Daniel Ricciardo reckons Formula 1’s overtaking rules should not be restricted any further to ensure that drivers engaging in’hard racing’ – and being seen to race hard by the fans – remains a central part of the sport.
F1’s overtaking rules have come under close scrutiny in 2016 and the FIA issued a clarification ahead of the US Grand Prix to clamp down on drivers making aggressive defensive moves under braking.
The issue was further amplified after the Mexican Grand Prix when Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was penalised for a collision with Ricciardo towards the end of the event at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.
Ricciardo was speaking at the pre-event press conference for the Brazilian Grand Prix, which, in an unusual but welcome move by the FIA, featured the race director Charlie Whiting explaining why certain penalties had been handed out to some drivers in Mexico and not others.
When respect to the Vettel and Ricciardo incident, Whiting stated that the German driver’s defensive move had fulfilled the “three fundamental points” that the stewards look for when assessing a contentious incident.
He further clarified that those measures were: “if the other driver has to take evasive action, if a driver makes an abnormal change of direction in the braking zone, and if it could be deemed to be potentially dangerous to another driver”.
When asked where the racers felt the line on hard racing was under the current rules, Ricciardo explained that he wants F1’s overtaking regulations to continue to allow drivers to make hard, on the edge moves as he believes they make the sport more exciting for fans.
He said: “I was in a position last weekend where I was protesting a move, but on the flip side of that I think that was a specific move under braking. I think they’ve eased the rules in the last couple of years so we did make a conscious effort to give us a bit more freedom to race and I think it’s been more fun and better since then.
“So there’s always going to be incidents where you’ll feel this or that but I definitely feel that we should be allowed to still put it all on the line. I think that makes the sport exciting, it lets out emotions – as we’ve heard – and it gives us our own personality as well, and fans can be attracted to a driver on the way he races or the way he responds.
“All of us love racing. You come here to win but if you can’t win you don’t want to drive around on a Sunday afternoon by yourself. You want to have a fight and have a battle. We can always make improvements here or there but you don’t want the rules to become that tight that we’re afraid to do anything. But I think we’re ok where we are.”
Lewis Hamilton, who was appearing alongside Ricciardo, hailed Whiting’s role in implementing the rules during F1 races.
He said: “We’re here to race hard, but of course we all have different opinions about different rules that are set and how we go about them.
“You’ve got two different opinions for every scenario and that’s why we need people like Charlie in the middle who really helps – with no bias – [and] makes sure that the right decision is made. I think ultimately they’d allow us to race, but of course we can’t be led to go down the wrong path or the incorrect way.”
Max Verstappen, a driver who has been the subject of much discussion for his defensive driving in 2016, stated that firm moves should be allowed if they did not cause a crash or severely affected another driver
He said: “As long as you don’t crash or make the other driver lose a lot of positions, I think you can race pretty hard.”
Title fight won’t stop bold moves against Mercedes drivers
Hamilton and his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg are locked in a battle for the 2016 drivers’ world championship heading into the final two rounds of the season. If the German driver wins the race at Interlagos he will take the title with one event in Abu Dhabi to spare.
When asked if that situation would lead to other drivers not attacking the Mercedes racers with the same intensity for fear of interfering with the title fight, Ricciardo, Verstappen and Williams’ Felipe Massa insisted that that would not be the case.
“If I can be fighting with them then I think they need to be careful with me because I will try everything I can,” joked Massa, who is making his final F1 appearance at his home race before he retires from the championship at the end of the season.
But Vettel, who was involved in a close title fight with Fernando Alonso at the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix when he drove for Red Bull, explained that other drivers not in the championship battle should always “respect” the situation.
He said: “It’s clear that you race to see the chequered flag so you never try to do something that doesn’t allow you to see [the] chequered flag. Equally, it applies when racing against people that are racing for the championship.
“It’s something that you have to have in mind – credit it to them, they did the best job over the course of the season for whatever reason to put them in that position – and I think for the others [they should] respect that fact.”
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