NOTICE: F1 must decide if it wants to race or “race”

There are a thousand and one topics we could talk about after Interlagos – this entire weekend is worthy of its own book – but I want to focus on one of the moments that could prove to be influential when it comes to racing that we see throughout the Formula 1 grid in forward gear.

I think Michael Masi was wrong on Sunday. Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton provided some excitement at the edge of your seat with so much at stake, but the FIA ​​race director made a bad decision.

When Verstappen forced both cars off the track at Turn 4, the absolutely acceptable minimum response was for this incident to be investigated. Whether that then leads to a specific penalty is another question, as the FIA ​​has access to so much more than what I can see working on a race, but it deserved further analysis from the stewards.

Usually, Masi comes in for an unfair review. I have lost count of the number of times the stewards’ decisions are criticized – either for not inflicting a penalty or for the punishment inflicted – and Masi faces a barrage of criticism from fans and observers. , when he forgets a key point: Masi is not a steward.

He never decides the final outcome of an investigation. He refers to things to the stewards, and they are the ones who then decide if there should be a penalty or the like, and Masi has nothing to do with that at this point. The little he decides is whether the flight attendants should investigate something or not.

And this is where the Arrows aren’t so unfair this time around, as it was Masi’s decision not to return the Verstappen and Hamilton incident for further consideration.

Where I have sympathy is in Masi’s reasoning, as he said that the larger desire to let drivers fight each other came into play.

“Let’s not forget that we have the general ‘let it run’ principles, and looking at it all, with the angles we had, that was the philosophy that was adopted,” Masi said on Sunday night.

“I think if you look at the proximity of the cars heading towards the summit, where it is, the nature of the turn, the fact that both cars have gone, neither of the cars lost their position or what that it was like that, was probably the general opinion. “

But I would say you have to make sure that by letting them run you don’t accidentally prevent anyone from having a run.

Masi’s desire to let the drivers race without interference may have inadvertently set a delicate precedent in Brazil. Images of Mauger / Motorsport

Before I go any further, let me say that Max was doing the right thing for his own race. He was up against a car that was going to prove difficult to keep in mind due to its straight-line speed advantage, and looked likely to lose to Lewis at one point. His only real hope was to hold him back long enough that Hamilton started struggling with his tires and couldn’t stay close enough to pass.

So when Hamilton beat him on the approach to Turn 4, he was still going to try everything he could to keep his car on the side in the turn. To give in – even if he no longer had the heights – was most certainly to concede victory.

And Hamilton knew it. He was ready for Verstappen to try to pass him, and was able to react and come out wide.

But as soon as Verstappen failed to stay on track either, it surely deserves a penalty. It’s not whether it was dangerous or intentional (as much as people are addicted to seeing the edge of Verstappen’s car to see if he opened the steering wheel to make Hamilton run this far), it is the fact. that Verstappen then left the track and gained an advantage.

In order to prevent Hamilton from overtaking him on the outside – as he had almost done before entering the braking zone – Verstappen picked up too much speed in the corner to be able to stay on track. The only reason Hamilton is not making the move is because of the departure of Red Bull. Verstappen held onto his place by going over the edge of the track and essentially moving the goalposts to where the two are supposed to be fighting. It’s almost like allowing a touchdown to hold even though the received reception landed out of bounds, just because it looked cool and was exciting.

Of course, if we ever see the vehicle on board and it intentionally pushed both cars, it’s even more overwhelming, but Masi didn’t have that camera angle available to make such a call, and we’ll give Verstappen the benefit of the doubt because it doesn’t affect the main point anyway. (ED: The on-board images were broadcast after the submission of this column).

If you let such a move go unpunished, you are really going to hamper any rider’s ability to pass on any turn. It was one of the two real passing points on the Interlagos track, and the passing is quite difficult like in Formula 1, without the rules making it even more difficult.

It might sound contradictory when I say that tough races should have been investigated and potentially punished, but there’s a reason it could be damaging.

Overtaking from the outside is risky – but drivers should always have the option. Coates / Motorsport Images

This is because the message of Verstappen’s decision is that any rider who needs to defend themselves should just get inside the track as they approach a turn. It doesn’t matter whether they intend to take the turn or not, they can brake so late that the car on the outside can’t turn, both can go off the track and it won’t even be dealt with. ‘investigation.

As much as the drivers themselves like to argue that overtaking from the outside is risky – which is very true – it overlooks the fact that once you remove the possibility of having a choice between two sides, you don’t. will almost never get a pass without it being in a straight line using the DRS. And it’s not an exciting race.

You need more than one overtaking option to have a fight. One may be easier than the other, but things like selling a mannequin or preparing someone for a move by getting them out of position a number of turns earlier come out the window if the only way to overtake is inside.

What Verstappen and Hamilton produced was thrilling, and the result in many ways was the right one as there were still other battle opportunities and it eventually settled on the right track, but it won’t always be the right one. case.

At the very least, there should have been a black and white flag for Verstappen, so he would know he had pushed it a bit too far and that a repeat would not be tolerated. I don’t blame him for the move at all, but unless he managed to keep his own car on the track it shouldn’t have been out of hand.

Now when the tables are turned or two other pilots find themselves in a similar position, they are going to be frustrated if their defense is studied due to a lack of consistency.

The stewards themselves change over the course of the season, so it’s understandable that there are different views on similar incidents just like you get from various umpires in other sports. But Masi is a constant, and that means he has set a tone that will be hard to stray from.

This is not an incident to be concerned about in the context of the title race, but it is when it comes to the way F1 drivers race in general.

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