Blue flag rules spoil F1 drivers

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The current crop of Formula One drivers need to stop crying wolf. The circuits, cars and facilities are better equipped than ever which has made the sport the safest it ever has, but somehow that cotton wool mentality seems to have crept in to the drivers psyche.

During qualifying in Suzuka Bruno Senna was baulked by Jean-Eric Vergne. Rather than simply getting on with the job, the Brazilian gesticulated wildly, compromising his corner exit speed and therefore ruining any hope of setting an especially good time on the next lap.

Rarely now does a weekend go by without the stewards lining up a host of the world best drivers like school children and giving them a rap on the knuckles. The charge, more often than not, is one of impeding a faster driver.

In modern Formula One drivers are expected to leap aside as a faster car approaches during practice or qualifying for fear of being sent to the headmasters office afterwards. Reprimands and grid penalties are the norm while it’s not unheard of for drivers to have to trundle down the pit lane for their misdemeanour.

The sport never used to be like this.

While marshals had blue flags, and perhaps even waved them at the tail enders, it was the faster drivers responsibility to find a way by. Backmarkers did not have to jump out of the way and, more often than not, they impacted the race because of it. But that was accepted, it was the same for everyone and it was one of the very things which defined Ayrton Senna.

Senna was renowned for his ability to cut through traffic. He did not enjoy the benefit the drivers of today receive with blue flag rules and was forced to make his way through using the sheer fact that he was (often) race leader and (more often) in a much faster car.

At the 1988 Italian Grand Prix he was caught out by that fact when trying to lap Jean-Louis Schlesser’s Williams. The Brazilian was eliminated from the race lead and Gerhard Berger went on to win a memorable 1-2 for Ferrari shortly after Enzo Ferrariā€˜s death.

Gerhard Berger had a similar run in with Rene Arnoux while leading the Australian Grand Prix later that year.

Who can forget Nelson Piquet’s Brabham colliding with Eliseo Salazar at the Ostkurve at the 1982 German Grand Prix? The brief fisticuffs which ensued have been replayed countless times on television.

Bruno Senna was unhappy with Vergne because he had impeded his qualifying lap, which he compounded by gesticulating at the Frenchman rather than doing his job. But what’s worse than Senna and his contemporaries pointlessly flapping their arms is it often means there is a lingering doubt over the results of qualifying, and sometimes the race.

Penalties applied after the fact are never ideal, but for such trivial reasons seems ludicrous. Abolish the blue flags I say and make those at the front work through traffic in the manner of Ayrton Senna and co. It will likely lead to dubious incidents and the leaders getting baulked, but on balance wouldn’t that be better?

I for one am tired of the arm waving and carrying on of drivers who are spoilt by the regulations. I am especially tired of results changing three hours after the fact because of something so irrelevant. Wouldn’t you rather switch off the television knowing the man that crossed the line first did in fact win?

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