Formula One’s intransigents, the rigidly minded rulemakers who, seemingly, only follow their own whims, and not always logically, are facing a welter of discontent from those who really matter — the drivers.
Well, them and their team bosses who are currently echoing strong disagreement with the infuriating on-off-on regulations that forbids, and punishes, the crossing of the white lines imposed by the FIA, the ruling body, on critical corners. But maddeningly not consistently.
Unlikely allies Toto Wolff at Mercedes and Chris Horner, Red Bull’s equally dissident voice on the provocative issue, have joined forces to condemn the erratic enforcement of trespass that really makes no sense in the hurly-burly of wheel-to-wheel confrontation.
Overstep the mark, as a driver really going for it to the absolute joy of the spectators, and sanctions swiftly apply as they did nearly to the cost of pole position for championship leader Lewis Hamilton at the British Grand Prix when his qualifying lap time was scrapped for a flat-out line-crossing infringement and he was left with a brilliant last-gasp bid to top the grid.
Horner and Wolff are fuming on behalf of not only their own drivers but just about every other one on the grid. The new rule, irritatingly not consistently applied, can severely restrict the flow of a race, or qualifying, and they, with around 100 per cent backing from the other teams, want it scrapped.
I, for one, cannot fathom the reasoning behind the rule.
Unless there is a suspension-wrecking high kerb or a wall or barrier which all but the craziest drivers sensibly avoid, every inch of the circuit should be available, white lines or not.
It is not as if there is a tremendous advantage to be gained and, more often than not, in a side-by-side conflict it is an impossible situation to avoid without either losing precious, hard-earned ground and advantage or crashing into a rival.
Few irritants as annoying as this latest legislation have awakened as much as this crackpot edict that does more to hinder out and out racing than help it forwards in the direction it should always be going. It is, to my mind, a sabotage of the spectacle.
Wolff and Horner, rarely in agreement with each other, are firmly supportive of one another in their verdict that cutting corners, crossing white lines and using every metre of the circuit are critical to a driver’s chances of success.
Overstepping the mark ought not to be prohibitive in their opinion and they will continue to air their grievances until the problem is resolved.
Hopefully before the season’s re-start in Belgium, where the fine fast-flowing tricky Spa circuit invites corner cutting.
The parameters should be regarded as guidelines not traps for the daring drivers who only strive to give their all in pursuit of just rewards that, right now, can be so cruelly snatched from them by boundary-minded officialdom blind to the need to maintain the spectacle.
Overstepping the marks should be solely a matter in the capable hands of the drivers and not an official “Gotcha!!” decision based on a trackside camera view of the action.
Horner significantly cites the lunacy with a recall of the German grand prix where track limits were maddeningly changed no less than three times.
He says: ”You just cannot take it corner by corner and my frustration is like so many other peoples’, who want those responsible to come up with something simple with a white line that goes all the way round the circuit, so one very easy way of dealing with it is that if all four wheels cross the line you are out.
“It works in other sports, be it with a ball or your feet or whatever – but in our sport there is a reluctance to do the same. It is all too confusing for us in the paddock let alone the fans. You can’t have one rule for Turn One and another for Turn 17.”
Woolf, with typical forthright directness, argues a simpler solution - let the drivers do what they like.
“Let them take the quickest line, let them go for it, leave them alone to make their decisions. Let them race. It is good for the spectacle and great for the fans.
“If you start to analysing white lines and whether a driver has put two centimetres of his tyre over the marks and his lap time is taken away nobody understands.
“This is not like a long jump where two centimetres make a jump invalid. This is a six kilometre track and two centimetres should not be allowed to change anything – so leave the guys behind the wheel to get on with their job.
“In Germany is was stupid. The legislation was changed three times. Ahead of the grand prix the FIA said there would be no track limits but after 93 incidents of drivers running wide in the first free practice the officials switched to the three-strike rule.”
Grand Prix motorbike racing has no such restrictions and it makes for a thrilling free-for-all. And that’s what keeps the spectactors streaming in vast hordes to watch the full-blooded action.
— The author is a motorsport expert