When rules bring chaos out of order
so vicious that they contributed to suspension breakages on three cars were imposed to deter drivers from venturing beyond track limits. Then, in Hungary, drivers were informed that electronic sensors would detect any track-boundary breaches, but only in Turns 4 and 11, where time could theoretically be gained by going over the line; by implication, then, the others were fair game. In Hockenheim, Turn 1 was awarded ‘zero tolerance’ status, and no other.
After Jules Bianchi’s fatal accident it was surely incumbent upon the FIA, as regulator of the sport, to impose stringent penalties for ignoring double waved yellow ags, which demand that drivers slow signicantly and are able to come to an immediate stop, such is the potential danger ahead. Yet Rosberg escaped sanction during Q3 in Budapest after backing off for just a tenth of a second. Only after team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who lost a potential pole by slowing as per the book, demanded explanations was it decided to impose a red-ag rule to force drivers to abort their laps where double yellows had previously sufced. So why did F1 bother with double yellows at all if complaints from a driver was all it took to bin the rule for qualifying?
All these inconsistencies were introduced, then rescinded under the banner of an ofcial ‘clarication’. To my mind, this implies that they were framed too vaguely or introduced too hastily in the rst place. ‘Avoidable accident’ penalties also spring to mind. No wonder wheel-to-wheel racing is such a rare spectacle if a driver is penalised for failing to cede when their adversary chops across them.
If the drivers are confused, then please also consider the fans, who sacrice weekends to pursue their passion yet are left bewildered by protests, appeals, delays in issuing nal grid orders, and race results that are nalised long after the crowds have headed home.
This situation’s roots lie in the late ’90s, to wit the Michael Schumacher era, when Michael (and Ferrari) redened the bounds of acceptability while current FIA race director Charlie Whiting cut his ofciating teeth. What Schumacher did was suddenly deemed acceptable, and F1 gradually adapted.
Each subsequent ‘clarication’ added another layer of rules to the book, and where these resulted in unforeseen side effects, further rules were framed to negate these. Thus the rulebook grew progressively fatter.
Another issue is that the governance structure has become more convoluted. The Strategy Group represents just half the teams, while the next stage is disproportionately inuenced by FOM, just as the nal step, the World Motor Sport Council, comprises predominantly FIA ofcials who are in many instances far removed from F1’s realities.
The situation reached a head in Hungary. Team bosses were united in their determination that the issues be discussed at Strategy Group level between the Hungarian and German GPs. Preliminary discussions were held between various sporting directors, who then formulated proposals that were escalated to the Strategy Group.
That meeting led to a number of changes. The ‘halo’ cockpit-protection device, previously to be introduced in 2017, was pushed back a year pending further tests, the ‘radio silence’ and track-limit regulations were relaxed, and proposals for simplied regulations to cater for wet standing starts (rather than Safety Car processions) and bans on repairs to cars under red-ag conditions have been adopted.
At last F1’s regulatory ratchet is turning backwards, even if only click by click.