that accident is nowhere near the same thing. The driver infront had every right to close the door and the driver behind just ran into him. Driving error…

  15. cheers said on 3rd August 2010, 5:57

    Webber had also closed the gate far earlier and Massa was pretty cheeky lining up from that far out to go into a place most would say there was no hole. And Webber also pulled left at the critical moment in the pass and it was he who avoided the collision. Schumacher didn’t pull back at all.

    The word “intimidation” is the operative one. Schumacher in Hungary did it into T1 with Buemi and then in the next moments with Button when Schumacher returned to the track dangerously. Both those guys knew Schumacher would take them out if they held station and lost position accordingly.

    • Will07 said on 3rd August 2010, 6:16

      I agree cheers. Initimidation tactics work for him most of the time though. When they don’t, we get an incident like the one above. But this is what makes him great. Everyone thinks very hard before even attempting it.. purely because he puts the fear in them. How many times did Button fail to overtake him this season? I’m counting 3.. the latest one the last weekend where he didn’t even dare to make a move. Drivers are scared of him…you need to have balls of steel to make it stick and this is what makes Barichellos move so awesome..and the MS bashing so pathetic..

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