Hamilton says rules still ‘aren’t clear’, but Masi disagrees
Lewis Hamilton says last weekend’s drivers’ meeting in Qatar with FIA race director Michael Masi failed to clarify certain rules of engagement between drivers, but the Aussie denied the Mercedes driver’s claim.
In the aftermath of the controversial scrap that took place in Brazil between Hamilton and Max Verstappen, when the Red Bull driver defended his position on the inside of Interlagos’ Turn 4 by running his rival wide, drivers were left with questions over the move which ultimately went unpunished by the stewards.
Many believed the decision to give Verstappen’s defensive maneuver a free pass represented a precedent that would encourage drivers facing a similar situation in the future to run a rival wide, while others said the call contradicted previous rulings where the driver on the inside had been sanctioned for forcing an opponent off the track.
Last Friday’s drivers’ meeting was expected to clear up the confusion over what may be permitted in the future, but Hamilton said that he and a majority of his colleagues walked away from the discussion with more questions than answers.
"It’s not clear," said Hamilton. "They said it’s going to be different with different stewards. It could be different with different stewards is what they said.
"Every driver – I think, except for Max – was asking for clarity but it wasn’t very clear. It’s still not clear what the limits of that track are. It’s clearly not the white line any more, when overtaking.
"So we just go for it and we just ask for consistency. So if it’s the same as the last race, then that should be the same for all of us in those scenarios and it’s fine."
Verstappen claimed indeed to have taken away – contrary to Hamilton – some clarity from the meeting.
"I think yesterday it was all about sharing their opinions and then the FIA explaining their process of talk behind it," the Red Bull driver said on Saturday at Losail.
"So I think we came a long way, and it was a very long briefing. So I think it was, at the end, pretty clear."
Addressing Hamilton’s comments, Masi begged to differ with the seven-time world champion, insisting that it had been made clear to the drivers in the meeting "what is expected".
"I think some of them agree, some of them disagree," he said. "That’s always with each and every one of them, they have agreed and disagreed all the way through.
"We’ve given them some overall guidance, but also been very clear on the fact that each and every case will be judged on its merits."
Following Mercedes’ unsuccessful attempt to have the stewards revisit the Verstappen/Hamilton incident in Brazil, team boss Toto Wolff warned that the FIA’s leniency in the case could lead to "dirtier driving".
But Masi denied that the stewards were taking a more indulgent approach to judging moves.
"We’re not more relaxed," he commented. "We’re looking at each and every incident on its merits as we have done with each and every one.
"There is a panel of independent stewards, contrary to what many people think, I’m not the one sitting there as judge and jury.
"We have a look, we have a panel of stewards that review each and every incident, and then, as we saw last weekend, they determine if it’s worthy of an investigation.
"If they do, they get investigated and then determine if there’s a breach or not. You need to look at the whole situation, the weather, the run-off, etc., etc."
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November 23, 2021 at 11:42AM