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Formula 1

What we know about a surprisingly belated Haas protest

by Edd Straw
4 min read

Haas has lodged a right of review request for the failure of track limits rules being applied in the United States Grand Prix two weeks ago, the team has confirmed to The Race.

The team has not revealed the exact basis of the petition, but it's likely to pertain to the failure to penalise drivers for cutting the inside of the track in the right-hand Turn 6 sweep where multiple cars were beyond track limits.

Williams driver Alex Albon was given a five-second penalty for track limits violations during the race, but further potential breaches at Turn 6 specifically were investigated but rejected on the basis that the stewards did not have the necessary evidence to confirm the offence.

The stewards' verdict stated: "Based on the video footage available (which did not include CCTV), the stewards determine, whilst there might be some indication for possible track limit infringements in Turn 6, the evidence at hand is not sufficient to accurately and consistently conclude that any breaches occurred and therefore take no further action."

The right of review enshrined in the International Sporting Code permits teams to seek a review provided it is launched within 14 days of the competition it refers to. Therefore, this window is still open for Austin. The petition will be heard by the original US GP stewards, who are expected to consider it in the week after this weekend's Brazilian GP.

The process means the stewards will consider the validity of the petition for a review. This requires teams to present evidence that is “significant and relevant” that was not available to stewards at the time. If it's accepted that such evidence has been provided, a review will be scheduled to reconsider the potential violations. If not, the petition will be thrown out and there will be no review.

Haas will not comment on what evidence it will present, but this process does demand that it is something new. Arguing that stewards should have interpreted the evidence they did have (ie onboard cameras) differently will not cut it. Nor will arguing that the stewards accepting that the track limits on the inside of Turn 6 could not be policed because of the lack of an external camera in the correct position to show whether the rear tyres were over the line or not work.

Instead, Haas would have to produce some additional footage. There is a precedent for this from the 2020 Austrian Grand Prix when Lewis Hamilton was given a penalty when 360-degree camera footage from his car emerged proving he did not react to a yellow flag correctly. However, in this case it would need to be far more than simply one extra set of onboard footage.

There are two possible reasons for Haas doing this. Firstly, it’s a punt in the hope of penalties being applied that would promote Nico Hulkenberg from 11th into the points. Secondly, it’s to make a point about track-limits enforcement.

However, for either of those to work it would need to get the review accepted and that depends purely on the evidence. No argument, regardless of how robust, will be successful – it must be additional evidence not available to stewards that is significant. And not everything is significant as in the past such submissions have been rejected despite bringing new evidence because it’s not considered significant.

Haas may have an ace up its sleeve, but it’s difficult to imagine what might have been discovered that would have given the stewards the additional visual information needed to validate track-limits breaches. But it could, for example, cite Lando Norris admitting in his Thursday media session ahead of the Mexican Grand Prix that he did exceed track limits because they weren’t being enforced.

Norris said of exceeding track limits at Turn 6 that: "I did it as well, to be honest. I knew it was a corner [where] they couldn't penalise me because they set the precedent in previous tracks of 'if you can't visually see it, you're going to get away with it'. You have to know the gray areas and the things you can get away with and that was one of them. So to everyone that did to it, fair play."

It's possible that comment could be seen as a confession and therefore is enough to get the review door open, although Norris is correct that the precedent was set and like many drivers knew he could safely exceed track limits there. So even that might not be enough.

However, if Haas can provide the required evidence to trigger a review it could have a significant impact on the results. Norris admitted doing it, Albon couldn’t be penalised because of the lack of external cameras showing the inside of Turn 6 clearly, while Perez was clearly a repeat offender based on onboard footage. Therefore, there is significant potential for the results being shuffled.

The FIA has already stated that changes will be made at Austin ahead of next year's race to ensure stewards can enforce the track limits rules at this corner.

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