F1 needs to clear up rules on off-track overtaking

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Felipe Massa, Jenson Button, Melbourne, 2011

Felipe Massa, Jenson Button, Melbourne, 2011

When are drivers allowed to go off the track to make an overtaking move?

Jenson Button was punished for it in Melbourne but Sebastian Vettel and Sebastien Buemi weren’t.

A clear line is needed on this much-abused area of the F1 racing rules.

When Jenson Button took to the run-off area to pass Felipe Massa during the Australian Grand Prix, it was immediately obvious he was going to get a penalty.

I said it, television commentators said it, and everyone on F1 Fanatic Live said it.

Button had no excuse because he did exactly the same thing on the first lap of the European Grand Prix in 2009 and had to surrender the place.

This time he was not so lucky – Felipe Massa made his pit stop shortly afterwards, leaving race control no choice but to issue a drive-through penalty.

The stewards have been reasonably consistent in punishing drivers who gain places by cutting the inside of corners. Much like Fernando Alonso’s mistake at Silverstone last year, it’s hard to understand how McLaren and Button got this call wrong.

But the Australian Grand Prix highlighted other examples of confusion and inconsistency in the rules over what constitutes an illegal, off-track overtake.

On lap 16 Sebastian Vettel passed Button by going off the track at turn four. Sebastien Buemi did much the same to Adrian Sutil later.

It’s possible that neither would have made their passes stick without going off the track. But neither had to give the places back or received a penalty.

When drivers gain places by going off the track on the outside of a corner, it’s much harder to predict how the stewards will react.

At Singapore in 2009 Mark Webber had to surrender two places after passing Alonso on the outside of turn seven – despite the fact that Alonso himself had also gone off the track:

Race Driver Incident Result
2009 European Grand Prix Jenson Button Ran off-track on inside of corner to pass Mark Webber Handed back position
2009 Singapore Grand Prix Mark Webber Ran off-track on outside of corner to pass Fernando Alonso Handed back position
2010 British Grand Prix Fernando Alonso Ran off-track on inside of corner to pass Robert Kubica Drive-through penalty*
2011 Australian Grand Prix Jenson Button Ran off-track on inside of corner to pass Felipe Massa Drive-through penalty*
2011 Australian Grand Prix Sebastian Vettel Ran off-track on outside of corner to pass Jenson Button No penalty
2011 Australian Grand Prix Sebastien Buemi Ran off-track on outside of corner to pass Adrian Sutil No penalty

*Driver was no longer able to hand back position on track

There were reports after the Melbourne race that drivers had been told they were free to go off-track at turn four if they needed to.

If that was the case, that information should have been communicated to everyone watching the race before it had started. (And perhaps someone could have mentioned it to Button, too, because his radio messages gave the impression no-one had told him.)

It’s difficult to judge exactly how these decisions are being made because we hear so little of the stewarding process. Given this confusion, it’s to be expected that teams will be wary of second-guessing the stewards, and may gamble on not getting a penalty at all.

Generally, we saw better, fairer and more logical decision-making from the stewards last year, thanks to the addition of experienced former drivers to the panel.

For example, they clamped down on drivers going off the track on the outside the La Source hairpin at Spa to gain an advantage.

It’s illogical that a driver should be allowed to go off the track on the outside of the corner and gain an advantage when they are penalised for going over the inside of corners.

F1 stewarding may be getting better, but Australia showed us there’s still plenty of room for improvement.

Where do you think the line should be drawn on what is and isn’t allowed when drivers go off the track to gain a place?

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194 comments on F1 needs to clear up rules on off-track overtaking

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  1. RIISE (@riise) said on 4th April 2011, 11:17

    Absolutely, I was surprised that both Vettel and Buemi didn’t get penalties. Sure Vettel was much quicker than Button at that stage but still using the outside of the track to complete an overtake should warrant a penalty.

    • Chris (@chris) said on 4th April 2011, 11:45

      Had Vettel got a drive through, perhaps it would had been enough for Lewis to win the race…

      • Jonathan said on 4th April 2011, 13:22

        There is no doubt that Hamilton would have been ahead of Vettel after the first round of pit stops, because Hamilton emerged ahead of Button.

    • F1iLike said on 4th April 2011, 12:15

      It’s quite obvious cutting the track rather than running just a little wide at the exit ( where most runs beside the white line most of the time as well ) is a far greater advantage and should be punished more severely. A warning for running wide is more appropriate. If that.

      • Pete said on 4th April 2011, 12:22

        Running wide isn’t the problem though – he ran wide because he outbreaked himself. If you do that and therefore have made a mistake, you shouldn’t gain a place.

        What they did was pass whilst all 4 wheels were off the track. I am under the impression that’s against the rules?

        • graigchq (@graigchq) said on 5th April 2011, 6:33

          Running wide isn’t the problem though – he ran wide because he outbreaked himself. If you do that and therefore have made a mistake, you shouldn’t gain a place.

          exactly. end of

          • Zecks (@zecks) said on 5th April 2011, 14:04

            The fact is that both vettel and buemi gained an unfair advantage by effectively widening the circuit, allowing for a greater exit speed. If the same area had been grass or gravel, it would have been much less likely that they would have been able to overtake.

        • F1iLike said on 5th April 2011, 14:40

          To be honest, Vettel was already past and would surely hold on to the position had he not pushed to widen the track. I don’t see how you can compare Button’s pass with Vettel’s on equal terms.

          • disjunto (@disjunto) said on 5th April 2011, 14:55

            yeah, as a Button fan, I’m not too sure why every is all up in arms over the vettel overtake.

            On the other hand, Buemi’s overtake was definitely off track and should have been punished as if that run-off wasn’t there he would have easily failed that pass.

          • F1iLike said on 5th April 2011, 15:16

            Can’t remember Buemi’s overtake to be honest.. So can’t have an opinion on that one.. :P

      • Rob said on 4th April 2011, 12:22

        It was enough of an advantage in both cases that the driver off the track overtook. That is all that matters.

      • dave s said on 4th April 2011, 12:57

        Not if the rules say you shouldnt, I was shouting at the TV when Button was overtaken that Vettel must get a penalty, maybe button thought, “he’s off the track and therefore cant/shouldnt overtake”
        Its not just “running a little wide” if all four wheels go beyond the permissable boundary. Do you think Button should have received a warning ? I think what we all want is consistency.

        • Bigbadderboom (@bigbadderboom) said on 4th April 2011, 15:53

          The problem though dave s is that the rules need clarification. It’s no good for a spectator sport if we have stewards making exceptions at certain corners, or taking an interpretation on the rules. The only way for cality for teams , drivers, stewards and most importantly the fans, is to say that a position may neither be gained or defended if a car leaves the track defined by the track boundaries. At least we may get some creative race craft as drivers become focused on forcing driver errors.

      • Lee said on 4th April 2011, 15:46

        You clearly do not understand the dynamics of racing. In some cases leaving the track on the outside of a corner gives the driver a much better line in to the next corner or can give better grip or in many circumstances allows a driver to have gone in to the corner faster and break later. The corner Vettel and Buemi used to take advantage is well known to provide a faster route and as such you see many drivers going as wide as possible at that corner, in fact most drivers will leave the track a good few times per race at that corner although mots of the time they are not overtaking at the time. If you race that track in a sim then you can get a good feel for the corner and I can gain almost half a second by leaving the track at that point (real world gains obviously may vary though).

        It does seem though that stewards are very inconsistent on enforcing punishments for cars leaving the track. Hamilton was punished for this in the infamous incident with Kimi (he was not punished for gaining advantage as most think) yet although it is against the rules to leave the track most drivers get away with it even when they are gaining advantage by doing so.

    • mateuss (@mateuss) said on 4th April 2011, 13:47

      Yes the rule definitely needs clarifying, but I think, if it is considered normal to run wide at a particular corner, like the exit of Ascari in Monza or the carpark in Australia, then overtakes around the outside should be considered legit, IMO. As for the inside, well you are cutting the track, so not much discussion needed there.

      • Pedal to the Vettel (@pedal-to-the-vettel) said on 4th April 2011, 14:59

        The difference with vettel cutting a corner was that Button didn’t stand a chance with vettel’s new tyres. It would be fairly obvious that Button would try to slow down vettel on purpose to give Lewis the lead after he pitted.

        The reason why Jenson got the penalty was because he cut the corner to try and get infront of Massa. Vettel though cut the corner to keep infront of Lewis not trying to overtake Jenson…AND! that Button was already due for a drive-through penalty, perfect time to help your teammate by slamming the door, schumi style.

        That’s my thought anyway…

        • Solo (@solo) said on 4th April 2011, 16:50

          Button already served his penalty and whether Button was doing it for Lewis or not is irrelevant. Button wasn’t getting lapped or anything, it was a fight for position and any competitive driver would fight against an overtake anyway, so saying Vettel wasn’t really overtaking Button is a crazy thing to say.
          And what exactly was Schumi style? All drivers slam the door when they are defending and is perfectly legal, that’s what defending is. Schumi style is more like pushing the other guy off-track when he manages to get by your side and Button did nothing of that. Vettel went out of the track all by himself because he wanted to get an advantage.

          • Pedal to the Vettel (@pedal-to-the-vettel) said on 4th April 2011, 20:58

            @solo/geordie
            “schumi style” It’s just to help close down the nearest driver/description on how they block against other drivers. I know other drivers do that, but other people don’t bother to notice that so i’m just trying to pinpoint quickly on what i’m trying to get across, not trying to attack schumacher in any way.

            @Geordie

            Jenson wasn’t able to defend his posistion unlike Massa, his tyres were shot when vettel was behind. He also had the drivers line and was infront of jenson before the all 4’s incident.

            (last time I checked) Drivers are allowed to take runoffs if they think they will avoid a possible crash from another driver.

            But I agree with you on the gravel part, but yet jenson could of caused a crash in that situation if he tried to overtake.

          • matt90 (@matt90) said on 5th April 2011, 0:43

            Vettel had put himself on the outside of Button, and shouldn’t have done if he didn’t think he could carry the speed round the corner without running wide. Button defended correctly, as proved by the fact that by taking the inside line, Vettel went to the outside and was unable to legitimately overtake from that position.

        • Geordie Porker said on 4th April 2011, 17:39

          Nico,
          I disagree heavily – the rules are there to prevent a driver gaining a competitive advantage by failing to follow the track. The fact the Seb was guaranteed the overtake (which I agree with) doesn’t mean that he should be allowed to leave the track to achieve it. By that logic, it was clear that Jenson was going to get the overtake on Philipe…but he couldn’t make it stick without leaving the track and he got punished.

          And as Solo has pointed out, Jenson was racing for position at that point in time, so he was entitled to defend.

          I also take issue with your Shumi-style comment – Schumi has, on occasion stepped over the line, but generally he was just an aggressive driver, who defended harshly, but fairly. If you disagree, I would point out that he was only very rarely actually punished for his defending (or overtaking for that matter).

          Finally, the comparison which most people bring out is ‘if there was a wall there, it would be impossible to complete the maneuver’…I think that’s a fairly valid point – the race track is that shape, and you should stay within it. I don’t mean that all tacks should be made into Monaco – that would just reduce the average number of finishers to around 6 or 7 over a season! But if the stewards won’t enforce it and the drivers (therefore) keep abusing the run off areas, the answer has to be gentle gravel traps so that going all 4 wheels off just costs you about a year in time, but doesn’t affect your ability to finish.

          Just my opinion though!

    • Sevrige said on 5th April 2011, 4:34

      I didn’t see Buemi’s pass, but after watching Vettel’s again I’d say it would be a really tough decision to give Vettel a penalty. Yes he ran outside the track at the exit, but his car was completely in front of Button’s half way through the corner. Frankly, either decision would spark a war of words.

      • unoc said on 5th April 2011, 5:15

        THe question isn’t was Vettel ahead when he went off track, the question was Vettel just escaping a possible collision going off track or was his move on Button reliant on using the run off in certian cases.

        I think that if there was a wall there, Vettel wouldn’t have made the move. He could have just made it, but it would have been too risky if he ocldhave crashed out from there.

        • Sevrige said on 6th April 2011, 1:16

          True, maybe officials should consider putting down speed bumps or something on the outside of some corners similar to this one. This will slow down drivers who try to use the outside to their advantage but won’t destroy a car in the event the outside must be used to avoid a collision.

          • Gwenouille said on 6th April 2011, 19:01

            And this brings up the tracks as possible source of the problem.

            The layout ITSELF should make it impossible to gain an advantage while running wide…

            Think about Spa at the start: that is so, so rubbish.

  2. Agreed. In the BTCC races this weekend cars got black and flags just for going over the White lines. They get away with too much in formula 1

    • I like how it was pretty much Andrew Jordan every time…

      Sometimes BTCC drivers take it too far, silverstone last year for example where they were running wide at copse every single lap.

    • Don Mateo said on 4th April 2011, 17:11

      They seemed to be quite consisted about it in the BTCC, several drivers got warnings for “excessive use of the racetrack”, or something similar. It sounded rather daft, but there were 3 places on the track where drivers were consistently putting all 4 wheels over the white line on the outside – because doing so was a faster line.

      In F1 it seems to be a grey area. Cutting the inside of a corner is easy to spot, but they don’t seem to have much of a view of running wide on the outside to get a better line. Maybe it’s because it’s only recently that the tracks have had large tarmac runoff areas.

  3. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 4th April 2011, 11:19

    Jenson Button was punished for it in Melbourne but Sebastian Vettel and Sebastien Buemi weren’t.

    The rules are actually pretty clear. A driver will not be punished for going beyond the circuit bounds if it is deemed that he is lengthening the circuit; that is, if in going outside the circuit limits, he would have to drive further than if he had stayed within the white lines, there will be no punishment. Most of the time, the drivers will simply give that place back – if you look at the table in the article, the only times a driver was penalised was when he cut the corner.

    The problem is a scenario like Kimi Raikkonen at Spa in 2009, when he went outside La Source at the start. While he didn’t get penalised because he had obviously lengthened his lap, he was also able to take the corner much faster than everyone else and thus gain positions.

    • Mike said on 4th April 2011, 11:25

      the only times a driver was penalised was when he cut the corner.

      Doesn’t Mark count?

      Going wide and taking advantage isn’t any better than going on the inside, I think the stewards know this, they just tripped themselves up with inconsistent decisions.

      • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 4th April 2011, 11:27

        Doesn’t Mark count?

        When and where was he penalised? The article makes it pretty clear he took a position by going around the outside, and then handed it back.

        • Jake said on 4th April 2011, 11:37

          I’d say that’s being penalised, he would’ve got a drive through if he didn’t give the place back

          • David-A (@david-a) said on 5th April 2011, 6:29

            Maybe he wouldn’t have been punished for it, but simply didn’t want to risk it. No other driver was punished for going off on the outside of the track to pass.

        • Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 4th April 2011, 11:42

          He had to give two places back as Alonso had lost a further position, to Glock IIRC. That’s a net punishment.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 4th April 2011, 11:26

      That’s not the rules but the general explanation of the rules by the stewards.

      But Keith clearly showed above, that it was not always like that in all cases. Webber had to give up the gained position.

      You yourself argued for more clarity of this matter a few days ago, if I am not mistaken!

      • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 4th April 2011, 11:43

        No, I argued that if a driver gains a position through a questionable move and is unable to give that position up because the driver he passed either pits or retires, then ten seconds should be added to his total race time, rather than being given a drive-through penalty.

        Totally different.

      • Fixy (@fixy) said on 4th April 2011, 15:10

        The advantage depends on the track surface. Webber was on tarmac and therefore had a good accelleration, as did Vettel (he should have given the position back).
        If you overtake someone running wide on grass then if you’re still in front I think it’s fine.

    • Jake said on 4th April 2011, 11:30

      20.3 Drivers must use the track at all times. For the avoidance of doubt the white lines defining the track edges
      are considered to be part of the track but the kerbs are not.
      A driver will be judged to have left the track if no part of the car remains in contact with the track.
      Should a car leave the track for any reason the driver may rejoin. However, this may only be done when it
      is safe to do so and without gaining any advantage.

      At no point is anything about lengthening the track mentioned, simply that adriver can’t leave the track. It’s very very simple, if you go off the track to make an overtake that you could not otherwise make,you get punished.

      • Jake said on 4th April 2011, 11:39

        *should, get punished

      • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 4th April 2011, 11:44

        It’s very very simple, if you go off the track to make an overtake that you could not otherwise make,you get punished.

        Then what do you think of the Variante Ascari at Monza? Every single driver clearly runs wide on the exit of the third corner, and no-one ever gets punished.

        • Rob said on 4th April 2011, 12:27

          Why does that have any bearing on this? The rule says you cannot gain advantage by leaving the bounds of the track. It doesn’t matter that on one corner of another track everyone cuts it – in fact if everyone does it then nobody gains an advantage over anyone else.

          • Jarred Walmsley said on 4th April 2011, 19:36

            So under that reckoning if say every driver but our good friend Narain Karthikeyan cut Ascari, then every other driver gained an advantage and they all had to take drive through penalties?

        • Jake said on 4th April 2011, 12:28

          Personally i think if they’re going to let anyone run wide there, they should just extend the limits of the circuit. I suppose nobody really gains an advantage there if they all do it but that doesn’t make it right. It’s not really a place where you can overtake by running wide so it is slightly different but as i say, they should just extend the circuit limits or stop everyone running wide, that way grey areas like this arise less often.

        • Ben said on 4th April 2011, 14:59

          Interesting point, I think there was an F3 Euroseries race at Hockheim a couple of years ago where most of the grid got penalties for putting four wheels off the track in qualifying and the races.

          If its in the regulations it shouldn’t go unpunished. All it would take is one race where half the field gets a grid penalty and the problem is dealt with

      • Jonathan said on 4th April 2011, 13:26

        Correct.

    • sw6569 (@sw6569) said on 4th April 2011, 11:31

      i agree with this general sentiment – that the rule is pretty clear in most scenarios. Button’s track skipping was never really in doubt – and it came as a result of his frustration. He should have handed the place back immediately, and probably would have, had Alonso and Massa not mysteriously switched places (first team order scandal anyone?)

      However, what is certain is that neither Vettel nor Buemi would have made their passes without going off the track. In Vettel’s situation, that pass pretty much won him the race (as otherwise Button could have played the team game and kept him behind for Hamilton to win). I’m in 2 minds about the situation really. On the one hand, it was simply cheating – Vettel passed off the track. On the other hand, the raw speed of Vettel meant he was going to get past anyway and the move was exciting and a risk. Given F1’s current ‘please the masses with overtaking’ agenda, I can see why it should be allowed.

      Raikkonen’s pass is a whole other kettle of fish though…! Also, Raikkonen’s seemed somewhat premeditated.

      • Jake said on 4th April 2011, 11:36

        On the other hand, the raw speed of Vettel meant he was going to get past anyway and the move was exciting and a risk. Given F1′s current ‘please the masses with overtaking’ agenda, I can see why it should be allowed.

        That argument didn’t work for Lewis at Spa 08

        • sw6569 (@sw6569) said on 4th April 2011, 11:43

          Well thats comparing oranges and apples isn’t it. The two scenario’s are completely different. At spa, the issue was whether Lewis had given the place back or not by skipping the chicane, not whether he had overtaken illegally or not.

          • Jake said on 4th April 2011, 12:22

            yes but what I’m saying is, if you’re saying Vettel overtook illegally, yet because he was so much quicker and it was a risky move he could go unpunished, the same could also be applied to Lewis at Spa

          • sw6569 (@sw6569) said on 4th April 2011, 12:42

            I see what you’re saying, but the two scenario’s are about fundamentally different issues – so in that respect, you can’t really compare the two of them. Lewis never made a ‘risky’ move so to speak – he overtook by jumping the chicane. Vettel hung on round the outside of a dirty corner.

            It’s my opinion that Vettel’s overtake was legal, if not in the spirit of the rules. Hamilton’s was illegal as well as not in the spirit of the rules. Hope that clarifies it a bit.

          • OmarR-Pepper (@omarr-pepper) said on 4th April 2011, 14:24

            The point is, at least in my humble opinion, that this rule should be aplyed in ALL POSSIBLE CASES, no matter if the overtaking was on the inner part, outside, with “spirit”, for the top position or just a midfield battle. Because if not, then it would appear some Cavalino or Lewis fan claiming the move was allowed because it was Vettel, (and it’s obviously wrong stewards had permitted Vettel this move). Or FIA should simply clarify the rule doesn’t apply when the move is on the outside. Or when Bernie’s favourite driver does it.

          • Lee said on 4th April 2011, 22:59

            Lewis was not punished for not giving the place back, He was punished for leaving the track. Not even for leaving the track to gain an advantage just simply leaving the track. In all the furore surrounding the incident the actual reason for the punishment went unnoticed which is a shame as it was a very strange punishment given that it is unusual for a race to go by without a significant number of of circuit excursions taking place. So yes they two incidents are very similar if you look at the exact punishment. However I still think even forgetting the ridiculous decision, the two incidents are similar and comparable. Both drivers left the circuit on the outside of the corner and both overtook their competitor by doing so, the only difference is that hamilton at least attempted to give the position back (even if you don’t agree that this was fully achieved) while vettel made no attempt at all. It is very clear that that particular corner at melbourne is very much quicker when you leave the track and this has been known for quite some time.

          • David-A (@david-a) said on 5th April 2011, 6:34

            Lewis was not punished for not giving the place back, He was punished for leaving the track.

            No, he was punished for re-overtaking Raikkonen straight away (at the hairpin), instead of waiting one more corner to pass. It was a bit of a dodgy ruling, since the FIA only clarified after the race that you need to wait an extra corner after handing a place back.

          • Lee said on 5th April 2011, 11:05

            @David A

            No. If you look at the ruling he was punished for leaving the track. There was no mention of overtaking in the ruling at all. The press coverage and the statements by the FIA made it seem like he was punished for not giving the place back, but he was not punished for that at all (Especially as he did give the place back) The overtaking rule was then clarified but he could never have been punished for the overtaking as the rule simply stated that you give the place back, which he did. You can’t punish someone under a rule that does not exist and the clarification of having to not re overtake until after the next corner was brought in as a consequence of the incident so hamilton could not possibly have been punished for it. Under the rules that were in place at the time his giving back of the position was all that was needed so he was punished for leaving the track instead.

      • Jombe said on 4th April 2011, 12:01

        Although I can’t recall Buemi’s pass in any detail, I’m not fully convinced that Vettel certainly wouldn’t have made the pass stick. As I remember he passed Button at about the apex of the corner and by the time he left the track there was a decent amount of space between the cars. My point is he might have stayed ahead even if he had slowed down a little and not left the track.

        My point is that it would have been slightly unfair to punish Vettel but clearly there is a problem. On one hand they could make the edges of the track less appealing (grass/artificial grass/high kerbs/etc.) but that could be dangerous (Vettel spinning and Button leveling the score of punctured radiators) or discourage drivers from attempting such moves.

        • sw6569 (@sw6569) said on 4th April 2011, 12:06

          i’m not sure that there was room for either driver to have stayed on the track either (although, this is from memory rather than based on fact)

        • Jake said on 4th April 2011, 12:33

          The stewards should not judge on ifs and buts though. The fact is he executed an overtake by going out of the track limits and therefore the overtake is illegal. Yes he may well have still got ahead by using only the circuit but as he didn’t, that has no relevance. It is possible that if Button had stayed on the track he could have somehow got ahead of Massa.

          • Jombe said on 4th April 2011, 13:55

            I mostly agree and I think the enforcement of the rules should be clearer but in this particular case Vettel was clearly ahead of Button before going off track. I’m not saying he didn’t gain any advantage or that the move shouldn’t be considered as “overtaking by going out of the track limits” but at least most of the time leaving the track while clearly ahead has not been punished. So based on previous practice I don’t see any real controversy in not punishing Vettel (and possibly Buemi although I can’t remember the move).

            I also watched Webber’s pass on Alonso and in that situation it was clear that the actual pass occurred outside the track limits and although they were both off Alonso made an effort to get back to the track as soon as possible while Webber just accelerated out of the corner on the best line at the moment.

            Also I was even more surprised that Hülkenberg wasn’t punished last year at Monza. All speculations aside he did gain at least the advantage of not having to directly defend his position .Unless someone has some sort of genuine problem with the car repeatedly leaving the track or even worse repeatedly leaving the track at the same spot should be punished. It should be: 1st time – s*** happens; 2nd time – warning; 3rd time and onwards – penalty.

          • John H said on 4th April 2011, 13:59

            Jake is 100% correct. First – we need to write some rules. Second. We need to stick to a set of rules.

            However we feel about the first, at least enforce them consistently. Not punishing Vettel and Buemi is the problem here because it will keep on happening if everyone is being subjective with the rules.

      • Hyoko said on 4th April 2011, 20:02

        had Alonso and Massa not mysteriously switched places (first team order scandal anyone?)

        oh no, not that **** again

        To begin with, no possible scandal this time. Now the rules would allow the switch, like it or not.

        Then, I don’t see how can you say “team orders”. the situation could hardly have been predicted by Ferrari in advance, and certainly there was no team radio comm at the moment. And Massa did defend from Alonso. But it’s really tough to defend from both Button and Alonso at the same time. Massa went out of his way to close the door for Button and Alonso took advantage of that. That’s his job anyway.

    • Yes I agree – outside of track thus lengthening the circuit. As the table in the article shows, no penalty ever given for going wide.

      Not confusing for me, quite clear.

      • Jake said on 4th April 2011, 11:34

        mark webber would’ve had one if he didn’t give it back

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th April 2011, 11:39

        As the table in the article shows, no penalty ever given for going wide.

        No, the table in the article shows Webber had to hand a place back after going off on the outside to pass Alonso.

        Given that he took several laps to do it and was told on the radio “you have to give the place back”, I doubt he did so of his own choosing.

        But, as I also said in the article, the lack of direct information from the stewards makes it rather difficult to get a firm handle on this.

      • bad_whippet said on 4th April 2011, 11:47

        @ AA

        Quite clear? You and PM are completely overlooking one important point, apart from actually making rules up…

        If a driver were to leave the track on the outside of a corner and double the distance required to get round, would it be fair if that driver were able to do it at three or four times the speed (the speed he would have been doing to get round the corner properly)?

        Of course not.

        What you’re saying just doesn’t make sense.

        • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 4th April 2011, 12:49

          It is easy to show: Making the track longer by taking extra space and making a tight corner wider, and thus faster, gains you an advantage; going out of the track boundaries and getting a better entry to a corner also makes it faster.

          Clearly, there is an advantage gained. I don’t know if Vettel or Buemi would have been able to overtake there or only a little bit later, or not at all, but I do find it troubling that there is this unclarity.

          If there is a rule about cutting vs. elongating a corner, at least make it clear to the viewers. But if there is such a rule, I think it needs to be revisited. Sure, cutting a slow corner wins more time than speeding up a medium speed corner, but in both cases you gain track position.

          • Mouse_Nightshirt said on 4th April 2011, 13:20

            The issue is also that by doing the move that Vettel and Buemi made, it also puts them on the inside line for the following corner, thus even further increasing an advanatage at that particular point.

      • Lee said on 4th April 2011, 23:19

        Lewis was punished for this in spa against Kimi.

    • BBT (@bbt) said on 4th April 2011, 13:07

      The rules are actually pretty clear. A driver will not be punished for going beyond the circuit bounds if it is deemed that he is lengthening the circuit

      I think that is a big myth. Or at least it is according to Brundle.

      • Jonathan said on 4th April 2011, 13:27

        It’s certainly not in the actual rules.

        No doubt the rules would be “pretty clear” if we could all make up our own.

    • John H said on 4th April 2011, 13:33

      I’d like you to quote the sporting regs PM. I’m pretty sure they don’t say that.

  4. Red Andy (@red-andy) said on 4th April 2011, 11:23

    I always find that going to the rule book is the most instructive thing in these cases. Here’s the Sporting Regulations, Article 20.3:

    Drivers must use the track at all times. For the avoidance of doubt the white lines defining the track edges are considered to be part of the track but the kerbs are not.

    A driver will be judged to have left the track if no part of the car remains in contact with the track.

    To me, that suggests that as long as at least one wheel is on the right side of the white line (since the tyres are the only part of the car normally in contact with the track), the car is considered to be on the track and therefore any overtaking move performed is legitimate.

    For consistency I would suggest that any overtake where all four wheels are over the white line is illegitimate and the driver needs to hand the position back, or else face a penalty. I don’t believe exceptions should be handed out because it’s the first lap of a race, for instance (e.g. Raikkonen at Spa in 2009) – if you pass by leaving the track, you hand back the place or you get a penalty.

    I don’t know how this applies to the Vettel and Buemi passes pointed out earlier; it was too early for me to be watching that closely! But if all four wheels were off the track for either of those passes, it stands to reason that a penalty should be given.

    A final point: the Sporting Regulations also suggest that forcing another driver off the track is a punishable offence. I believe this rule should be applied more readily when drivers force one another off the road to prevent an overtake (e.g. as Kubica did to Alonso last year at Silverstone). But that’s a slightly different story.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 4th April 2011, 11:29

      Fully agree with that. Yes, all 4 wheels were off for Vettel he was really making a large bend around Button there.

      Brundle showed it in the rerun, even DC had to admit he was off with all 4 wheels.

      Not compeletely sure about Buemi, as it was not that important anymore to me (If Vettel was OK, then Buemi would have been perfectly OK as he was not as far off track, if I remember it correctly)

      • frood1919 said on 4th April 2011, 12:15

        i remember coulthard getting done for ‘cutting the corner’ when he used all of the kerb at hockenheim. that was just about the harshest penalty.

        there’s an easy solution to all this – get rid of tarmac run offs, or make it so grippy that it actually impedes the cars.

        • Jonathan said on 4th April 2011, 13:32

          This gets to the heart of the whole thing.

          The run-off areas are there for safety. Ideally we would get rid of them and have a gravel trap or a wall, but it would be less safe.

          When drivers use the run-off areas for overtaking, they are ignoring the intended track layout and taking advantage of a safety precaution.

          • Mopatop (@mopatop) said on 5th April 2011, 0:39

            Why not change all run-off areas so that they’re like T1 or the 130R at Suzuka – a strip of astro/grass with tarmac behind it. The grass properly discourages me from taking the 130R too wide.

    • Mike said on 4th April 2011, 11:30

      For consistency I would suggest that any overtake where all four wheels are over the white line is illegitimate and the driver needs to hand the position back, or else face a penalty.

      That’s pretty much bang n how it should be. Great analysis!

      • sw6569 (@sw6569) said on 4th April 2011, 11:47

        However, its exceptionally difficult to apply a blanket set of rules to every racing scenario. In each circumstance there will differences which is why the subjectivity of the stewards is required.

        It’s perhaps not the best example – but what if a car overtakes another car off the track because the first car had a puncture?

        Racing can’t always be so black and white – which is unfortunate for us spectators.

        Also, as mentioned elsewhere below this post, Adam Cooper suggested that the stewards had told the drivers they were free to go off track at turn 4.

        • Ragerod said on 4th April 2011, 21:09

          I agree that a blanket rule simply won’t work. The rulebook should be accompanied by a handbook of scenarios and the outcome. It may already exsist.

        • Mike said on 5th April 2011, 11:26

          … Obviously that would come under “exceptional circumstances”…

    • Dr. Mouse said on 4th April 2011, 12:07

      For consistency I would suggest that any overtake where all four wheels are over the white line is illegitimate and the driver needs to hand the position back, or else face a penalty.

      Actually, I would suggest that any situation, not just overtake, where all 4 wheels leave the track should immediately be subject to a stewards investigation. If the driver appears to have gained an advantage, penalise them.

      Applying such rules only to overtaking doesn’t make sense to me. The race track is defined, leaving it breaks the rules. You could even say that, unless leaving the track actually cost time/position, they should be penalised. It would, of course, be a judgement call, but rules are rules (just as people have said about Sauber’s wing)

      This is probably a controversial opinion, so I expect there will probably be some debate bellow… :)

    • Pinball said on 4th April 2011, 12:24

      Excellent comment Red Andy. I think regardless of whether a driver is overtaking or not if their car is outside the defined track edges they should automatically be penalised. Maybe not a drive through, but some sort of time penalty. Maybe F1 could introduce a penalty box somewhere on each of the circuits, like a little lay bay, like a little mini 20 metre long pit lane, with a boom gate at the end that a driver has to pull in to, stop, serve the penalty of say 5 seconds and then go again.

    • GeeMac (@geemac) said on 4th April 2011, 12:26

      That rule makes for interesting reading (particluarly for a lawyer like me) because if I’m reading it right, the kerb IS NOT a part of the track (which I’d always thought it was). So if a car is completely on the kerb/grasscrete, its off the track and shoudl be punished.

      The stewards seem to take a different view at Turn 8 at Catalunya, where the cars almost always run completely over the kerb (I tried to find a pic but couldn’t).

    • Bernard (@bernard) said on 4th April 2011, 13:04

      In addition it also says:

      Should a car leave the track for any reason the driver may rejoin. However, this may only be done when it
      is safe to do so and without gaining any advantage.

      What constitutes an advantage is very hard to define but there are many, many examples over the years that fall under that rule.

      Fresh in the mind is Alonso trying to get past Petrov in Abu Dhabi, he went off track several times but continued to hold position over Webber.

      The occasional late braking misjudgement is no cause for penalty but repeated exploitation of the rules needs consistent ruling.

    • Brilliant post Andy. I agree with absolutely everything.

    • Lee said on 4th April 2011, 23:23

      However this has nothing to do with overtaking. This reg states that the car should be on the track at all times not just when overtaking. therefore all the drivers that take that corner by leaving the track should be punished (especially as that is also the fastest option in melbourne).

  5. BasCB (@bascb) said on 4th April 2011, 11:23

    Honestly I think it should be – if you go over the line with all wheels you hand the position back – why have the lines there otherwise?

    I felt the same in Spa with Kimi and others a few years ago and hope the stewarding gets some stability into this.

    Fully agree with you, that if the drivers were told they can go over the line in c4 then it should have been told to all, especially all TV crews should have been informed of this so they could tell us. Not to mention they should have told people watching at the track.
    But if that would have been the case, why not move the line altogether. Button might have had a shot at Massa there as well.
    I am not saying Vettel should have got a penalty there, but at least it should have been looked into. Especially as staying behind Button there might have really impacted on the race result.

  6. Marina said on 4th April 2011, 11:25

    There were reports after the Melbourne race that drivers had been told they were free to go off-track at turn four if they needed to. If that was the case, that information should have been communicated to everyone watching the race before it had started.

    I agree on that. If it were not for Adam Cooper’s twitter, I wouldn’t have known about Turn 4 exception. And I failed to find any report about that on FIA site.
    It seems to me that some commentators were confused as well and now lots of fans believe that Vettel and Buemi should be punished as well.

    And why it takes so long for Charlie Whiting to make a decision when a team asks for one? I guess he have several people with him who can help him.

    • Jake said on 4th April 2011, 11:32

      for me this whole exception thing is rediculous. If you’re gonna make exceptions, just extend the circuit

  7. Mopatop (@mopatop) said on 4th April 2011, 11:26

    Personally I think that if you want to go round the outside of someone, you should be allowed to run a car’s width or so wide on the exit, as otherwise you run the risk of a major accident as the previously leading car runs into your side.

    It could be set that the overtaker shouldn’t be overtaking on the outside – but I thought we were trying to encourage overtaking here?

    However there are some turns where going wide confers a significant advantage – perhaps those turns should be banned before the race starts, and that information should be relayed to the commentators.

    I’m very much of the opinion that largely it doesn’t matter what the rules are, as long as everybody knows what they are.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 4th April 2011, 11:31

      But going along with your logic, Buttons move would have been OK as well. In reason not to crash into Massa he took the escape road there. Instead he would have had to brake in time to let Massa round the corner and not crash.

    • Mopatop (@mopatop) said on 4th April 2011, 11:37

      That was on the inside though, I never said cutting a corner was OK, only going outside the white lines on your way out of a corner to avoid an accident (assuming your victim is going to try using all the road).

  8. Osvaldas31 (@osvaldas31) said on 4th April 2011, 11:36

    It is silly consideration. Button went off track by cutting corner – he clearly gained an advantage, while Vettel went off track on the outside and didn’t cut the corner. Maybe he didn’t want to go off track and he didn’t gain clear advantage by doing this – he simply ran wide.

    • Rob said on 4th April 2011, 12:31

      Whether he intended to gain an advantage or not, he did, and therefore broke the rules. The rule does not mention anything about intentions.

    • spanky the wonder monkey said on 4th April 2011, 12:37

      since when was moving up 1 place not a clear advantage?

      if button had had problems, then i would see no problem, he didn’t. vettel benefited from a faster speed through the corner and gained a position in the process of driving off the track.

  9. Red Andy (@red-andy) said on 4th April 2011, 11:38

    Actually, this discussion skirts around a more important issue: why are the “off-track” zones paved with the same material as the track itself?

    What to do about drivers gaining an advantage by going off track would not be an issue at all if going off track wasn’t an advantage. Something like the abrasive tarmac they use at Paul Ricard, which will slow a car down and wear out its tyres, improving safety and preventing shortcuts from being at all advantageous.

    • Rob said on 4th April 2011, 12:34

      I believe it is for safety reasons – if I remember correctly there is a wall not far from the track around turn four; if there was gravel or grass between the track and that wall any cars out of control would not be able to lose much speed before hitting the wall. The tarmac gives drivers a better chance to brake and reduce their speed.

      I think that the high-friction tarmac used at Paul Ricard should be introduced to more circuits, because it would make it very difficult to gain an advantage by going off the track, and would not compromise safety.

    • David BR said on 4th April 2011, 12:59

      Though presumably abrasive tarmac could be an advantage in heavy rain – I’m thinking of Raikkonen at Spa in 2008 in his epic rain swept battle with Hamilton where he used the Pouhon run-off to gain traction and speed to re-overtake Hamilton by the next corner. Actually I thought that was a fantastic moment, just pointing out that extra abrasion doesn’t necessarily solve the problem!

      • Dr. Mouse said on 4th April 2011, 13:29

        Though presumably abrasive tarmac could be an advantage in heavy rain

        In that situation, it would be up to the stewards to penalise the driver for gaining an advantage by going off the track.

        • David BR said on 4th April 2011, 17:14

          But deciding whether to penalize or not would then really depend on the amount of rain and the tyres being used – imagine light rain but a driver not using wets or intermediates, for example. Not against more abrasive tarmac, I agree with Rob (below) but savvy drivers will exploit any advantage if it’s not banned outright.

      • Rob said on 4th April 2011, 13:31

        True, but if leaving the track can only be an advantage in the rain there will be fewer races where the stewards will actually have to make a judgement, rather than physics preventing the situation from occurring.

  10. Where do you think the line should be drawn on what is and isn’t allowed when drivers go off the track to gain a place?

    They shouldn’t go off track unless avoiding an accident or another random protestor running on the track.

    It should be simple enough. Anyone who goes off track to gain a position should be made to hand the position back or if that’s not possible within 3 laps then give them a drive through penalty. I really don’t understand why there is so much confusion time and again with this rule. If it happens in qualifying then the lap time should be (and to my knowledge always has been) deleted. If it gives a speed advantage in qualifying then surely it gives an advantage in the race.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 4th April 2011, 12:19

      That would also saved us the tiring argument of the Hulk staying in front of Webber last year in Monza being legal or unfair advantage from cutting the corner.

      Another case where clearly defined rules would have helped.

      • Yep. There have been so many cases over the years and the most overlooked one was Kimi at Spa 09. I’ve moaned a lot about consistency of the stewards but I don’t see how I can expect them to be consistent when the rules as so unclear so sorry to them! :P

  11. Dan Thorn (@dan-thorn) said on 4th April 2011, 11:52

    I’d forgotten about the Webber incident in Singapore ’09, but there does seem to be a consensus that lengthening the circuit by going wide does not gain you an advantage, which is ridiculous, because it clearly does.

    There are some circuits – Ascari at Monza, Turn 4 I think it is at the Nurburgring and apparently now Turn 4 at Melbourne where drivers run wide so often the FIA just ignore it. If the public are made aware of such scenarios then fair enough, but in other circumstances it should be equally as punishable as cutting the circuit on the inside.

    • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 4th April 2011, 13:29

      You are right, although even making aware is a bit silly: move the lines or keep them and punish going over them, one of the two, not both. How hard is it? I really don’t get that. Don’t we get an auto-yellow sign when someone is off track? That would seem to mean that race control knows when it happens. Hm, wait, maybe that sign is a reason not to move the lines. Well, that leaves: apply the rules.

    • You’re absolutely right and to take one of your examples Dan at Monza last year Massa was cutting Ascari all Saturday and Brundle even commented that he wouldn’t be allowed to get away with it but what do you know, the stewards turned a blind eye.

      There was also an example last year where the stewards ignored Vettel cutting the final chicane and didn’t delete the laptime in qualifying. He went on to better it anyway but I imkagine he got an advantage (I don’t think it was for his final quali lap) but that was an obvious one that they missed.

  12. Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 4th April 2011, 11:57

    Very glad to see this, as I’ve been going on about it since the race itself.

    The rule desperately needs to be clarified. It’s okay to go wide at La Source one year but not the next. It’s okay to gain a place by cutting the Hungary chicane (Schumacher 2006) but not the Club or Bus Stop chicanes. It’s okay to overtake by going off the track in Melbourne, but not in Singapore, even if the other driver has gone off too (in what was the most obvious example of “lengthening in the track” ever and yet this one time it apparently wasn’t good enough).

    The rule clearly states the driver must only use the track. Of course, a driver breaks this every time he makes a mistake and goes off and then recovers. This “oh, it’s okay unofficially” approach to the rules is what has opened to the door to the ridiculous situation we have now, where it’s okay to go off sometimes and not others.

    If people are going off the track it implies they can’t stay on it. And if they can’t stay on it it’s usually down to losing control (in which they lose time) or going too fast (and such is the performance of these cars that going an extra distance can be nullified by keeping speed and momentum). If this had been Monaco, Vettel would have had to slow to avoid hitting the wall. Enough to give Button the place back? I don’t know and think probably not. But the ambiguity is there and cheapens the spectacle and leads to these endless arguments and gives people the opportunity to question the integrity of a result. Thankfully we are spared the latter on this occasion because of Hamilton’s floor problem, but remember Spa 2009? It ruined what would have been a great and fully deserved result.

    If nothing was to be gained by going around the outside, then what’s the problem in stopping them from doing so? That’s the crux of the matter. If going wide gives no advantage, why not appease those who say it does and then everyone’s happy?

    Since apparently gravel is too dangerous, even to have a car’s width of it at the edge of the track, the rule must be clarified and tightened. No keeping a position when you’ve gone off and no going off deliberately at all (say 3 times and you get a penalty). If people don’t like it, it’s up to the drivers to keep it on the track and if they can’t do that, tough.

  13. tony said on 4th April 2011, 11:57

    Is there no former driver steward this year?

  14. Coefficient said on 4th April 2011, 12:04

    The situation is very simple. The racing track is the black part in between the white painted lines around the outside of the track. The race takes place on this track and nowhere else. Therefore, if a competitive advantage is gained by using areas outside of the designated racing track a penalty must be issued. Occasionally cars may leave the track in error due to mistimed braking etc, these mistakes bring their own punishment in the main and penalties are usually innapropriate in such circumstances. However, Sebastian Vettel should have been given a penalty for performing a competitive overtake outside of the racing track. Turn 4 at Albert Park has never been known as an overtaking opportunity because with modern downforce levels its just an acceleration zone. As such, Vettel was so keen not to be held up by Button for fear of allowing Hamilton to pass him on strategy that he effectively cheated and got off scott free. There is no grey area and if I was an FIA steward I’d issue Vettel with a time penalty right now and strip him of the win. No-one wants to see hollow victories.

    • fullthrottle said on 4th April 2011, 13:56

      That is the truth.

      • karl said on 5th April 2011, 9:39

        so giving the win to Hamilton wouldn’t be considered as a ‘Hallow’ victory then….if he can’t win on the take, get the stewards to help him.

        Talk about making a mountain out of a mole hill.

  15. Hatebreeder (@hatebreeder) said on 4th April 2011, 12:09

    martin brundle did point that out didnt he? and coulthard said that as long as two tyres were on the yellow line itz perfectly legal to pass on the outside. and then brundle didnt reply. But vettel was not even close to the yellow line. :-??

    • Rob said on 4th April 2011, 12:36

      Possibly Coulthard is still thiking in Red Bull PR mode?

    • Mads (@mads) said on 4th April 2011, 14:59

      Technically that depends on when you see an overtake to be sealed. Vettel was first four wheels over the line when he was well clear of Button, so he might mean that he thinks that when he was doing the actual overtake he was within the lines.

      • Lee said on 4th April 2011, 23:33

        Technically the pure fact that he left the circuit was enough as the rules clearly state that a car should not completely leave the track (even if there are no other cars around at the time). Also the if he did overtake before leaving the track then why leave the track at all? The reason is that it was an advantage to do so. In my mind if you overtake cleanly but then leave the track for extra speed then you are gaining a potential advantage by putting space between you and the car that you have just taken. This would mean far less risk of a counter move.

    • Gambit said on 4th April 2011, 21:48

      *ding* *ding* We have a winner!

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