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The implications for F1 of Ferrari’s failed Red Bull protest

Jonathan Noble
Written by admin_3fxxacau

Shortly after the end of the Monte Carlo race, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner was attending a press conference when he received a call from sporting director Jonathan Wheatley informing him that Ferrari formally lodged a complaint.

Ferrari felt the two Red Bull drivers breached the regulations when they appeared to cross the yellow pit lane as they exited after switching to slicks on lap 22.

During the race, Perez’s incident had been noted by the stewards but there had been no further communication.

And later footage of Verstappen on board showed he was much further back than his team-mate, so potentially more at risk of breaking rules that would normally give him a time penalty.

Ferrari felt the matter required investigation as it had been under the impression that the FIA ​​considered it an offense if any part of the car touched the yellow line.

As Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto explained before the verdict was delivered: “The intention to protest is not really protesting against Red Bull per se. But to ask for clarification on a question which, for us, is obviously not clear.

“I think we think the two Red Bulls were on the line, on the yellow line, coming out of the pit lane. And in the past he’s always been penalized five seconds.

“More than that, if you read the race director’s notes, it’s clearly written. And it was clearly written, I think [since] Turkey 2020, to avoid any misunderstanding, that you have to stay to the right of the yellow line.

“To avoid any confusion over the word ‘crossing’, being on the line, you have to stay to the right of the yellow line. And for us, it was not at all the case.

“The intention to protest is not really to protest against Red Bull per se. But to seek clarification on a matter which for us is obviously unclear.” Mattia Binotto

Photo by: Ferrari

Race notes for the Monaco Grand Prix indeed emphasized that drivers should stay to the right of the line rather than crossing it.

The official event notes stated: “In accordance with Chapter 4 (Section 5) of ISC Appendix L, drivers must stay to the right of the solid yellow line at the pit exit when leaving the pits. and stay to the right of this line until it ends after turn 1.

It’s a stance that has been around for some time and effectively changed after the 2020 Turkish Grand Prix when, coincidentally, Verstappen himself was investigated for potentially crossing the line.

At the time, Verstappen escaped punishment as there was no “conclusive evidence” that the Dutchman had completely crossed the white line separating the pit exit from the track.

But this incident has sparked a debate about what it really means to “cross” a line.

Did the car have to completely cross the line to ‘cross’ it, or was that enough for a rule breach to be classified as simply touching it – thus crossing its inner boundary?

The debate sparked by the Verstappen event caused a small change in the regular F1 event ratings for the following event.

For Turkey, in reference to the pit lane exit lines, Michael Masi had written “In accordance with Chapter 4 (Section 5) of Appendix L to the ISC drivers must stand to the left of the solid white line at the exit of the pits when leaving the pits. No part of a car leaving the pits may cross this line.

For the following race (although later corrected to “right side”), it had been amended to lose the previous second sentence: “In accordance with Chapter 4 (Section 5) of ISC Appendix L, drivers must stay to the left of the solid white line at the pit exit when leaving the pits.

The new clarification meant that if any part of the car (which in reality is the tire) went past the inside edge of the line, that would be enough for a breach because it was no longer on the side.

It became the accepted norm and, based on what the event notes said, nothing had changed – as Freitas’ note for Monaco confirmed.

So when there was debate over whether or not the Red Bull drivers had touched the line, Ferrari’s actions seemed inevitable given the apparent contradiction.

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However, behind the scenes things had changed at the FIA ​​- with the specific section of the International Sporting Code being amended for 2022 to emphasize the ‘crossing the line’ element.

Already in 2020, the ISC section declared: “Except in cases of force majeure (accepted as such by the Stewards), any line drawn on the track at the exit of the pits in order to separate the cars exiting the pits from those on the track must not be crossed by any part of a car leaving the pits.

This was amended at the end of last year, to apply for this season, to say: “Except in cases of force majeure (accepted as such by the Stewards), any tire on a car which leaves the pit lane must not cross any line painted on the track when exiting the pits for the purpose of separating cars leaving the pit lane from those on the track.

This wording puts the focus back on crossing the line, rather than touchdown, and now revolves around the tires rather than a single car part.

And in the FIA’s verdict after the Monaco GP, it said the ISC prevails at all times.

Therefore, Freitas’ advice in the event notes, which had been ‘cut and pasted’ from last year’s Monaco notes, was not valid.

So even though Verstappen had part of his tires over the yellow line (Perez was fully cleared), the entire tire hadn’t crossed, so there was no rule violation.

As the stewards’ statement put it: “The car did not ‘cross’ the line – to do so it would have had to have a solid wheel to the left of the yellow line.

“As a result, the driver did not breach the relevant section of the Code and this prevails over any interpretation of the Notes.”

There are two interesting consequences to this clarification.

The first is that the pit lane exit line can now be used by drivers much more than some previously thought.

Where once they may have treated it as a hard stop not to hit, the current interpretation is that they can drive through it as long as their entire wheel does not cross.

This means drivers now have additional leeway to potentially be more defensive when exiting the pits by using more track on the pit exit.

Beyond that, Monaco’s rulings have also called into question all of the rulings in the race director’s regular notes – as it’s now accepted that even if advice is given, the ISC will take top priority.

And in a sport where teams are constantly pushing the boundaries of the rules, that means there may not be the flexibility in rule interpretation that is sometimes needed to close loopholes that teams are exploiting.

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