Sky F1’s Damon Hill and Johnny Herbert on the lessons Formula 1 could and should learn from Canada’s almighty controversy
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 12/06/19 7:34pm
Damon Hill and Johnny Herbert believe a more hands-off approach from officials to wheel-to-wheel racing would benefit the sport, as the debate continues over Sebastian Vettel’s controversial Canadian GP sanction.
Vettel’s five-second penalty, which lost him the victory to Lewis Hamilton, has reopened a long-running argument about the regulations concerning driver conduct on track and the type of incidents that should be investigated.
“My own view is that there was the option not to bring that penalty. No harm was done, no one actually collided,” said Hill, the 1996 world champion.
“Lewis forced Sebastian into an error which I’m sure Sebastian would rather have avoided. Sebastian recovered himself to get back on the track and probably did try to stop Lewis from passing, but they were racing and we were denied the opportunity of seeing a very exciting final few laps.
“It should be in the power of those judging to say: ‘No harm done, we’ll just play on.'”
Vettel was punished on two counts: returning to the track ‘unsafely’ after running wide and then ‘forcing another car off track’.
Fellow Sky Sports F1 pundit Johnny Herbert has previously served on the stewards’ panel as the driver representative and says: “In terms of rules that purely govern the racing on track, there are too many.
“The rules say you cannot crowd another car but racing, to a degree, is about intimidation and not making it easy for someone to overtake. ‘Leaning’ on someone is something I did in Formula Ford, Formula 3, Formula 1, sportscars, GT cars – that’s part of racing.
“These are the very, very best drivers and they have the best judgements, so let them show their judgement and their skill. If they take someone off on to the grass, sure, then you need to have a word but you should be able to show your race craft.”
Hill added: “If you were to go and ask Lewis and Sebastian ‘do you think you could conduct yourself sportingly and race hard and fair for the length of a grand prix without crashing into each other?’ they’d say ‘yes’.
“They are probably the most-skilled racing drivers in the world. They can do it, so you don’t want intervention if it’s not necessary.
“If one of them deliberately crashes into the other and it’s obvious that’s what has happened, then they need a penalty. But in this case, there was no harm done. Lewis narrowly escaped taking his front wing off, but he went for the gap, as much as Seb tried to defend it.”
Wolff would welcome ‘harder racing’
While the stewards’ ruling fell in his team’s favour on this occasion, and he agrees that the letter of the law was applied correctly, Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says he would be open to more relaxed regulations in future.
“The penalty was what the rules say and the stewards acted according to the rules,” said Wolff.
“If we are not happy with the rules because we like harder racing, count me in. Then the stewards would take another decision because the rule would be a different one. So let’s look at the rules and see how we can get it right for 2021 so we encourage hard racing. Then the verdict would have been a different one.”
Wolff added: “It’s very difficult for stewards to interpret regulations so everybody’s satisfied. On that particular incident you can maybe judge 60-40 either side.
“But what we must not do is put the stewards under pressure in a way that we struggle even more in the future to come up with decisions. We need consistent decision making from the stewards and we need to support the stewards in their objective to reach that. Sometimes it goes for you, sometimes it goes against you.”
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