The FIA has abandoned the ‘Max Verstappen’ rule clarification it introduced into Formula 1 regarding wheel-to-wheel racing last season in an attempt to give drivers more on-track freedom in 2017.
The governing body issued its previous explanation ahead of the 2016 US Grand Prix, which stated that any driver moving in braking zones and causing other competitors to take evasive action – a charge several drivers had levelled at Verstappen last year, particularly after his battles with Kimi Raikkonen in Hungary and Belgium – would be investigated.
That clarification resulted in Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel being penalised at the Mexican Grand Prix for his defending against Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo during the closing stages of that race.
But ahead of the 2017 Australian Grand Prix, which takes place in Melbourne this weekend, F1 race director Charlie Whiting explained that the ‘Verstappen rule’ had been replaced with a broader clarification regarding the actions drivers take in braking zones.
He said: “Some of the incidents that we saw last year may be handled slightly differently, simply because the so-called ‘Verstappen rule’ has gone. Before, we said any move under braking will be investigated.
“Now we have a simple rule which says effectively that if a driver moves erratically or goes unnecessarily slowly or behaves in a manner that could endanger another driver, then he will be investigated. So there’s a very broad rule now.”
Whiting also explained that the change ahead of the 2017 season means the stewards will only investigate potentially dangerous movement in braking zones.
He said: “The way we interpreted the regulations last year was to simply use the rules that we had to say that moving under braking was potentially dangerous, and hence would be reported to the stewards every time.
“Each incident will [now] be dealt with only on the basis of whether or not it was a dangerous manoeuvre, not necessarily because he moved under braking.”
Speaking at the pre-event press conference in Melbourne, Ricciardo welcomed the relaxing of the braking zone rules.
He said: “The good part of it is it means less decisions to be made on-track, in a way. If they leave it up to us I guess the positive is that we sort it out on track. Hopefully we can get redemption if we feel like something has not gone our way. I like being able to race, that’s the positive from it.”
Video archive aims to help stewarding consistency
To help the F1 race stewards investigate incidents this year, the FIA has put together a system that will give them access to a video archive that will house clips of similar events.
The hope is that now the stewards will be able refer back to how previous incidents of a similar nature were dealt with, it will improve the consistency of their decisions throughout the season.
“We had a meeting yesterday with all the stewards, and we reviewed all the controversial incidents from last year to see how they would be dealt with under the so-called new rules, or the new approach,” said Whiting.
“I won’t go into it now, but it was quite interesting. Things would have been dealt with differently, in some cases. What we’ve done to try and help the stewards is to introduce what we call a video archive system, which allows them to instantly refer to other incidents of a similar nature.
“So without having to trawl through and try and remember what happened to so and so, they’ll be able to pull up any similar incident.
“They’ll be sorted by type of incident, for example – causing a collision, click, click, click, six of those incidents, see what the decisions were, and that should be able to give the stewards not only more chance to be consistent, but also faster.”
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