By TJ13 contributor @F1theAJ
Defending vs Blocking: Is it time for F1 regulations to differentiate between the two?
The incident between Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikonnen in Spa does seem a long time ago, but it has raised one question, why do the F1 regulations not differentiate between defending and blocking while trying to maintain track position?
Verstappen’s ‘late’ defence of his lead position against the overtaking attempt by Raikonnen at Spa caused a furore, with Raikonnen later claiming the move was dangerous and Verstappen protesting he had done nothing wrong.
What is the difference between ‘defending’ and ‘blocking’? For the purpose of this article, lets consider ‘defending’ as being when a leading driver, moves FIRST when trying to maintain his track position (when challenged by another driver) i.e BEFORE the second driver attempts an overtaking move.
Whereas ‘blocking’ would be when the lead driver waits to see where the driver attempting the overtaking manoeuvre moves before the lead driver moves to defend, i.e. the lead driver moves SECOND, AFTER the overtaking driver has started the overtaking manoeuvre.
What do the regulations say regarding this? Look to the current F1 website we see ‘‘More than one change of direction to defend a position is not permitted. If a driver has moved off the racing line while defending their position, they may move back but must ensure there is at least one car’s width between their own car and the edge of the track.’’
i.e no mention as to WHEN the lead driver is allowed to do this.
The FIA regulations(2016) states:
‘’27.6 More than one change of direction to defend a position is not permitted. Any driver moving back towards the racing line, having earlier defended his position off-line, should leave at least one car width between his own car and the edge of the track on the approach to the corner.
27.7 Any driver defending his position on a straight, and before any braking area, may use the full width of the track during his first move, provided no significant portion of the car attempting to pass is alongside his. Whilst defending in this way the driver may not leave the track without justifiable reason. For the avoidance of doubt, if any part of the front wing of the car attempting to pass is alongside the rear wheel of the car in front this will be deemed to be a ‘significant portion’
27.8 Manoeuvres liable to hinder other drivers, such as deliberate crowding of a car beyond the edge of the track or any other abnormal change of direction, are not permitted. ‘’
Again, no mention as to timing.
From the above, it is very clear that Verstappen was correct when he said he had done nothing wrong, yet Raikonnen was equally justified in saying the late move was dangerous and if he had not braked hard once Versappen ‘defended’ his position there may have been an incident.
We now know that Charlie Whiting had ‘a quiet word’ with Verstappen ahead of the GP in Monza regarding the incident in Spa. It has been reported that during the conversation with Verstappen, Whiting may have mentioned that if a similar incident occurred in the future then the driver concerned would be shown a black and white flag (i.e one step ahead of being shown a black flag) for ‘unsporting behaviour.’
It has also been reported that Whiting (allegedly) told Raikonnen that he had perhaps been too lenient with Verstappen over the incident.
Did the move on Raikonnen constitute ‘blocking ’ rather than ‘defending’? and is it time the FIA rules were modified to take this into account or is it taken as read that by the time drivers get to the dizzy heights of F1 they should KNOW not to do this?