‘Doubt’ over rules has caused F1’s current ‘difficulties’

Henry Valantine
Damon Hill in a race suit. Saudi Arabia December 2021.

Damon Hill takes off his helmet after doing a demo run in a classic Williams. Saudi Arabia December 2021.

Damon Hill believes drivers don’t fully know how they are allowed to go about their racing on track, which is causing confusion during grand prix weekends.

The 1996 World Champion discussed Max Verstappen’s attempted “Daniel Ricciardo-style lunge” on Lewis Hamilton on the first lap in Abu Dhabi, and debate has since taken hold as to whether or not the Mercedes driver should have given the Red Bull driver the lead of the race.

Verstappen went down the inside of Hamilton at the Turn 6 hairpin but, in avoiding contact at the tight left-hander, the Mercedes driver took to the escape road and emerged with a handy lead over the Red Bull.

Opinion has been split on this issue, and while Hill pointed out that “no overtake is exactly the same as the last”, the lack of clear boundaries between what is and isn’t being punished has led to confusion among the drivers.

“Lewis took evasive action and had no track left to play with and had to take the escape road,” he said on the F1 Nation podcast.

“That was a bold move, but it was a move that has come on the back of a number of moves like that that have gone unpunished or, let’s say, they’ve let it go.

“So the drivers are unsure as to whether or not this is going to be the way to race or not. The doubt is the thing that has given us all these difficulties – it’s given us uncertainty.”

Hill came down on the side of Hamilton having to give the lead to Verstappen though, agreeing with Sky Sports colleague Martin Brundle in saying that the Red Bull had the right to the corner when both drivers reached the apex.

“What had happened was [Hamilton] got away with it,” said Hill. “He stopped the car before he went off the road, Lewis had to take evasive action but actually, when you look at that pass, it was a clean pass.

“Actually, [Verstappen] was ahead, so I don’t understand why when Lewis got back on the track, why he didn’t give the place back because in a sense really, Max had got the place.”


The stewards decided quickly that no investigation was necessary after Hamilton took to the escape road, but the former Williams and Arrows driver did not think that was correct.

“He didn’t gain a lasting advantage on that one, that’s what he said,” Hill said. “He kind of did because he didn’t get overtaken when in fact he had been overtaken.”