Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Catman
The problems facing backmarkers was highlighted this weekend by Will Stevens, who has called for “more respect” following his collision with Romain Grosjean. The Frenchman, who has seemingly forgotten what it is like to race at the front and actually be in the position to lap people, brought back memories of his crash-happy days of 2012.
He needlessly pulled back onto the racing line too early as he breezed past the Manor car, French kissing his front wing earning them both an instant detour through the pitlane.
All this only two weeks on from complaining about Max Verstappen’s driving standards at the previous race when the pair came together and just two races on from sending his own pitcrew flying. The irony is delicious…
The disgruntled Stevens said “I understand blue flags and that we need to let the guys past… In return I think it would be nice if they could respect us and give us at least a car width’s room to take into the corner“. To be fair to Romain, he did accept full responsibility for the incident, but that will be of little consolation to Will. “I thought I was past the Manor, but it was soon clear that I wasn’t. It was my fault entirely and I apologise for it. You never stop learning as a driver.”
The 2015 sporting regulations are clear. “As soon as a car is caught by another car which is about to lap it during the race the driver must allow the faster driver past at the first available opportunity. If the driver who has been caught does not allow the faster driver past, waved blue flags will be shown to indicate that he must allow the following driver to overtake.” It also governs the actions of the overtaking driver, who “should leave at least one car width between his own car and the edge of the track on the approach to the corner“.
So this incident, like many others before it, are completely covered in the regulations and are totally avoidable.
There has been a lot of complaints recently from the front-runners about lapped traffic, particularly the Ferrari boys. We have all enjoyed Sebastian singing his merry blue flag song to the pit wall and Kimi using very colourful language to show his disgust in Monaco. Unfortunately for them these frustrations will always be borne out when fractions of a second can decide the outcome and pesky slow cars are there to get in the way.
In the WEC, where the multi-class racing makes overtaking backmarkers inherently more dangerous, blue flags are shown but not enforced in the draconian way of Formula One. The slower car is not required to leap out of the way within three posts, but rather it is the responsibility of both drivers to behave in a predictable fashion so that the move is completed safely.
Most of the time this mutual respect ensures most races go off without incident, but sometimes the pressure of the competition does put pressure on the prototype drivers to take huge risks, demonstrated by Allan McNish at Le Mans in 2011 when he had a scary accident going for a gap that was always going to close.
Some argue that blue flags in F1 should be done away with altogether. Before the rules were firmly enforced the leaders had to fight their way through the pack.
This was one of the defining characteristics of Ayrton senna, who had an uncanny ability to carve through traffic. Perhaps it was his neon orange car and bright yellow helmet, or perhaps it was fear of incurring his wrath. Others were not so good at it, who could forget Nelson Piquet’s retirement from the German Grand Prix in 1982?
After clipping a backmarker, Nelson decided to make his viewpoint known, which resulted in a track-side punch up. I can’t imagine that his helmet was the best place to aim his right hook, probably a softer landing spot would have been wiser…
To my mind abolishing blue flags would degrade the spectacle and has never had much sway with the public in recent times, who don’t want a potential race winning battle to be decided by the backmarkers. It is hard enough to ensure close competition for the victory without complicating matters. The regulations are clear enough, it is up to the drivers to show a little more of their world class when out on track.
By the very nature of competition you will have faster and slower cars competing for the same piece of tarmac. Most of the attention will be given to those fighting at the front, and rightly so, but as Stevens suggests a lot more respect should be shown to those further behind just trying to get along.