The driver briefing in Austin had a duration of one hour. Topics included; bleu flags, Ricciardo’s start in Suzuka and, as a main topic, Max Verstappen. This time, according to the German ‘Auto und Motorsport’, young Max’ got resistance from all his colleagues. Those are now demanding for a rule to make ‘movement under breaking’ illegal.
It doesn’t happen often that one single driver stands on trail with so many negative reactions from this much prosecutors. But this time Verstappen couldn’t do much but listen to what his fellow drivers had to say. Once Romain Grosjean made the start of the debate the floodgates were open. From Sebastian Vettel to Kimi Räikkönen, Nico Hülkenberg and Lewis Hamilton, even Fernando Alonso, all had something to say. Alonso made the final saying in the whole trail and Räikkönen, after a little nudge by the team manager, talked for 3 minutes straight. We all know if he talks for such an amount of time, without using the word ok, it’s serious business.
And the young defendant? He just sat there, looking like he didn’t care. When they mentioned the manoeuvre he did against Hamilton in Suzuka, he utered the words: “I did not get penalised for that, so I did nothing wrong!”- who can blame him for that? It is true, in my opinion. This is a case of the FIA being to lax towards him or being to vague about the rules. Giving him a tool, which he gladly uses. Why shouldn’t he? It surprised me that he still is the only one using it time and again. Apparently the moral code between the others is high. Something we can only applaud.
His next words were that he braked 10m later that time round, on that part of the track. That he didn’t even understood why Hamilton would try it, there, in that manner. If he was so much later on the brakes, Hamilton surely couldn’t be on them any later…
The drivers insisted that FIA’s race control, Charlie Whiting, would make a rule, to which all drivers should be held against. To which Whiting promised that from now on, in any doubtful case, he would look at the telemetry from all parties involved. But the drivers explicitly asked for a rule where it’s ‘no longer allowed to move once you are under braking.’
Hülkenberg wanted to say something about the dangers that such a manoeuvre had. “All of you are at home, comfortable on the sofa. Looking on the on-board pictures, saying there is one meter of space to the right or the left, space you could easily move in. Do you actually know how small the road gets when you’re driving at 330kph? When you’re already braking and the one in front of you moves towards you, you just can’t release your brakes and open up your steering to avoid the one in front and brake hard again. When you’re lucky, like Lewis was, you find and emergency exit. If you’re unlucky you find a wall and crash. It can not be that it has to come to a major accident before the FIA does something about it. As long as they don’t start taking actions there will be a time when Verstappen takes someone out”
Jenson Button said that during a race not only the defending driver has to brake hard. The one placing the attack on said driver is braking harder. When the defending driver moves in that zone towards the other the it can become fatal!
Of course there were some who defended Verstappen, such as Helmut Marko, who said: ”The other drivers should just learn how to move under braking. If Max can do it, so should they!” Something that Hülkenberg didn’t find funny. “That maybe possible in a Red Bull, a car which is build to be aggressively braked. Just look at how late Ricciardo’s braking manoeuvres sometimes are. If i try that with my car I’ll land on the moon!”
Fernando Alonso ended the debate by coming back to his massive accident in Melbourne at the beginning of the season. He laid no blame at Esteban Gutiérrez what so ever, but he wanted them to think about the consequences it had. If you’re that close to the man in front, at 300kph, and he forces you to move so sudden. The whole car becomes light and you’re out of control…