A lot has been spoken of and analyzed about the pass that Vettel made on Button with 2 laps to go last week in Germany—I expressed my vote on the podcast that I didn’t like the penalty—not because they didn’t read the rules right but I just don’t like the way this is going.
My thought is that the portion of the exit had been used by others during the race (and some other similar places around the track as well) without penalty but because a car was passed, it was deemed not part of the racing surface and so Vettel ended up 5th.
Is it the racing surface or not? My view is that if you are allowed to run on that part of the track at al,l it is indeed part of the racing surface and shouldn’t be a punishable offense to pass there if need be. Even if you did not pass anyone, the fact that you went off there and did not crash into a wall is an advantage in itself or perhaps you used that part of the circuit to keep your exit speed up so you could keep a competitor behind—an advantage also—so where does it stop?
The Tilke conundrum
In the new Tilke world of race track design it seems an ever increasing amount of runoff is evolving which I feel has made these new circuits lack character even if the layout between the white lines would be fundamentally challenging. With no threat of damage for running wide, we see time and again cars go off and just turn that boat around and carry on their way with the only downside being the mechanics need to clean that fake green paint off the tyres, or even worse the multicoloured lines (India gives me a headache looking at all those lines, yikes!).
It’s not like these F1 drivers aren’t capable, you can’t try this at Monaco! One of the wonderments of F1 is that you see these guys push the cars to their limit taking risk after risk to steal that extra point or two but it loses a bit of that luster when they are racing in an open asphalt plain.
Now I’m not suggesting we start installing trees and catch fence posts at the apexes but I think they need to look at these runoff areas and make the penalty for using these areas a lot higher. The run-off area is there to stop these guys from hitting solid objects but it doesn’t mean it should be used with out threat of mechanical damage—perhaps they should be a lot rougher in character, a nice cobblestone road sounds about right!
This will certainly separate the greats from the also-rans and may even stop some of these egregious passing maneuvers (not Pastor of course, but some of the rest). Safety is of course very important but I think they’ve gone a little far with some of these tracks in terms of accountability for mistakes, even an SCCA autocrosser at least has to worry about some cone damage if they go off on their FTD run.
So as long as you don’t take a short cut I say let them race! But let’s make them work and think about the consequences a little bit more, and maybe we can do away with some of these post race penalty shenanigans