New F1 Race Director Niels Wittich has revealed that Race Control will no longer advise teams to tell their drivers to return any positions they may have gained by exceeding track limits. The new rules for 2022 mean drivers are expected to voluntarily give up any places or lap time gained through an unfair advantage. Those who do not do so risk being investigated by the stewards and retrospectively penalised. Asked for his views on the effects the changes would have, Bahrain Grand Prix winner Charles Leclerc said incidents in which perpetrators or beneficiaries were unclear could still require some mediation from Race Control.
Leclerc: Some situations are not clear
"I think, in some cases, it's very clear what the drivers will do, but there are also quite a few situations where it's not there," Leclerc told media including RacingNews365.com . The Monegasque cited an incident at the start of last year's Mexican Grand Prix, in which several cars left the circuit, as one where the Race Director may still be required to rule on a decision. "If you look, for example, last year in Mexico, it was a good example of things being very messy, and you're gaining positions, but you don't really know what you need to do," said Leclerc. "In those cases, I hope we still will have the support of the Race Director, because this is a tricky situation. "I agree that sometimes it's just a very easy situation to read and to understand, and in those cases, the driver should be clever enough to give back the position.”
Sainz hails "right approach" from the FIA
Leclerc's Ferrari teammate, Carlos Sainz, welcomed the new ruling, but cautioned that drivers would have to apply the rules instantaneously. "I think is the right approach, because it's more real racing. There is no penalty, and it can happen more immediately," said Sainz. "But it needs to happen immediately. If not, you cannot lose three or four laps then have to give back the position. "That's why the rulebook needs to be super clear, [it] needs to be applied the moment that there's an infraction, you need to lose a position and then see."
Magnussen: Race Control will still weigh in
Haas driver Kevin Magnussen added that, despite the new rules, Race Control would likely still tell drivers to hand positions back. "I still think they will tell the drivers to give it back," said Magnussen. "I think they are expecting more from the drivers in terms of giving back the position if you've gained an advantage from it. "There's going to be cases where one driver will feel like he got pushed off, and the other will feel he [was on the] track, so there'll be some discussion there."
New guidelines on track limits for 2022
The FIA also sought to introduce clear guidelines on track limits for 2022 , after a 2021 campaign in which accepted boundaries changed from track to track and corner to corner, and sometimes even session to session. At last year's Bahrain Grand Prix, drivers had lap times deleted in qualifying for running wide at Turn 4, but the same rule did not apply for the race. These differences came under the spotlight when Max Verstappen overtook Lewis Hamilton off-track on race day, with the Dutchman subsequently obliged to hand the position back.