Did F1 fail to follow its guidelines in the Russell/Perez decision?

Formula 1’s rules of engagement once again came to the fore at the French Grand Prix, where George Russell said he was “disappointed” with the way the FIA ​​handled his clash with Sergio Perez of Red Bull.

Russell’s Mercedes slotted Perez at the Mistral chicane as they battled for fourth with less than 12 laps to go in the Paul Ricard F1 race.

The Mercedes had its front wheels lined up with the left side pod of the Red Bull as the cars reached the top of the left side of the chicane. Russell’s biggest momentum took him to the edge of the circuit in the middle of the chicane, while Perez cut the second part of the corner and stayed in front.

F1 stewards noted the incident but refused to act, which infuriated Russell who believed his decision was fair and in line with new racing guidelines issued this season.

“I was pretty disappointed that I couldn’t keep that position,” Russell said. “I felt it was my corner, I was on the inside, I had my front wheels in front of his back wheels, and by the letter of the law it was my corner.

“He squeezed me a bit on the pavement, he came out wide and held his position.”

“The rules are quite clear,” he told Sky. “If your front tires are in front of a driver’s rear tires, you have the right to turn.”

F1’s governing body has made a concerted attempt to clarify exactly how drivers should compete on the track, following controversies in Brazil and Abu Dhabi in 2021 when Max Verstappen twice appeared to force Lewis Hamilton off-road during wheel-to-wheel competitions. .

Lewis HamiltonMax VerstappenMercedes Red Bull F1

Earlier this year, the FIA ​​said that if a driver overtakes on the inside of a corner, he must “have a significant part of the car alongside” to have space and a specified factor to determine whether its front tires are next to the other car “at the latest at the apex of the corner”.

This absolutely applies in the case of Russell vs. Perez.

When a driver tries to go through the outside, both cars must be able to pass the corner while remaining “within the limits of the track”. But when a driver overtakes on the inside, only his car must “remain clearly within the limits of the track” – nothing is specified for the overtaken car.

This implies that the riders on the inside can therefore run as wide as they want on the exit, and thus oust their opponent off the track – if they are far enough along the top.

That’s what Russell did, so it would seem – by the letter of the law – that Perez should have given way, considering he cut a corner to stay ahead.

Sergio Perez George Russell Red Bull Mercedes French GP

Perez’s argument is that he had to take evasive action to avoid an accident: “If I hadn’t cut the corner, we would have abandoned both cars. I was in front and he was out of control so I had to get away. If I don’t cut the chicane, there will be contact.

It’s the same logic that applied to Hamilton against Verstappen at Abu Dhabi 2021, where the stewards felt Hamilton could stay ahead despite a corner when Verstappen attempted a lunge pass on lap one.

The marshals appear to have followed a common sense approach – that the overtaking car should not force the other car off the track in the process of overtaking it.

But the guidelines as they are written do not enshrine this right to space. Following the rules as written suggests the Stewards made a mistake and Russell is right to feel aggrieved.

No doubt there will now be further discussion between drivers and officials about what is or is not considered acceptable driving – and whether the FIA ​​is correctly applying its own guidelines.

“I guess we’ll talk about that later – but nonetheless, these things have a way of working themselves out,” Russell said, referring to his post-virtual safety car pass on Perez a few laps later. late.

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