Friday, August 16, 2013

F1: Taking the Racing Out Of Racing

Sorry for the delay on this, as I was absent for the week following the F1 race at Hungary, but I can't shake something off my mind. And it has nothing to do with the fact that I am a huge Romain Grosjean fan. I like Romain for his utter fearlessness and his aggressive nature on the track. He seems like a bang up guy.

So you can imagine my frustration with the F1 Stewards for their penalties handed down to Romain following the Hungarian GP. For those who missed it, here's a quick recap: On the 25th of lap of the race, Romain attempted a pass for position on Jenson Button. Coming to a tight part of the track, Romain went along side of Jenson and made wheel to wheel contact under breaking. Romain got the position and both cars continued on the race with no damage.

A mere four laps later, Grosjean was along side of Felipe Massa approaching an almost flat out left handed turn. Grosjean had the preferred outside line but Massa didn't budge. Having to adjust his line, Grosjean put two wheels off the track and two wheels on the curbing to complete the move. No contact was made, no illegal overtake was made.

Romain Grosjean - F1 Grand Prix of Hungary - Qualifying
Romain hustling his car at Hungary (Photo: Getty Images)

The stewards issued a drive-through penalty to Romain following his overtake of Felipe Massa. To the rule book, it technically was a penalty. Article Twenty, Section Two of the Formula 1 Regulations states: "Drivers must use the track at all times. For the avoidance of doubt the white lines defining the track edges are considered to be a part of the track but the kerbs are not." BUT, the rule goes onto say "A driver may not deliberately leave the track without a justifiable reason." Would avoiding an accident count as a justifiable reason? And since when are the kerbs not considered an extension of the track? All should be fair game on the kerbs. A whole separate argument would ensue if he used the tarmac runoff, but he didn't.

Felipe Massa addressed the situation after the race. On the overtake, Massa said, "If he took the penalty because of what he did with me, that's completely wrong. He didn't go four wheels outside, he went two wheels. Two wheels is possible." I think Massa had the same line of thinking as I and the rest of the none Charlie Whiting (head F1 steward) world have which is the kerb is the extension of the track.

For the Button incident, Romain, as stated, got a drive through penalty. It pretty much ruined his race. It's a damn shame because he was really the only one on track who could give eventual race winner Lewis Hamilton a run for his money. But to add insult to injury, Romain received a 20 second time penalty following the race for his pass on Massa. Although it did not negate him further down the finishing order because he had a 20+ second gap on next place Jenson Button, it is the principle of the matter.

The message I basically got from the stewards this past weekend is mistakes won't be tolerated. News flash: IT'S RACING. Things happen. Some are minor and some are major. Did the overtake collision he had with Jenson really merit a penalty when both drivers came out unscathed? And did his penalty for passing Massa for using the kerbs avoiding a collision really earn a 20 second penalty following the race? It was either that or have an accident Sebastian Vettel left the track in a battle with Kimi Raikkonen in the penalty. I didn't see Vettel getting a penalty in a defensive maneuver. Selective enforcement bites. I'm sure if I went back through the tape, I could find more cases to support my claim.

Romain Grosjean - F1 Grand Prix of Hungary: Practice
Romain isn't alone in questioning the Stewards (Photo: Getty Images)

All three drivers involved in the two incidents race hard and never give an inch. But these penalties really hinder proper racing. It gives an impression to drivers that if you make a mistake trying to pass, you will be penalized. Because, the word accident is never thrown around in the racing world (snark). Passing in a non-DRS zone is the best type of passes, but with these penalties, it almost discourages drivers from pushing the limits and going for it.

And to make matters worse: new regulations next year will require more fuel saving and less pushing? It wouldn't be so bad if there was in race refueling, but since that is out of the question, everyone will be on the same strategy. Way to go F1. Please continue to take the racing out of racing.

Let me know what you think.

-Matthew Hickey

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