Are the judges helping Red Bull in the fight for the title? For one Grand Prix – two hits on a Mercedes
For almost a day, the Formula 1 judges measured the rear wing of Lewis Hamilton and decided what to do with the Briton and his car. The fault of the Mercedes was that the DRS on the rear wing did not open by 85 millimeters, as the rules prescribe, but by 85.2. This, as the rivals from Red Bull would later note, could not give any advantage, but for a factory defect – an error of less than a third of a percent – the Briton was excluded from the protocols.
And this will be only the first of two decisions that could already almost irrevocably tip the scales in one direction.
The law is strong, but it’s law
Hamilton was excluded from the qualifying results literally two hours before the sprint. The FIA tried and described in great detail that the ball with a diameter of 85 millimeters, which checks the gap between the wing slats, did not fit into the Mercedes’ DRS under pressure – as it should, but did fit under pressure. Moreover – only on one side – on the right, while everything was in order in the center and on the left.
But the most amazing thing is that this very wing has already been tested by the FIA - and everything was in order! “They admit that the wing has worn out or been damaged during qualification. They themselves say that they do not suspect us of any malicious actions, but they will disqualify us anyway! ” – the head of the team, Toto Wolf, was perplexed.
Hamilton with the ill-fated Friday wing
The formal – bureaucratic – side of the issue is clear: the ball has crawled through the hole. At the same time, not only the absence of intent in the actions of the Mercedes, but also of any advantage in this 0.2-millimeter error, is not subject to any doubt. Nevertheless, Hamilton was the last on the starting grid of the sprint – and then it was impossible to imagine that he would win on Sunday.
In fact, Mercedes was punished for inattention: if the team itself noticed the damage and, for safety reasons, asked the FIA to replace the element with a similar one, disqualification could have been avoided. The punishment does not seem adequate to the offense, but the law is harsh, but it is the law.
Or is the law not always harsh?
When it came to the fight against Max Verstappen, the race judges were far from being as picky and formal as the day before. When Hamilton overtook the Red Bull on the outer trajectory in the fourth corner on lap 48, the Dutchman drove wider than the apex and drove off the track with his opponent. And then the judges did not find any reason for the proceedings!
In the turn, two cars entered side by side, Hamilton was and remained outside, and at the same time “Red Bull” with four wheels crosses the outer edge of the track – but the judges do not see this as squeezing out of the boundaries of the racing surface.
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“Let’s not forget that we decided to come up with the ‘let them chase’ philosophy. Both cars flew wide, but did not lose ground, and the stewards, as usual, studied all the available videos, “Race Manager Michael Masi explained the decision of the judges and immediately added:” But we do not have onboard cameras from Verstappen’s car. I would take a look out of curiosity. I even thought about the warning, but decided to give it up. “
That is, having thrust the ball into Hamilton’s Mercedes, the judges conferred for almost the whole day, and in the controversial episode of the fight with Verstappen, even a recording from the cockpit with the steering wheel movements was not needed? In this case, Masi’s explanations for some reason are not at all as detailed as in the case of Lewis’s disqualification, and the problem is not even a suspicion of judicial bias.
What are the rules of the game?
What is the fundamental difference between this episode and, for example, Lando Norris’ five-second penalty at the Austrian Grand Prix? Then, too, there was no contact, but “McLaren” clearly squeezed out the “Red Bull” overtaking him along the outer trajectory. Or is the only difference that there was gravel and Cheko lost ground?
It’s not about punishing Verstappen for the maneuver, although the Dutchman deserved warnings and proceedings – for all this young man’s condescension to the judges. However, pilots (and spectators) need clear rules, and for this they need to at least properly explain their decisions.
Formula 1 Racing Director Michael Masi
In the case of the disqualification of “Mercedes”, by the will of the FIA and the current rules, it was punished twice: a simple breakdown cost not only costs with a limited budget, but also exclusion from the protocols. If there is a similar component in the boxes that passes the FIA tests.
In the second episode, it is difficult to understand exactly how you can and cannot fight now. After the “Red Bull Ring” and “Silverstone” everything looked like if you were blown from the inside trajectory to the opponent who was outside, then you broke the rules and get a fine. However, in this case, for some reason, this formula did not work.
If Verstappen had won in the end, he could have secured a champion title in the next race. And one might get the feeling that the 85 mm FIA ball played a significant role in this – a disproportionate error of 0.2%. And that would put the whole Formula 1 in an extremely ugly position. Fortunately, Lewis’s brilliant aerobatics prevented a major failure of the most prestigious races on the planet.