FIA have reined in drivers ‘elbows’ on first lap

Michael Masi has responded to criticism of F1’s recent slew of penalties, saying the drivers asked for it.

Both the Austrian and British grands prix had controversial penalties in which the stewards found a driver guilty while most pundits, and drivers, felt it was a racing incident.

Lando Norris was penalised in Austria as Sergio Perez went off the track while trying to pass the McLaren driver around the outside at Turn 4. George Russell was handed a three-place grid penalty for the British GP for pushing Carlos Sainz wide at the first corner in the sprint qualifying dash. And then on the Sunday, Lewis Hamilton got a 10-second penalty for colliding with Max Verstappen as they clashed through Copse.

While the jury is split on all three penalties, leading to criticism of F1’s stewarding system, FIA race director Masi says it is what the drivers wanted, especially the policing of the battles taking place on the opening lap.

“There is a clear point that the first lap is obviously treated in a much lighter way under the let them race principles than the rest of the race, no doubt about that,” he told Motorsport.com. “And letting drivers find their own balance.

“But the drivers have clearly said, as have the teams from the end of last year, that they felt with the elbows were out a bit too far last year, and they needed to be tucked back in a little bit.”

And those elbows are being tucked back in throughout the first lap, not just at the first corner.

“You need to look at it as what’s happening on that first lap,” he added. “It could be Turn one, it could be Turn six, depending on the nature of the circuit.”

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The Australian again addressed the more recent penalty, Hamilton’s 10-second time penalty for colliding with Verstappen. That, he says, had no scope for leeway.

“In that particular circumstance, no,” he explained when asked if there could have been some leeway in how that was seen.

“There were two cars clearly involved in the incident and all the drivers from the start of this year said that if there’s two cars involved, that if there is someone that is predominantly to blame, predominantly or wholly, then that should be looked at a bit closer, even on the first lap.

“I think having looked at it all, their view was that he was predominantly to blame for that. The big part was similar to what happened with Charles later on, that he could have, say, tucked in closer to the apex.

“And that was where they found that, I think the wording was quite clear as per the regulations, that he was predominantly to blame. He wasn’t seen as wholly to blame for it, but seen as predominantly to blame, that he could have tucked in further.

“And that may have changed the outcome. But we don’t know, we judge it on the incident itself.”