Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

Who to blame for racing incidents // Taking sides, looking at the evidence, and apportioning blame

Published by Christine

This article was originally written for BellaOnline, but is republished here for posterity.

The last race in Bahrain saw two very different but highly controversial accidents. Firstly, Lewis Hamilton ran into the back of Fernando Alonso on the very first lap. Given the history and animosity between the pair, it’s unsurprising that this incident caused speculation from the moment it happened.

It looked like Alonso didn’t pull away from the corner, thus leading others to think that he had maybe done it on purpose. Either braking or not accelerating out of a corner would be a really unsportsmanlike thing to do, but we have seen that Alonso is not against hindering Hamilton’s chances at getting some results. However, Renault have confirmed that this is not the case, and Alonso had his foot to the floor – it’s just the car is so bad that it didn’t go anywhere. They even have the computer printouts to prove it.

Now McLaren have said that Hamilton’s front wing failed moments before the crash, meaning there was nothing he could do about it. Either way, it’s safe to put this one down to a racing incident, with no blame involved. Hamilton’s race was completely ruined anyway, and Alonso wasn’t likely to be in the points regardless, so no challenges were issued by either party.

The other accident in Bahrain came courtesy of David Coulthard and Jenson Button. Coulthard has been involved in similar accidents recently, and seems to complain that his wing mirrors are either too small or in the wrong place so that he can’t see drivers behind him. Jenson Button came from way back to attempt to overtake into a corner, but after jinking around to try and avoid Coulthard, he eventually had nowhere to go and ran over the Red Bull’s wheel.

Afterwards, Button said that Coulthard should have given him room, whilst Coulthard proclaimed it just another racing incident. The problem with overtaking accidents, is that it’s always difficult to tell who had right of way. Should the driver from behind be at a certain point alongside the car he’s trying to overtake before he’s allowed to go through unscathed? Or should the one in front have right of way and be free to turn into his corner unaided?

It’s an age old question, and I don’t think there are any answers. It’s a shame that many overtaking manoeuvres end up in accidents like this, because as a sport F1 needs more overtaking, and a driver will have no incentive to do it if he’s worried he’ll just end up as a DNF.