F1 drivers shared their opinions in drivers’ briefing held in Qatar GP about the topic from Brazil, especially when the title rivals came together. 

A week on from F1 Sao Paulo GP and it is still being talked about and the fallout of that tussle between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen. Of course, the Brit got the job done subsequently but the point being, “when is racing is racing and when is it not?”

There have of course been plenty of incidents down the years and not just F1 where there have been controversial moments. The drivers had a longer drivers briefing in Qatar on Friday evening and not much was discussed about the current grand prix, but more of the past.

There was clear mix opinions and more so on what is expected. It certainly seemed like many did not see the non-penalty to Verstappen as the right thing because it gives others a free hand to try in the future without any consequence, while the notion of different stewards interpreting things differently was debated upon as well.

The discussion also took place about what happened between Yuki Tsunoda and Lance Stroll, where the Japanese was penalised. He didn’t think it was the right call and some drivers – including George Russell – felt the same.

Here’s what the F1 drivers had to say about the drivers’ briefing:

Hamilton: “No. It’s not clear. Every driver, except for Max, was asking just for clarity, most drivers were asking for clarity, but it wasn’t very clear. So, yeah, it’s still not clear what the limits of the track are. It’s clearly not the white line anymore, when overtaking but… yeah, we just go for it. We just ask for consistency. So, if it’s the same as the last race then it should be the same for all of us in those scenarios and it’s fine. It’s not clear, as I said. They said it’s going to be different with different stewards, so… it could be different with different stewards is what they said. We have the same ones as last week so this week is one way and we’ll see.”

Bottas: “I mean it is clear in that way that, if it’s a similar incident to Brazil then that’s OK – but obviously it’s always a fine line. But, yeah, also the consistency. That’s the key. For us to know exactly. I don’t think we got really an explanation like what we actually can do, or not. So, I mean, every overtake, every defending is different. I’m sure they try to do the best job, giving the best penalties, or no penalties, so I don’t think it really changes anything. We’ll obviously go for it and at least we know what Lewis and Max ended up having in Brazil, that is OK, so that is a good thing to know. That would be a bit weird, then we don’t know what we’re supposed to do, if that’s the case. I don’t know what to say.”

Verstappen: “I think it’s always trying to align everyone in having the same process in the way you think, everyone. Everyone is different, right? And everybody I think has their own way of racing and defending and overtaking, and of course very hard for the FIA as well to, how do you say it? To get everyone on the same line. Of course, they decide but every driver has a difference opinion. And I think yesterday it was all about sharing their opinions, and then the FIA explaining their process of thought behind it. So, I think we came a long way, and it was a very long briefing.

“So, yeah, I think at the end it was pretty clear. For me, the thing I don’t like… I mean we discuss these kind of things and they don’t need to go to the media. We talk to the experts and I think it’s more important that we discuss these things with the experts and not just throw things around on social media for nothing. Yeah, I don’t really what to comment on that. I prefer to talk to the people in charge and just discuss with them about future things in general, not only like an incident or whatever.”

Russell: “I think, unfortunately, there was no outcome from Friday. I do appreciate you need to judge every single individual case case-by-case, and circuit-by-circuit. But for me that was not even close to the line, it was well beyond the line, what went on. If that were the last lap of the race, in my opinion that would have been a slam-dunk penalty for Max. You can’t just outbrake yourself 25 metres and do that. Equally the incident with Tsunoda and Stroll, there was no way Tsunoda should have been penalised for that. He had absolutely the right to go for the move, wasn’t out of control, wasn’t locking up, and he still comfortably made the apex.

“That was a little bit unfortunate I think for all of us drivers, the outcome of a few results last week. I recognise the difficulties and understood why we didn’t have the forward-facing footage. I think Max wasn’t punished purely because Lewis won the race. The consequences shouldn’t be a factor in the punishment, or the judgement of the incident. You should judge the incident on a case-by-case basis. That’s what they’ve always told us, it’s not the consequences of that incident, it is the incident itself. I don’t know, really. At the end of the day, we all want to race hard, but that was hard and unfair, and we want hard, fair racing.”

Sainz: “I agree with George. It looks like over the winter there’s going to be some more deep conversations about how we go racing as a sport, if the car on the inside should leave space to a car on the outside in any case or not. And we need to rethink a bit the whole approach, because the way it’s been working this year, I think, it’s pretty clear that the drivers we don’t fully understand what is going to happen depending on what you do. And yeah, let’s see the last three races. Hopefully there are not too many more episodes like this, like what happened in Brazil or in Austria, to the contrary, and see if we can improve as a sport for next year. We need to know. I need to know if I can push the car on the outside wide. And what am I going to get if I do so?

“Do you have a warning coming if you do it once? Do you have actually a possibility to do it a couple of times and then you get a warning and then you can do it a fourth time? Are you going to get a penalty straight away like in Austria? This is what we don’t know was a sport or as drivers, and we were seeking for answers. We more or less got some from Michael, but we know that sometimes Michael and stewards are not always exactly the same. So we will see going into next year, I think next year we should do a good step. I think as a sport we need to try and make it as much black and white as possible. My humble opinion as a racing driver it should be no difference. Because outside of the track we’re always going to have different run-off areas. And we should try and, for the fans to understand the sport, for drivers to understand the racing, shouldn’t affect what’s on the other side of the kerb.”

Alonso: “I think we are all agreed that we need more consistency, we need black and white rules. Because when they are grey, sometimes you feel you are benefitting from them, and sometimes you’ve been the bad or the idiot on-track again. It’s better when it’s black and white. Let’s see if we can improve altogether. I think it’s not only an FIA issue, it’s drivers, teams, FIA, all we need to work together to have a better rule. It depends. Obviously when they explain it, they say why they do this, with the reasons. OK, understandable, but we are all saying why other times you thought the opposite? But they are always right. That is the problem.”

Norris: “I think some things are a bit more clear, some things not. I think what is clear is that not every incident will be the same, even if it looks identical, so it’s hard to know what the different circumstances are. I think most things were cleared up, but it’s hard to kind of ever give a definite point and say this is what you can and can’t do. I don’t know it is in the middle but I am happier than what I was on this.”

Ricciardo: “I don’t think it was still very crystal clear. I think the one thing that is at least clear in my head and should be clear is if you attempt an overtake, so most likely you’re on the inside and if you attempt to overtake and you don’t stay on the track and then the other guy is off the track as well, and that’s a failed overtake, that’s a failed attempt. So, I mean, I’ll take even just the joy of it, I’ll take Max and Lewis out of it and I’ll talk about Charles and Carlos in Turn 4 on Lap 1. Charles outbreaks Carlos on the inside, but ran off track and kept that position, so that’s a failed attempt at an overtake and he shouldn’t be allowed to keep that decision. So that’s the one I’m clear on but it’s still the same. It’s right a penalty should be given, but a few years ago we did want a bit more of a freedom to race.

“And if someone has you over, then alright you have the right to have him over in the future. I’m all up for that, so I don’t want to get too dulled in on what penalty is what, but I think the blatant ones will always get a penalty and maybe the ones that are a little more 50/50, then yeah, you might see some get away with it. I’m okay with it for the most part. I mean that that’s a good, that’s a good point and when you put it like that [in football whenever the ball goes out of the white line, it is a throw-in or goal kick but in F1 the white line is not regarded as going off-track and treated differently]. It kind of should be that simple. I want to say you’re right like you’re right.”

Schumacher: “There is a rule book, to me I think I understand it pretty well. Obviously at times, it is important to try and time the grey areas and learn and get away with it, that’s how in the past moments in the race has been decided. It is always the same, we have to go beyond the limit sometimes to understand if stewards agree with it. I would say I wasn’t in that situation myself, I don’t know what I would have done. Obviously, we are getting into a topic where it is very hard for me to judge because I am not the steward or race director. I think obviously it is up to them to decide where’s the rules are. In the future, I am sure they will figure out where every car will stick to the rule.”

Tsunoda: “Yes, couple of drivers are agreeing and supporting me about the 10s penalty, that was definitely too harsh. Definitely he was not looking at the mirror and same as Max and Lewis, I think, ok Lewis was watching mirror and avoid the crash but if was not looking like Stroll, then definitely they would have crashed, so they didn’t get any penalty and I get 10s penalty which is massive difference. It is inconsistent and no rules are not clear, we just start to find out with experience.”

Mazepin: “Like Michael said there is no exactly identical incident but I’m not really sure about that. However I’m 22 years of age, I have to respect people who are a lot older than me and more qualified in making those decisions and I just hope that I’m in a car leading with people that can come close to me. But in this sport you just have to pray that the stewards decision swings towards your side.”

In fairness to the FIA, there will always be issues somewhere along the line. What is fair may be deemed unfair by others. F1 drivers will always race, will always want to race and hard but fair in all categories of motorsport from the top to the bottom. Meanwhile, Masi clarified more on the discussions and talked of how the incidents can be judged.

Masi: “I think it’s been made clear to them, what is expected. I think the other parties, some of them agree, some of them disagree. And that’s always with each and every one of them, they have agreed and disagreed all the way through. So we’ve given them some overall guidance, but also been very clear on the fact that each and every case will be judged on its merits.

“I wouldn’t call it will be more relaxed, it’s looking at each and every incident on its merits. As we have done with each and every one, there is a panel of independent stewards. Contrary to what many people think, I’m not the one sitting there as judge and jury. We have a look, we have a panel of stewards that review each and every incident. And then as we saw last weekend, they determine if it’s worthy of an investigation, if they do, it gets investigated, and then determine if there’s a breach or not a breach.

“Quite possibly, yes, that result of incident at same corner may have different result. But you need to look at the whole situation and scenario, weather, run-off, etc, etc. You need to remember though, you can’t exactly have two same incidents, as in each and every incident is different. Its got its slight nuances, everyone sort of blanket the incidents, that’s all the same but they are not.

“And that’s where I think at times, perceived inconsistency comes into being, but the analysis into each and every incident is exactly that and having a look at circumstances of the day. And regarding the Qatar briefing, there was no arguments, there were various discussions about bits and pieces. Not just that incident but several others.”

The story was co-written by Neil Farrell

Here’s Christian Horner, Michael Masi, Toto Wolff on yellow flag situation

Here’s what stewards said about review

Here’s Christian Horner and Toto Wolff on FIA decision