Formula 1 Racing

Should the FIA clamp down on Verstappen-style defending? Our F1 writers have their say

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, hits Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, at the 2021 Saudi Arabian GP

The crash between Max Verstappen and Lando Norris in the Austrian Grand Prix reignited the debate about the limits of defensive driving and the consequences the drivers should face when they go too far.

So is it time for the FIA to clamp down on defensive tactics like Verstappen’s, or should we accept this is all part of racing? 

Here are our writers’ views.

F1 needs more regulation to stop Verstappen tactics 

F1 and the FIA are now in the same situation they were when 2021 ended. Because back then, leaving Verstappen to understand that tactics such as those he’d deployed at Interlagos Turn 4 were on for the sake of the spectacle under the ‘let them race’ directive meant he further internalised his already brutal approach to racing. That led directly to the disgraceful scenes of Jeddah 2021.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, hits Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, at the 2021 Saudi Arabian GP

Photo by: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

As McLaren is already calling for, the FIA must now clamp down on Verstappen’s braking zone movements from Austria. It must do so with additional clarification and explanation of F1’s racing rules guidelines.

Surely, it must also make these public – the checks and balances element of media questioning of F1’s race director infuriatingly gone since Abu Dhabi 2021.

That race is important to this point because, having finally been penalised for his outrageous defending in taking to run-offs against Lewis Hamilton in Jeddah, Verstappen made sure he stayed on track in his Abu Dhabi lap one attack. If he’s reigned in, he’s shown he’s too good to not respond.

At the same time, the clamour for F1 to finally implement permanent stewards that attend every race is now unignorable. The argument that such a body might be open to influence is flimsy when the same is theoretically equally true of the temporary stewarding panels.

Yes, F1 racing officiating might become just as contentious (and tedious) as football’s VAR, but it already is. The genie speaking with driver team radio outburst whines just isn’t going back in the bottle.

F1 should therefore embrace it, even make it further part of the show – as is done in other very contentiously officiated sports, such as the NFL. That might even be fun.

Alex Kalinauckas

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