Shortly after the conclusion of the Monte Carlo race, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was at a media briefing when he received a call from sporting director Jonathan Wheatley informing him that Ferrari had formally complained.
Ferrari felt both Red Bull drivers had broken the regulations when they appeared to sprint through the yellow lane exit when they exited after swapping slick tyres on lap 22.
During the race, the stewards noted Perez’s incident but there was no further communication.
Subsequent shots of Verstappen on board showed he far crossed the line than his teammate, so he’s likely more likely to break the rules that would normally give him a time penalty.
Ferrari felt the matter needed to be investigated because it had the impression that the FIA considered it a violation if any part of the car touched the yellow line.
As Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto explained before reaching the verdict: “The intent to protest is not really to protest Red Bull per se. But seeking clarifications on an issue that, for us, is clearly somewhat unclear.
“I think we think both Red Bulls were on the line, on the yellow line, they got off the pit lane. And in the past, he was always penalized by five seconds.
“More than that, if you read the race director’s notes, it’s clearly written. It was clearly written, I think [since] Turkey 2020, to avoid any misunderstanding, you have to stay to the right of the yellow line.
“To avoid confusion around the word ‘cross’, being on the line you have to stay to the right of the yellow line. And for us, that wasn’t the case at all.”
“The intent to protest is not really to protest Red Bull per se. But seeking clarification on an issue that, to us, is clearly somewhat unclear.” Mattia Binotto
Photo by: Ferrari
Race notes for the Monaco Grand Prix have already confirmed that drivers should stay to the right of the line rather than cross it.
The official event notes state: “In accordance with Chapter 4 (Section 5) of Annex L of the ISC, drivers must keep to the right of the yellow flat line at the pit exit when leaving the pit and remain to the right of this line until it ends after Turn 1. ”
It’s a situation that has been around for a while and really changed after the 2020 Turkish Grand Prix, when Verstappen himself was accidentally investigated for possibly crossing the line.
At the time, Verstappen got away with it because there was no “conclusive evidence” that the Dutchman had completely crossed the white line separating the pit exit from the track.
But this incident has sparked some controversy over what “crossing” the line actually means.
Did the car have to go completely to the other side of the line to “overtake” it, or was that enough to classify breaking the rules as just touching it – thus crossing its inner boundary?
The discussion sparked by the Verstappen event prompted a small change to the regular F1 event notes for the next event.
For Turkey, referring to passenger lane exit lines, Michael Massey writes, “In accordance with Chapter 4 (Section 5) of Annex L, ISP drivers must keep to the left of the straight white line at the pit exit when leaving the pit. No part of the The car leaves the pits crossing that line.”
For the following race (although later corrected to ‘the right hand side’), it has been altered to lose the previous second sentence: “In accordance with Chapter 4 (Section 5) of Annex L, drivers in the ISC must keep to the left of the flat white line when Exit the hole when leaving the hole.
The new clarification means that if any part of the car (which is actually the tire) goes beyond the inner edge of the line, it will be enough to breach because it is no longer a side of it.
This has become the accepted norm, and judging by what the event notes say, nothing has changed – as confirmed by Freitas’ memo for Monaco.
So when there was some debate about whether or not the Red Bull drivers touched the line, Ferrari’s actions seemed inevitable given the apparent contradiction.
However, in the background, things have changed at the FIA - with the specific section of the 2022 International Sports Act being amended to emphasize the “crossing the line” element.
Back in 2020, the ISC division stated: “Except in cases of force majeure (accepted as such by Stewards), it must not be crossed by any part of the vehicle leaving the pits.”
This was amended at the end of last year, for this season’s application, to say: “Except in cases of force majeure (accepted as such by Stewards), no tire of a vehicle exiting the pit lane shall cross any line drawn on the track at the pit exit for the purpose of separating Cars that leave the pit lane than those on the track.”
This wording re-emphasizes crossing the line, rather than touching it, and is now about the tires and not just a single car part.
And in the FIA’s ruling after the Monaco Grand Prix, he stated that the ISC had a precedent at all times.
Therefore, Freitas’ advice in the event notes, which was “cut and pasted” from last year’s Monaco notes, was not valid.
So even though Verstappen had part of his tires above the yellow line (Perez was in a pretty clear spot), the entire tire didn’t cross, so there was no rule-breaking.
As the statement of the hosts said: “The car did not “cross” the line – to do this, it must have a full wheel to the left of the yellow line.
“Accordingly, the driver did not violate the relevant section of the Code and this has precedent for any interpretation of the notes.”
There are two important consequences of this clarification.
The first is that the lane exit line can now be abused more by drivers than some previously thought.
While they once treated it as a hard stop to not touch, the current interpretation is that they can run across it wide as long as the entire wheel doesn’t cross.
This means drivers now have extra scope to be more defensive when out of the pits by using more lane when out of the pits.
Moreover, Monaco’s decisions also raised questions about any of the decisions in the regular event notes from the race director – as it is now accepted that even in the case of advice, the ISC would take full precedence.
And in a sport where teams are constantly pushing the boundaries of the rules, this means that there may not be room for flexibility in interpreting regulations that are sometimes required to fill in the loopholes that teams exploit.
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