When the on-track action isn’t quite as exciting and unpredictable as some may have hoped for, we’re left each race weekend with finding the one or two key talking points to fret over and engage in robe-tearing, teeth-gnashing antics. If the racing on track can’t be enthralling, maybe the team litigation of the sport can be.
This weekend’s big issues were the pole position lap under yellows and a continuing call for the removal of the radio ban—which all the teams wanted last year—and Lewis on a personal Charlie Whiting-confronting quest to get clarification on the yellow flag rules and now an overall call for comprehensive rule clarity across all of the FIA regulations.
That’s right, after hauling Nico Rosberg back to the track three hours after he’d secured pole for the Hungarian Grand Prix, the race stewards deemed his pole perfectly acceptable even though it wasn’t to Lewis Hamilton or even Red Bull’s Christian Horner. Mercedes boss, Toto Wolff, says Rosberg’s actions were well within the rules even though his current championship leader, Lewis Hamilton, was on a quest to get the rules clarified for fear of damaging the young, impressionable minds of drivers in GP2 and GP3. What!!??!! Are you against safety??!!
Now the teams are asking for a far simpler rule book that doesn’t take three hours to render a verdict and I tend to agree with them. I called for a one-hour window to make any and all stewarding adjustments, penalties and such post-event. After that, it’s what you’ve got for the next session.
Let’s be honest here, simplifying the rules in an era of fierce team litigation and legalism is not going to be an easy task for the FIA. In fact, the trend and calls from the press and teams is to micromanage the sport even more on every single element and this calls for even further regulatory oversight.
Now, however, it seems teams had had enough of the ambiguity and complex nature of the rules as Ferrari’s Maurizio Arrivabene and Red Bull’s Christian Horner said.
Ferrari team boss, Maurizio:
“My president [Sergio Marchionne] raised that topic one year ago, more or less,” said Arrivabene.
“He said clearly we have too many complications. Clear and simple rules could help.
“We need to clean up all the grey areas in the rules.
“When you have grey areas you never know where you are going. You start to look left, right, up, down.”
Red Bull boss Christian Horner said:
“We need a common sense rule, but probably in Formula 1 that doesn’t exist,” he said.
“It’s like the radio situation with Jenson Button [who received a penalty for being assisted by McLaren with a problem during the race].
“I haven’t seen what was said or recorded but we’re over-regulating and making it too complicated for the fans.
“You need to keep it simple that a casual viewer can tune in and pick up what’s going on without over-regulating.”
Kimi called the rules a “joke” and he does have a point as calling a driver back after three hours is really difficult for fans at home to follow. The FIA said it took that long because they were parsing the 107% rule which was silly because that rule has an exemption for unusual circumstances and Friday’s practice session would clearly suggest that all cars are within that performance limit, it’s just that the rain was impacting the qualifying session dramatically.
Back in the days of Max Mosley as FIA president, the rules were ambiguous for a reason. It gave latitude for the FIA to render whatever verdict they deemed warranted for the situation. The ambiguity kept everyone on their toes but in the days of prolific litigation, the teams seem to want every possible outcome and nuance of the rules in black and white and even fans say they would appreciate that too.
There’s a problem with that…it would be very difficult to do for every possible situation and I would offer a simple starting place instead. How about seeking consistency in the penalties and place a time limit on the steward session post-event? Fans aren’t as hung up on the fine details of the rules so much as they are the consistency in which they are meted out. Also, the steward decision is final for event weekends with a chance to appeal by the teams but let’s not screw up a race weekend parsing words and trying to out-lawyer the other guys or use one of the infamous three trump cards to shame F1 into submission.
You see, the teams didn’t like the radio coaching and all of them said it would be hard to manage as coded words would be used etc so the FIA just banned it all. Now the teams have crapped the bed and they want it removed. See how wanting more regulation begets more issues? Now they want less regulation yet they are up in arms over the pole lap in Hungary and want much more detail and definition on the rules concerning yellow flags. They have rules already and the stewards deemed it a legal pole per the rules but that isn’t good enough so they haul out the trump card called Safety and suggest that the call in Hungary is poisoning young minds of impressionable drivers.
It truly does make me think that selling F1’s ownership was a bad idea that begat the F1 Strategy Group in which the teams are now trying to run the sport with all their embedded self-interests in tow. Part of me would suggest that the sport needs to go back to the benevolent dictator days and get on with racing.
The teams have litigated and lobbied their way into a racing series that finds it difficult to pass, difficult to actually have intra-team battles and difficult to afford. Will a simplification of the rules—for the dumb fans sake you know—make things better? I think not. A stronger Formula One Management with the FIA as the provider of a quill and ink in which to write the rules is not a bad idea after all.
Hat Tip: AUTOSPORT