LUSAIL, Qatar – Lewis Hamilton says the rules around wheel-to-wheel racing in Formula One are no longer clear after the FIA opted against reviewing the incident in which Max Verstappen forced him off the track at the Sao Paulo Grand Prix.
Verstappen and Hamilton both ended up in the run-off area at Turn 4 on Lap 48 of last weekend’s race after the Red Bull driver braked late, failed to make the apex and left both drivers with no option but to run wide.
Earlier this week, Mercedes attempted to get the incident reviewed by the FIA’s stewards, but the same panel decided new footage from Max Verstappen’s onboard camera was not “significant” enough to launch a new investigation.
On Friday, F1’s 20 drivers joined a video conference ahead of this weekend’s Qatar Grand Prix for a routine driver briefing, but ended up staying online for over an hour discussing with FIA race director Michael Masi what is permitted in a wheel-to-wheel battle.
Speaking to the media after qualifying on Saturday, Hamilton said it was not clear what would be considered as “hard racing” and what would lead to a penalty.
“No, it’s not clear,” he said. “Every driver, I think except for Max, were asking for clarity… most drivers were asking for clarity but it wasn’t very clear.
“It’s still not clear what the limits of the track are. It’s clearly not the white line anymore when overtaking.
“We will just go for it… we just ask for consistency so if it’s the same for the last race then that should be the same for all of us in those certain scenarios and then it’s fine.”
Asked if he would be more aggressive in wheel-to-wheel battles in the future, Hamilton said: “Yeah I guess so. Potentially. I can’t really say. I would assume so yeah.”
Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas, added: “It is clear that if it’s a similar incident than in Brazil then it’s OK. But it’s always a fine line and consistency is always the key, for us to know exactly.
“I don’t think we got a clear explanation of what we actually can do or not. Every overtake, every move is different, so I’m sure they try to do the best job, handing penalties or no penalties.
“I don’t think it changes anything, we’ll just go for it and, at least, we know that what Lewis and Max ended up having in Brazil, that is OK, so that’s a good thing to know.”
Verstappen said the meeting was more about getting all the drivers to agree on the FIA’s racing principles.
“Well, I think it’s always to try and align everyone in having the same process in a way you think, like everyone is different and everyone has their own way of racing, defending, overtaking, and of course it is very hard for the FIA to get everyone on the same line,” Verstappen said.
“Of course they decide but every driver has a different opinion.
“Yesterday it was all about sharing opinions and the FIA explaining their process of thought behind it. I think we came a long way, and it was a very long briefing, I think it was at the end pretty clear.”
Speaking later on Saturday evening, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said the stewards missed an opportunity to clarify what is and isn’t allowed with its verdict.
“I think it’s very dangerous because what happened yesterday and in Brazil is kicking the ball in the high grass and hoping that it disappears. But if we were to have a controversial situation in any of the three races that were to come, can you imaging the polarisation it would create simply because it wasn’t clearly formulated.
“I would have wished that even if the outcome was negative for us in Brazil with the immediate judgement, I would have taken that if the consequent analysis would have been that it’s not on. Because I think that would have been easier for everyone at the next races.”