July 25, 2016

You be the steward: 2016 Hungarian GP edition.

The Hungarian GP was, like all the races this season except for Spain, a tale of two races.   There was the Mercedes class and the rest.

In Mercedes class, it was all over by turn one:  Rosberg, too busy looking behind,  got out-braked by Hamilton and Ricciardo.   He made a good move on the australian in turn two but by the end of lap one his teammate was already a second ahead.    The gap between the two varied but Rosberg never even tried to attack Lewis.  In the final stages it looked a lot like team orders to keep station were in effect.   The two silver cars finished a second apart but were a massive twenty seconds ahead of third place Ricciardo.    In post race interviews Hamilton revealed they were doing the minimum necessary to save the engine.    Pretty demoralizing for the rest of the field, bit dull for anyone but diehard Lewis fans.

Take the Mercs away though and you still had a rather old school Hungaroring, no passing race.    The only bright spot was that "washed up, good for nothing" Kimi Raikkonen charging from fourteenth on the grid to sixth.    Along the way,  the only real controversial on track incident, the collision with Max Verstappen's Red Bull.

Raikkonen was on fresh super soft tires while Verstappen was on older mediums.   Raikkonen had the clear cornering advantage.   Max wasn't going to make it easy but it all came to a head in turn 2,  Kimi had the drive on the run in, fainted for the outside, Max turned right, Kimi dives left for the inside, Max shuts the door.

Clearly, Verstappen made two changes of direction but did he break the rules?

What does the FIA Sporting code say:
27.6 More than one change of direction to defend a position is not permitted. Any driver moving back towards the racing line, having earlier defended his position off-line, should leave at least one car width between his own car and the edge of the track on the approach to the corner.
The stewards did not think it warranted any penalty or even a reprimand which means they  saw his second move as "moving back towards the racing line".

Of course Max's entry into T2 on that lap was nowhere on the usual "racing line",  it was an unusually early turn in meant to keep the Ferrari on the outside.

Stewards were lenient on this one which again raises the question of consistency.
After the race, Raikkonen correctly pointed to drivers getting penalties for far lesser offenses in previous races.  In Hungary, FIA Stewards saw it fit to give Jenson Button a drive though penalty for discussing his failing brakes on the radio but had no problems having teams coach their drivers on how much and when they should push (Hamilton for example) or when tires are ready to be changed.

After qualifying, they gave a literal reading of the rules to Rosberg (rules do not quantify yellow flag "lifts") but a lenient reading to the 107% rule which Red Bull and others fall foul of because of the rain.

During the race, only the driver who held up Lewis Hamilton received a penalty,  Vettel was left out to be ridiculed by TV commentators for his complaints while Mercedes driver was free to give Gutierrez the ol' #1 sign.

Of course Hamilton and Verstappen are popular and pushing back Red Bulls is probably bad for business but c'mon,  isn't it getting a bit too transparent sometimes?

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