The rules of racing

The Formula 1 message boards have recently been abuzz with discussion of the Rosberg/Hamilton collision at Spa 2014. From these discussions it has emerged that many fans are not well acquainted with the rules of racing, or are confused regarding which rules apply to which scenarios. This is not particularly surprising, since the rules of racing are complex, notoriously filled with gray areas, and covered in only a very limited and inexact form by the FIA Sporting Regulations. There is little effort on the part of the sport’s regulators to communicate and clarify these rules for fans and I could find no comprehensive guides online.

To even begin to discuss the Rosberg/Hamilton accident, we need to have a solid understanding of the rules of racing. I will therefore cover how the rules apply to the most common on-track scenarios, before considering Rosberg and Hamilton’s interactions this year as a case study. This analysis is unlike my previous mathematical analyses, but I think it’s an important topic to cover.

For this post, I will be drawing on a variety of sources that I have read or been exposed to over the years, including the sporting regulations for Formula 1 and various other forms of motor racing, the consensus judgments of experienced Formula 1 pundits, as well as many guides for professional racing driving. Once you have developed a basic foundation for assessing corner ownership, it becomes easy to compare and discuss the details of different incidents.

“All the time you have to leave a space!”

Let’s begin with the simplest possible case: two drivers battling it out on a straight.

1. The one-move rule

When one driver is completely ahead of another on a straight, they are permitted to make a move in one direction. This move can be of any size, within the track limits, and the move can be made as slowly or as quickly as the driver likes — they can jink suddenly to one side or they can spend an entire straight gradually shifting across the track. This rule is stated under sporting regulation 20.4

20.4 Any driver defending his position on a straight, and before any braking area, may use the full width of the track during his first move, provided no significant portion of the car attempting to pass is alongside his. Whilst defending in this way the driver may not leave the track without justifiable reason.

More than one change of direction on a straight is called weaving and is NOT permitted. This rule is stated under sporting regulation 20.3.

20.3 More than one change of direction to defend a position is not permitted.

The one-move rule holds true whether the defender’s moves are designed to block the attacker or to stop the attacker from keeping in the defender’s slipstream. The precedent for the latter case is Lewis Hamilton’s weaving in front of Vitaly Petrov at the 2010 Malaysian Grand Prix, for which he received a warning from the stewards.

When a defender makes their one move, the distance and closing speed of the attacker may also be considered by the stewards. If the attacker is closing quickly and is only a short distance behind, then they may not have time to evade a sudden move into their path. It is at the stewards’ discretion whether or not to punish late defensive moves under sporting regulation 20.5.

20.5 Manoeuvres liable to hinder other drivers, such as deliberate crowding of a car beyond the edge of the track or any other abnormal change of direction, are not permitted.

2. Taking the one-move rule to its limits

The one-move rule seems totally umambiguous, with no possible gray area to exploit. However, drivers have often bent the rule by arguing that their second move is part of their racing line for the corner that follows the straight. There are two ways in which this can happen.

The first is when the defending driver makes their first move to the inside and then they pull back towards the outside of the track to pick up a more favorable racing line at corner entry.

This move is seen very frequently and is considered acceptable with one important caveat: when the defender moves back to the outside, they must leave at least one car width between themselves and the edge of the track, allowing the attacker to potentially run deep around the outside. This rule is stated under sporting regulation 20.3, which was formally clarified after Michael Schumacher’s controversial defense against Lewis Hamilton in the 2011 Italian Grand Prix.

20.3 Any driver moving back towards the racing line, having earlier defended his position off-line, should leave at least one car width between his own car and the edge of the track on the approach to the corner.

The second case occurs when a defender moves to the outside then cuts back to the inside to negotiate a kink in the straight. A famous example is Michael Schumacher’s defense against Damon Hill between Raidillion and Kemmel in the 1995 Belgian Grand Prix.

Schumacher moved left to block Hill, then immediately turned back to the right to take the inside line through Kemmel corner.

Is this one move or two moves? It’s a marginal case, because corners like Kemmel are gradual enough to almost be considered part of the straight, much like the Monaco start/finish “straight”. This makes it difficult for the defending driver to justify that they needed to pull all the way across to hit a traditional apex, but the case is certainly debatable. This is the first (but not the last) case we’ll see of some theoretical gray area in the rules.

3. Racing alongside another car

When one driver is completely ahead of another on a straight, either can move with impunity within the width of track. Things change when there is any overlap between the cars, because lateral movement could cause a collision. If two cars have any parts alongside one another, each driver must respect the space occupied by the other car. It does not matter who is ahead, nor how far they are ahead, they may not initiate a move into the other car. Both drivers have the right to continue driving in a straight line unimpeded. This rule is stated under sporting regulation 20.4.

20.4 Any driver defending his position on a straight, and before any braking area, may use the full width of the track during his first move, provided no significant portion of the car attempting to pass is alongside his. For the avoidance of doubt, if any part of the front wing of the car attempting to pass is alongside the rear wheel of the car in front this will be deemed to be a 'significant portion'.

Situations like Sebastian Vettel driving into the side of Mark Webber at the 2010 Turkish Grand Prix fall foul of this rule; since the move happened on a straight before any braking zone or corner, Vettel is completely at fault.

Theoretically, cases can arise where two drivers simultaneously deviate from moving parallel to the track, causing their paths to intersect. In this case, both drivers would share the blame, but in practice moves are very rarely truly simultaneous.

Very aggressive bullying of another driver on a straight, like Michael Schumacher on Rubens Barrichello at the 2010 Hungarian Grand Prix, is disallowed. In theory, driving sharply towards another driver does not force them to change their line, but humans being humans this will usually induce a flinch response. How aggressive is too aggressive? This falls into a gray area covered by the vaguely-worded sporting regulation 20.5.

20.5 Manoeuvres liable to hinder other drivers, such as deliberate crowding of a car beyond the edge of the track or any other abnormal change of direction, are not permitted.

4. Entering the braking zone

On a straight, a defending driver has the right to suddenly change direction, even using the entire track width if they are fully ahead of the attacking driver. The same right does not apply in or immediately before the braking zone for a corner. Sudden changes of direction just before or within the braking zone are considered extremely dangerous, as they can leave the attacking driver nowhere to go. This rule is not stated explicitly in the FIA sporting regulations, but is considered an “abnormal change of direction” under sporting regulation 20.5

20.5 Manoeuvres liable to hinder other drivers, such as deliberate crowding of a car beyond the edge of the track or any other abnormal change of direction, are not permitted.

Obviously some change of direction is allowed within the braking zone — the optimal racing line usually involves some amount of trail-braking — so it is up to the stewards to decide what constitutes an “abnormal” amount of movement. In the case of Sergio Perez and Felipe Massa at the 2014 Canadian Grand Prix, the stewards deemed that Perez had made an unusually large change of direction in the braking zone. This was a particularly difficult case to determine, as the normal line under braking curves to the right, and neither driver took a line with uniform curvature (both drivers changed their steering angle at least once). However, careful analysis (posted by reddit user d3agl3uk and reproduced below) showed that Perez was the driver deviating significantly from a normal line under braking.

Brake-testing (i.e., braking earlier than normal to cause the driver behind to take evasive action or crash) is also highly dangerous and frowned upon, but not explicitly mentioned in the FIA sporting regulations.

Who owns the racing line?

The most complicated cases naturally arise once we leave the straight and get into a corner. Both drivers would ideally like to the follow the quickest possible line — the racing line — but there may not be physical space for both drivers to do this. At the same time, drivers would like to obstruct one another as much as possible.

Some of you might be surprised to learn that once a corner begins, the FIA sporting regulations have almost nothing to say, besides ruling that drivers must remain within the track limits! Here, the sporting regulations defer to long-established norms for racing, which may not be known by all fans, and which contain significant gray areas.

5. Disputes over the apex

Consider the textbook method for overtaking in a corner: the attacker takes an inside line, gets alongside the defender in the braking zone, and beats the defender to the apex. If the attacker is ahead at the apex, there is no dispute over ownership of the racing line. The defender must yield. But what if the attacker is only partially alongside? Who owns the apex then?

Different racing series have their own criteria for how far alongside an attacker must be to have a claim to the apex. In Formula 1, the norms have been explored and refined over the years as a result of drivers like Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher pushing the boundaries and exploiting any gray areas. Today, it is generally accepted that the attacker must be at least halfway alongside the defender when they reach the apex to have a reasonable claim to this piece of track. Moreover, the attacker should not have achieved this position by carrying too much speed to make the corner  — this method is called dive-bombing.

Let’s consider three illustrative examples.

A. Attacker more than half-way alongside

In this case, the attacker is definitely more than halfway past the defender at the apex. The attacker has the right to the racing line. A collision at the apex is entirely the fault of the defender.

B. Attacker less than half-way alongside

In this case, the attacker has only their front wing alongside the defender’s rear wheel. The defender has the right to the racing line. A collision at the apex is entirely the fault of the attacker.

C. Attacker approximately half-way alongside

In this case, the attacker’s front axle is ahead of the defender’s rear axle and the two cars are approximately halfway alongside. Both drivers have a reasonable claim to the apex. If contact occurs, blame will have to be shared. It is in this zone that racing incidents can occur. Ayrton Senna was famous for creating situations just like this, as both attacker and defender, where the other driver would have to decide whether or not to yield to avoid a collision.

Note that this is a not a new or controversial set of guidelines. For example, here is essentially the same set of rules presented in The Williams-Renault Formula 1 Motor Racing Book, published back in 1994.


6. The switch-back

On hairpin corners, an alternative method of overtaking is available, sometimes called the switch-back. If the defending driver takes the inside line, the attacking driver can try to take a wider entry. This results in a later apex, a straighter path under acceleration, and therefore a faster exit.

To deal with this threat, defenders often choose to linger at the apex by delaying their application of throttle on exit. Because the attacker must pass over the defender’s line, this creates an obstruction. Now the attacker is unable to accelerate out of the corner until the defender has done the same, undermining the attacker’s advantage on exit.

Lingering on the apex is considered an acceptable defense, but the amount of lingering that is allowable is not well defined. Clearly a driver cannot come to a complete halt, but beyond that there are no clear guidelines. Here is an example of Barrichello getting irritated with Coulthard for what he considers excessive lingering through the stadium section at Hockenheim in the 2001 German Grand Prix.

7. Going around the outside

A defender who is overtaken on the inside will sometimes try to hold their position using the outside line. Alternatively, an attacker may try to overtake around the outside against a defender who covers the inside line. Some of the greatest overtaking maneuvers in the sport’s history have been achieved using this method.

If the driver going around the outside is already more than half a car length ahead by the apex, they are entitled to cut in to the inside along the racing line, as per case 5 above. An example is Nelson Piquet’s incredible four-wheel drift around the outside of Ayrton Senna in the 1986 Hungarian Grand Prix.

If the driver going around the outside is not sufficiently far ahead to take the racing line on apex, they can continue on an outside line. In this case, a potential dispute arises at corner exit. The driver on the outside naturally wants to continue their trajectory along the outside, while the driver on the inside wants to take a quicker straighter line by running out to the edge of the track. Who owns that piece of track on corner exit? Who is to blame in the event of a collision there?

Debates over this situation go back many years. In the 1977 Dutch Grand Prix, Mario Andretti stuck it out on the outside of the Tarzan hairpin, resulting in a collision with James Hunt, who was on the racing line and slightly ahead of Andretti. The two drivers saw the event very differently.

I was driving in a perfect line in the corner when he collided and I seemed to go into the air…. It was a mad thing to do. — James Hunt

I was driving on the outside trying to get past when he just drove over my wheel and knocked himself out. — Mario Andretti

Modern consensus would put Andretti at fault. The guiding principle is that the driver on the outside should be at least level (front axle in line with front axle) with the driver on the inside to have a claim to the racing line on corner exit. Depending on the type of corner and the cars involved, either the outside or inside line may be quicker through the corner, meaning the driver on the outside may gain or lose ground from corner entry to corner exit. It is relative positions of the cars at exit — not at entry or apex — that is therefore crucial in judging these cases.

If the driver on the inside is behind at corner exit, they must leave space for the driver on the outside.

If the driver on the inside is ahead at corner exit, it is the duty of the driver on the outside to back out or take evasive action to avoid a collision.

In this case, the driver on the inside is free to drift out towards the outside on exit. While they are expected to approximately follow the racing line — but not exactly, since they enter the corner on a tighter trajectory to a normal racing line — they have some freedom in selecting how aggressively they close out the other driver. Just how aggressive they can be falls into perhaps the most controversial gray area in modern racing. This brings us to the Rosberg/Hamilton incident.

Case study: Rosberg and Hamilton

Having covered the rules, I’ll conclude by applying them to some particular cases. In 2014, we have so far had four races in which a Mercedes driver attempted to pass their teammate around the outside. In each case, the driver on the outside has been closed out by the driver on the inside. However, the conditions and the line taken by the driver on the inside have varied from benign to extremely aggressive. I’ll consider each case in chronological order.

Case 1: Bahrain 2014

Several times during the Bahrain Grand Prix, Rosberg found himself on the outside against Hamilton. Each time he was aggressively closed out. The first event occurred on lap 1, shown below.

Hamilton was just ahead of Rosberg at corner entry, but Rosberg gained ground throughout the corner, almost achieving parity by corner exit before backing out. This is right at the threshold where the driver on the outside must be left space, and had a collision occurred, both drivers would have had to wear some of the blame.

A nearly identical situation occurred on lap 52, with Rosberg again getting well alongside Hamilton, as shown in the picture below, but backing out just before exit. Like Senna before him, Hamilton engineered situations where it was up to the other driver to back out to avoid a racing incident where blame would be shared.

A further incident occurred on lap 18, when Rosberg outbraked himself trying to pass Hamilton into turn 1, allowing Hamilton to regain his position with a switch-back. Hamilton took an extremely aggressive line on corner exit to close out Rosberg, with contact only being avoided by Rosberg’s quick reflexes. Rosberg immediately told the team “Warn him, that was not on!”.

Case 2: Canada 2014

Hamilton attempted to pass Rosberg around the outside at the first corner after the start. He was fully alongside Rosberg at the beginning of the braking zone, but Rosberg braked slightly later and thus took a deep line into the corner to close out Hamilton, who was behind by corner exit and yielded.

Case 3: Hungary 2014

On the final lap at Hungary, Rosberg attempted to go around the outside of Hamilton at turn 2. Rosberg came from very far back, but also had fresh tyres allowing him to maintain a higher cornering speed. Midway through the corner, Hamilton spotted Rosberg’s move and suddenly straightened his wheel to aggressively angle out Rosberg before corner exit. This is getting very close to the limit of what could be considered an acceptable defensive line.

Case 4: Belgium 2014

Rosberg was behind throughout the corner and almost a full car length behind by corner exit. Hamilton took a fair line — just slightly more aggressive than the usual racing line. Rosberg jinked left momentarily to make extra room, but then maintained a relatively tight line leaving insufficient space for Hamilton on the line he was taking. This resulted in a front-wing/rear-wheel collision.

Just what was Rosberg thinking here? We have heard from Toto Wolff that Rosberg was not intending to cause a collision, but he was intending to “make a point”. As I have hopefully made clear, there is a reasonable theoretical argument to be had regarding the defender’s role in these types of positions. Just how aggressive are they allowed to be in squeezing out the attacker? Hamilton’s defenses at Bahrain, where he twice closed out Rosberg with their cars approximately level and nearly caused contact with another aggressive line, as well as his defense at Hungary, where he suddenly pitched his car onto a different line to close out Rosberg, were wading deep into this gray area.

Still irritated by Hamilton’s earlier defenses, it seems Rosberg wanted to draw a line in the sand in Belgium. This time, Rosberg chose to pick up a new wider line mid-corner, but without fully conceding the corner. His car’s body language was saying: “You have the racing line, but you’re not going to squeeze me more than this much, or we’re going to come together”.

There is an obvious parallel here to the story that played out across 1988-1989 at McLaren. True to his reputation, Senna was routinely creating situations where Prost had to back out or risk a racing incident where blame would be shared. Ultimately, Prost was pushed to his limits and decided at Suzuka 1989 it was time to make a point.

I was ahead on points, and I told the team, “There’s no way I’m going to open the door anymore.” I’d done it too often, and I’d had enough. Eventually, we crashed at the chicane. Everyone thinks I did it on purpose, but I didn’t want to finish the race like that. I’d led from the start and I wanted to win. When he tried to pass, I couldn’t believe it because he came from so far back, but I thought, “I’m not going to leave him even a 1-meter gap.” As I’d said, I didn’t open the door. — Alain Prost

Prost was to blame for the accident that occurred. Although Senna came from far back, he was well and truly far enough alongside to own the apex. Senna was moving quickly, but had scrubbed off plenty of speed by the time of the collision and was beginning to rotate his car into the corner. Without the collision, we would likely have seen a move akin to Hamilton’s brilliant overtake on Raikkonen at the 2007 Italian Grand Prix.

Moreover, Prost’s defensive line was peculiar and looked like a last-minute conflicted decision rather than a natural defender’s line. He drifted across the track in the braking zone and was actually steering his car into the grass infield rather than the apex of the corner when contact occurred, as seen from the onboard shot below.

Just as Prost was to blame for the Suzuka 1989 incident itself, Rosberg was unambiguously to blame for the Belgium 2014 incident. Hamilton’s line was not abnormally aggressive and Rosberg was fortunate to avoid a penalty from the stewards, given the poor precedent this may set. However, it’s vital to view both incidents in their full context to understand why they occurred. Neither incident occurred in a vacuum. Both were the result of drivers previously exploiting gray areas in the rules of racing and their teammates then looking to impose clearer boundaries.


  1. Fantastic write up, good job.

  2. Agreed, great job! Thank you for taking the time to put this together.

  3. great article, but you need to sort out some things. For example, in this phrase “In this case, the defender has only their front wing alongside the defender’s rear wheel” you just repeated twice “defender”

    1. Thanks, I’ve corrected that typo.

  4. Excellent read

  5. Simon Teevan · · Reply

    Agreed, excellent article. Many thanks for sharing

  6. Very Interesting reading. Always thought Nico was at fault as he was not far enough along side.

  7. 5.B) has an exception: Senna as the attacker

  8. Gordan Humber · · Reply

    Thanks good read cleared a lot up

  9. Fantastic article. Great job!

  10. Reblogged this on secreteyes4.

  11. […] incredible Mercedes W05, which won 16 of the 19 races, including eleven 1-2 finishes. Without driver error in Belgium or a mistimed safety car in Hungary, it could easily have been 18 wins. The car’s advantage […]

  12. […] incredible Mercedes W05, which won 16 of the 19 races, including eleven 1-2 finishes. Without driver error in Belgium or a mistimed safety car in Hungary, it could easily have been 18 wins. The car’s advantage […]

  13. Great stuff, thank you so much!

  14. Will you please quickly make an update to include the race changing incidence at this last weekend’s race in the US 2015, where it appeared that Hamilton rammed Rosberg out off the track at the first corner? On-board camera in Hamilton’s car shows that Rosberg was indeed ahead till the very moment they touched and Rosberg was already at that time pushed to have a wheel pair off the track on the outside, and Hamilton on the inside did not do any effort to turn in for the curve. He continued straight ahead.

    1. I think that incident was right at the limit. Rosberg was slightly ahead when they made contact mid-corner and would likely have been about level at corner exit otherwise. Hamilton missed the apex by some margin. To me it looked like Hamilton slightly outbraked himself and then had no option but to run wide. I don’t think there was any foul play involved, but you could debate whether Hamilton is within his rights to run on such a wide line so early in the corner when there is a driver outside him. I would tend to say Rosberg is entitled to space there, but it is a gray area.

      1. IMO while the incident was indeed at the limit and straight into a grey area, superficially it didn’t seem all too different from the moves Rosberg did on Vettel and Raikkonen in Bahrain at the beginning of the year. Then Rosberg went side-by-side with the Ferrari’s into the corner, then quite slowly proceeded to turn-in whereas the Ferrari patiently waited for Rosberg to sort himself out. Had either Vettel or Raikkonen shown impatience, they’d also had banged wheels with Rosberg then; but they didn’t.

        This time round while Rosberg was slightly ahead, they were still effectively side-by-side. Rosberg was impatient and turned into Hamilton. Had he been patient and backed very slightly off, there would have been no contact, and he wouldn’t have run wide… The corner was Hamilton’s as he was on the inside, just like the corner was Robserg’s each time in Bahrain 2015 as then he too was on the inside.

      2. The crucial difference is that Rosberg was relatively much further ahead compared to the cars on the outside in those cases. That changes the complexion of the scenario significantly.

        When the driver on the inside is ahead before the turn-in point, they can dictate when the driver on the outside is allowed to turn in by delaying their own turn in. When the driver on the outside is ahead before turn-in, they will naturally begin turn in before the driver on the inside does. Provided their line leaves ample space for the car on the inside, they are within their rights to begin to turn into the corner with the expectation that the car on the inside will also attempt the corner and not continue straight ahead into them.

  15. Awesome article….u took great pain to make it…

  16. Can’t see how you blame Prost for Suzuka 89. Based on the rules you outlined, this collision falls under section C. Attacker approximately half-way alongside. This makes it a racing incident. One thing you don’t mention is that this corner was actually a hairpin and Senna was basically trying a desperado move (he was running out of laps) in the hope that Prost would yield. A great shame that this crash occurred. It was one of Prost’s best drives where he withstood all the pressure Senna put on him. Just a pity Prost thought his suspension was broken – otherwise he could have carried on without needing to pit for a new nose and won the race comfortably.

    1. It is unquestionably Prost’s fault for the reasons stated in the article. To reiterate: (a) They were not halfway alongside at the apex, Senna was almost fully alongside when they collided, which was even before the apex. (b) Prost suddenly changed lines in the braking zone; he did not follow an acceptable defensive line, nor even a line intended to take him to the corner apex.

      1. Or put even differently, Prost rammed into Senna on the straight — they weren’t even close to being inside the corner when contact was made (yes, braking zone, following a long straight, but it was still on a straight and NOT inside the corner, definitely not where drivers usually start turning-in).

        Moreover, when contact occurred, Senna was driving straight ahead whereas Prost steered sharply to the right. As proof that they were still on the straight prior to the chicane, following initial contact Senna was forced with his right-hand wheels onto the grass *just before* the kerbs begin. And as f1metrics points out, the line Prost took (if there were no other car around) would have put himself off-track, on the grass, before the kerbs — clearly not a line intended to make it through the corner. When the two cars did get to the corner, they were both just skidding away uncontrollably to a halt, post-contact.

  17. But Prost doesn’t have to take the same line into the chicane every lap. And he would still make it through the corner – all he did was compromise his exit speed. Anyhoo, let’s see what the racing experts say (taken from a Nigel Roebuck article):-
    “In the end,” said Jackie Stewart, “it doesn’t matter whether or not Alain closed the door. The fact remains that Ayrton was in the wrong because he allowed himself to be at someone else’s mercy. Once he made his move, the matter was out of his hands: if Prost was prepared to lose the race, OK, he’d be through; but if he wasn’t, then Senna was in trouble…”

    As for Mario Andretti, he cut through all the cant, and saw the coming-together as just one
    of those things. “If I was in Prost’s shoes, I’d have done the same – and, let’s face it, if the
    situation had been reversed, Senna would have done the same! Senna should have
    expected it, but you can’t fault him for trying. That was the only place he was going to pass.”

    Nuff said 🙂

    1. I’m not saying Prost had to take the same line every lap. I’m saying the line he took on that lap was clearly not a valid defensive line, nor a line that would have even resulted in him making the corner without the contact. It’s cut and dried as far as rules of racing go.

      If we want to resort to quotations rather than logic, I can find many that were in support of Ayrton instead. That’s not very edifying, however.

    2. I will add that while Prost indeed doesn’t have to take the same line into the chicane every lap *when there are no other cars around*, he cannot simply ram into a car that is side by side on the straight (and at the edge of the track) by abruptly changing direction in the braking zone. Needless to say on that particular lap his line going into the chicane wouldn’t have made much sense with a clear track (even if he were to make the corner somehow), but was without doubt illegal given that another car was in the way.

      Lastly, we’ve all seen what stewards think about drivers pushing other cars off-track on a straight (think Magnussen on Alonso in Spa 2014, or Vettel on Alonso in Monza 2012, or Grosjean on Hamilton in Spa 2012) or abruptly change direction in the braking zone (think Perez on Massa in Canada 2014). Either way you look at the accident responsibility for it falls on Prost…

      1. By only showing the in-car footage you miss the fact that Senna never actually made it alongside Prost before the corner. Look at the external camera footage. Even taking the rear angled shot into account, Senna was still behind at the moment they both reach the apex of the right hand corner. Prost has at least angled his car to get around the corner, where as Senna’s is still angled straight ahead in his attempt to reach the apex first – which he doesn’t mange to do. The position of their front wheels after the collision highlights what can be seen at the point of impact – Senna was behind Prost entering the corner and at the apex of the right turn in. Prost turned in sharply, but Senna would only have made the corner by cutting across into a car that was still going to be next to him for the next left hand corner. Prost’s angle still allows him to take the next left hander through the set of corners. Senna’s angle is aimed only to reach the apex of the initial right hander first, which he failed to do, with no regard for where both cars would be at the exit. Two great drivers, but it was Senna’s lunge for the corner, that wasn’t yet his that caused the crash.

      2. I think you have simply misunderstood the article. The attacker on the inside need only achieve approximately *half* overlap to have ownership of the apex. They do not need to be fully ahead. Senna was considerably more than halfway alongside when the cars collided, which was even slightly before the apex.

  18. f1metrics – can you find me a quote from an F1 world champion that completely blames Prost for the 89 crash? Surely the opinion of legendary drivers like Stewart and Andretti should be taken into account when trying to determine rules of F1 racing. I don’t think Andretti would agree with your blaming him for the collision with Hunt in 77. Indeed, even Hunt agreed later that Andretti was perfectly within rights to try such a move.

    1. James Hunt and Alan Jones were among drivers on Senna’s side in 1989. Hunt was even (unbelievably) on Senna’s side regarding the Suzuka 1990 collision, which is yet another example of why cherrypicking quotes is pointless in a discussion of general principles. You are essentially attempting to rewrite the rules of racing for a single case.

  19. Not really – you need to take into account that if a driver is trying a desperado move, coming from waaaaay back – and also crossing the pit lane entrance to boot – then he must share the blame for the collision. What many people fail to remember, with regard to this incident is that Senna had been stuck behind Prost for a long time and was running out of laps.

    I remember Hunt having sympathy for Senna on the BBC commentary at the time – though he certainly didn’t say Prost should be penalized. What did Alan Jones say – I haven’t seen that quote.

    Out of interest where do you stand on the 1990 crash – landroni thinks that was Prost’s fault as well!

    Forgot to mention – great articles by the way. Did enjoy the ranking of greatest drivers – lots of interesting results.

    1. A move is not “desperado” if prior to turn-in the overtaking driver finds themselves side-by-side with the overtaked car. From the video footage alone, the 1989 Suzuka crash is clear-cut Prost blame (just as easy to assign intentional blame as Schumacher into Villeneuve in 1997). Prost had no claim to the apex.

      Schumacher’s turn-in into Villeneuve is obvious for all to see:

      Prost starts to turn-in into Senna and squeeze him off the track still on the straight and nowhere near a viable racing line into the chicane:

      From the video footage alone, the 1990 Suzuka crash contains many more question marks, IMO. That it was Senna’s car that was caught in the wrong place and had technically provoked the accident is without doubt (as per Rule 5B above). However intention is much harder to eke out from the footage, and the circumstances are more hazy. It was a first-lap first-corner incident, and things OFTEN get messy in those instances; few first-corner incidents have gotten as much attention. And this corner is very tricky on a good day, without other cars swirling by at centimetres from your car.

      I guess one of the biggest differences between the 89 and 90 crashes is that Senna has publicly admitted guilt for provoking the latter, whereas Prost has never admitted guilt for causing the former…

  20. The 1990 crash was 100% Senna’s fault. I’m always amazed when people try to claim otherwise. He made no attempt to take the corner at all. All he did was aim his car to be sure he took Prost out. Thank goodness he managed to do it without causing a serious accident (full tanks, a full field behind).

  21. […] is important to know the ins and outs of racing. This includes the moves and rules that drivers abide by. One of the moves is the one-move rule which involves two drivers battling a straight. Here, a […]

  22. F1Metrics how do you account for Rosberg being able to “slipstream” Hamilton? Both drivers have complained bitterly about not being able to get close enough to each other due to the turbulence caused by the air generated by their front wings – a fact that has only been exacerbated by this season’s wings.

    Knowing now that the team decided on the same Launch Mode settings for Hamilton and Rosberg it becomes apparent that Rosberg is either using a different setting at the start of races or has a boost of some sort within the agreed-upon setting allowing him to power through the turbulence as if his teammate’s car was a Force India.

    After all, it wasn’t as if Hamilton had a poor start (and please don’t use China as a measuring stick of his starts; Hamilton was up against FAR slower cars right from the start)

    1. It sounds as though Rosberg simply made an error in his engine setting, leaving it on a warm-up mode. This didn’t affect how the engine operated during launch mode, but did as soon as the launch phase ended.

      1. Ok, keep believing that. But when you take a look back, do ask yourself, when was the first time you heard that happen from or with any other driver. Your answer might surprise you.

  23. Sorry, I forgot… thanks for not at all addressing the slipstream issue.

    1. Your slipstream question didn’t make sense to me. You seem to be confusing the difficulty involved in following a car through corners, due to decreased downforce, with the benefit gained from reduced drag in a straight line. Slipstreaming is still very beneficial in the latter case.

  24. Well-written article. Do you mind if I link to it for something I’ve written?

    1. Thank you, you’re very welcome to do that.

  25. Can you update for Canada 2016? )

    1. Yeah It would be great to know your opinion about canada 2016 as well as spain 2016.

      1. Canada 2016 I would class as a racing incident, as the cars were approximately alongside at corner exit, so ownership of the outside line was disputed. Hard but fair, in my view. Spain 2016 I would primarily blame Rosberg, since Hamilton was partially alongside before the gap was fully closed. However, it was an event that happened very quickly with neither driver able to fully anticipate what the other would do, so I hesitate to blame Rosberg 100%.

  26. Nathan · · Reply

    What’s your opinion about Rosberg/Hamilton for Austria 16?

    1. I would agree with the stewards in blaming Rosberg for that collision. On corner exit, there are cases where closing a driver out by following the racing line is okay. On corner entry, I don’t think it is reasonable to be closing a driver out to that extent by refusing to turn in, especially when the driver on the outside is actually ahead. There must be a path around the outside left open, and Hamilton turned in about as late as he reasonably could.

  27. MattJ · · Reply

    Very interested to hear your thoughts on the last lap from Austria. I, for one, don’t think it’s as cut and dried as the stewards decided it was, but I don’t have access to all of the information and data that they have.

  28. #7 … Rosberg & Hamilton, Austria 2016 … what’s the verdict (did the stewards get it right)?

  29. f1iceman · · Reply

    austria was a joke if you ask me.
    lewis opened the door no need to leave space nico filled leveld the playing field neither was classed as ahead to so lewis only option was outside nico left the space job done. at no point did nico drive lewis off the track or near the edge he never turned into lewis just turned when he needed to turn after he was side by side.
    this is the thing on here it says you not alowed to cross the path if your side by side only if you have the lead via a car infront dictation to which is why nico says he was right it was upto him when he turned as there was never an exit for lewis and his line if there was he could have drove the normal line when he first turned at hardly any deggrees to where nico just drove deeper as lewis left the door open, they got close nico turned and thats where lewis had no right to turn sharper he had to use the room on the outside to go around the outside as i see it. but tbh it was tottally aviodable by both so racing inccident 50/50 both at fault for the same thing. its either your ahead by a certain amount or not and thats whats wrong if you go back to spain lewis from fans were along side and deserved sapce now you get a car 80% along side and its behind ?????
    in side rules and has to be drove past using the road behind in my eye not cut the line of the inside car.
    505/50 from th stewards were wrong tho.
    but i do say swp the numbers on the cars around and it will be nicos fault damed if he does damed if he don’t.
    the biggest concern for me was nico got hammerd with everything to which one of the most dangerous things in all that happend was lewis entering the track at full race speed almost coliding with nico and he got absolutely nothing to which i start to wonder who got there bets in at race control n sky 🙂

  30. f1iceman · · Reply

    like i say tho your either along side or not, turning don’t matter the dictates what space you get, aslong as you try to avoid before you hit is what count nico did lewis turned more to an inside car that in my eyes was way past behind so would leave outer car rules to the outside car as long as nico leaves space to which lewis had enough space to park ten cars.
    thats how i see it. and when i read this it too comes down to where the two cars side by side or lead and behind.
    1- can not turn into another cars path (side by side challeging or deffending neither cars infront)
    2- can turn into a cars line ( ahead only car behind or no sign ificant part alongside)
    that is all you needed for it can not have it both ways surley.
    you could start with no2 then becomes no1 why anything so close become racing inccident.

    they are the two you need as it determins space.

    1- inside car dictates as no exit for outside car or they would crash the outside car follows inside car around the outside not turn into a cars its path, inside has to leave space on his outside thats it.
    2- outside car infront can challenge the space infront of the car behind to take postion and then has control.

    its eithe 1 or 2 and in this case i can only see lewis not able to turn as he has not got track potion to turn into another can along side. first he changed his turn deeper into the corner so is not even the line he enterd to turn he missed it hence drove himself deeper nico obliged.

    im either missing something here or these rules don’t matter but it should not matter as both these rules determin who gives space. i think lewis turned into another car as was clearly seen side by side.

  31. […] articles with a deep insight about F1 cars and drivers development. I particularly loved this post from 2014 where rules of racing were explained. Read carefully and learn. Thanks to Andrew for his […]

  32. Great read. Very informative and easy to understand as someone who isn’t very familiar with these racing rules. The illustrations are very well made and help a lot to create a mental image of the situations described. The real life even cases with HAM and ROS are a very nice touch.

    The reason I found this article is because I watched some highlights of the Bahrien GP and I saw that Hamilton pulled a lot of those “switch-back” manouvers. For some reason that really caught my attention. Initially I didn’t know how this was called but after I found out the name of this manouver by asking the kind people of reddit I found this.

    very well done and thanks!

  33. this article is screaming for updates, considering the stricter rules from today on.

    1. Thank you for the suggestion. In terms of the written FIA rules, very little has changed since this article was written. The most contentious recent issue is that of movement near/under braking zones, which remains a gray area but is coming under greater scrutiny. I will try to cover this with respect to Verstappen in my 2016 review article.

  34. […] The most contentious issue was Verstappen frequently taking a middle-of-the-track line along a straight and then suddenly defending to the left or right in response to the movement of the attacking car, usually near the beginning of the braking zone. These moves could be argued to be part of a move back onto the racing line (which is technically allowed if moving to the outside, provided a car’s width is left there) or an early trail-braking line into the apex (if moving to the inside). The concern, however, is that these moves were reactive. As I wrote in my earlier post on the rules of racing, […]

  35. […] 由于原文篇幅相当之长,译者准备将此文分为相对独立的三个章节,此文就是第一章节——你总是要留一点空间!描述了在直道上进攻或者防守应该遵守怎样的规则,其中包括了著名的一次变线规则。 […]

  36. […] 本文经f1metrics授权翻译 原文点我 未经允许 […]

  37. F1metrics – Thank you very much for the great article! I have a question concerning the three scenarios you stated when to overtake on the inside of a corner. The last couple of years I have noticed a slight change in the expert comments like Martin Brundle, Damon Hill etc. They are not longer grading how far up the car on the inside is – if it is ahead, along side or just has its nose cone along the other cars back wheels. Is it more common now days to claim the apex even if you just have the nose along side the back wheel of the opponent? This would encourage and simplify the overtaking manoeuvres.

    Another question, how can we know the exact rules for overtaking when the FIA Sporting code only consists in a very short and wage text concerning overtaking?

    Apologies for my English, my native language is Swedish.

    “Appendix L International Sporting Code
    Art. 2 Overtaking, car control and track limits

    b) Overtaking, according to the circumstances, may be carried out on either the right or the left. A driver may not deliberately leave the track without justifiable reason. More than one change of direction to defend a position is not permitted. Any driver moving back towards the racing line, having earlier defended his position off-line, should leave at least one car width between his own car and the edge of the track on the approach to the corner. However, manoeuvres liable to hinder other drivers, such as deliberate crowding of a car beyond the edge of the track or any other abnormal change of direction, are strictly prohibited. Any driver who appears guilty of any of the above offences will be reported to the Stewards.”

    Best regards
    /Acke, Sweden

    1. I think in general, a motorsport would not really function if it was sufficient to get only a front wing on the inside by apex. F1 is already on the aggressive end of the spectrum in tending to accept half a car length (other series can be more conservative). Going further would lead to a lot of divebombs and seriously undermine the priority of the racing line. I can’t say I’ve really noticed such a shift in commentary myself, but at the same time there are no concrete guidelines provided by the sport’s regulators on this, so things may continue to evolve.

      1. thebest123456 · ·

        Hi, I know it’s not the right section, but I wanted to ask you (and it looks like you only reply in this section): do you have any plans to update the all time best drivers list? It’s quite annoying to see ricciardo ranked 80th after each recent season he comes out on top or almost of the current drivers, likewise hamilton, rosberg, vettel could have variations and maybe some less established drivers could make it in the top 60.

  38. It’s impressive that you are getting thoughts from this piece of writing as well as
    from our dialogue made at this time.

  39. Jasper · · Reply

    Nice read!

  40. Great article that reinforces what I thought I understood. Do you have an opinion of the weird Vettel/Stroll incident at the Malaysia GP during the in-lap.
    Are the rules here harder to impose or understand simply because of the huge disparity in speed between the two, something that wouldn’t happen during the actual race?

    1. It was a very weird incident. If we were to try to place blame as a racing accident it would have to be primarily on Stroll, since his line progressively widened relative to the inside of the circuit. But we could also ask whether it was the most intelligent idea for Vettel to put his car in such close proximity on a slowing down lap. I wouldn’t wholly blame either driver.

  41. What would be your opinion on these two incidents:

    Same drivers in both cases

    1. Case 2 seems fair to me. The driver on the inside is fully alongside when contact occurs. I wouldn’t class it as a divebomb, since they are clearly making the corner even without the contact. They made the move late, however, so it was probable the other driver would not see them and contact would occur.

      In case 1, I think the aggressor is clearly at fault. They tap the other car out of the way to make the pass. In an F1 context, they would certainly be deemed at fault and likely penalized. In a ‘rubbing is racing’ context, the view might be more lax.

  42. May I translate this post and share to korean race game forum and my blog?
    Of course, the source will be written.

    1. Sure! As long as you link/cite to the original source, that’s fine by me.

  43. Reblogged this on LSDL.

  44. […] via The rules of racing […]

  45. […] Manuver memaksa masuk dari dalam juga dilarang: THE RULES OF RACING […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: