The rule surrounding movement under braking when engaged in wheel-to-wheel battle on track, which was brought in after last year’s Japanese Grand Prix, has been dropped by the FIA to encourage greater freedom for drivers.
The rule was changed last season following complaints from drivers regarding what they considered to be dangerous defensive moves from Red Bull Racing driver Max Verstappen, with it all coming to a head at the Suzuka International Racing Course.
That led to Scuderia Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel receiving a ten second penalty at the Mexican Grand Prix, having been deemed to have moved under braking when trying to make a pass on Daniel Ricciardo at turn four of the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez track.
In a bid to improve the racing spectacle, along with the rule changes in 2017, the FIA confirmed that they were set to allow drivers more freedom to race each other this year, resulting in the slackening of the reins on this law, as F1 Race Director Charlie Whiting explained in Australia.
“Some of the incidents that we saw last year may be handled slightly differently, simply because the so-called ‘Verstappen rule’ has gone.
“Before, we said any move under braking will be investigated. Now we have a simple rule, which says effectively that if a driver moves erratically, goes unnecessarily slowly, or behaves in a manner that could endanger another driver, then he will be investigated.
“So there’s a very broad rule now. The way we interpreted the regulations last year was to simply use the rules that we had to say that moving under braking was potentially dangerous, and hence would be reported to the stewards every time.
“[Now] each incident will be dealt with only on the basis of whether or not it was a dangerous manoeuvre, not necessarily because he moved under braking.”
Steward consistency on such issues has always been an area of contention in F1, and the FIA have confirmed that they have been working with stewards over the winter to rectify this.
A video archive of key race incident footage will therefore be made available to stewards instantaneously if required, in order to improve the decision-making process.
Whiting confirmed that the teams were behind the request for the simplification of the rules this year, which prompted the amendment.
“That was the request from the teams, they wanted less investigation, only in cases where it was clearly dangerous would there be action.
“We had a meeting yesterday with all the stewards, and we reviewed all the controversial incidents from last year to see how they would be dealt with under the so-called new rules, or the new approach.
“I won’t go into it now, but it was quite interesting. Things would have been dealt with differently, in some cases.
“What we’ve done to try to help the stewards is to introduce what we call a video archive system, which allows them to instantly refer to other incidents of a similar nature.
“So without having to trawl through and try to remember what happened to so and so, they’ll be able to pull up any similar incident.
“They’ll be sorted by type of incident, for example – causing a collision, click, click, click, six of those incidents, see what the decisions were, and that should be able to give the stewards not only more chance to be consistent, but also faster.”
The law that states a driver should only make one move whilst defending will still apply however.