Charlie lays down overtaking law
LONDON, England - Formula 1's ruling body has clarified the rules about dangerous moves made by drivers defending a position in the heat of a race -- and giving the benefit of the doubt to the man who is leading.
The ruling comes after several controversial 2012 incidents in which drivers have vigorously defended their position and in some cases forced a challenger off the circuit. One of the most publicised was at the Bahrain GP when Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) robustly defended his position from being overtaken by Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) and then Fernando Alonso (Ferrari).
Each challenger felt aggrieved by the way Rosberg moved his car to defend his position, forcing them to run wide and - in Hamilton's case - off the circuit.
The race stewards investigated the incidents but took no action because it was said that no "significant part" of either Hamilton or Alonso's cars was alongside Rosberg at the time. The incidents created some uproar, however, and many drivers called for a clearer explanation of what might be considered a "significant part" of a car.
Charlie Whiting, the race director of the ruling body the International Motoring Federation, has now made clear that "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.
"While defending in this way, the driver may not leave the track without justifiable reason."
In an effort to clarify the ruling, he added: "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'."
'SITUATION NOT CLEAR'
This, in effect, means that an attacking car has to find a way to move the front wing of his car alongside the rear wheels of the defending car to be able to claim that he is in a position to overtake - and that the defending driver cannot move around to defend that position.
At the time of the Bahrain incident, Rosberg said he would be happy for the FIA to provide clarification on driving standards. "It is driver safety and we need to do the best we can to move forward," he said. "We could look at implementing more rules in that situation because it is not very clear.
"Rules such as a car width (when a driver is moving back towards the racing line after making a block) are very good because we need that clear situation to penalise drivers when there is a need to..."
The clarification also means that Rosberg can rest easy because in both cases in Bahrain he defended his position without breaking the rules.