F1 champions happy 'unwritten law' has been clarified

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Lewis Hamilton and the Formula One grid's other world champions agree the FIA's clampdown on moving under braking is simply clarification of a rule which has always been unwritten.

Max Verstappen's driving has been brilliant and controversial in equal measure this season, with the Dutch teenager earning criticism for moving his car in the braking zone when defending position from other cars. After complaints from both Ferrari drivers earlier in the season, Verstappen used the same tactic on Hamilton in Japan, forcing the reigning world champion into evasive action.

The issue was raised in Friday's drivers' briefing in Austin, where Charlie Whiting clarified that it is now an offence to change direction under braking. Hamilton said it has only become an issue this season because younger drivers do not understand it is a dangerous tactic to employ.

"For the ten years I've been in Formula One it's been the same rule that all us drivers understand," the reigning world champion said. "It's only newcomers that have come in and potentially not abided by that same rule we've all shared for many, many years.

"Racing with Michael [Schumacher] had the same rule, and then as I've gone on... It will be interesting to see if new drivers have come in and have a different route and have a different opinion. But it is about the respect we have for one another. We're travelling at serious speeds so you commit to your defence but you don't do it whilst in braking, so I think it's great Charlie has understood the majority of drivers' opinions."

Hamilton thinks clarification was important to prevent F1 drivers adopting a new dangerous approach to wheel-to-wheel racing.

"The rules have to be very strict and clear because otherwise if they say you're allowed to move under braking, everyone will do it and we'll all start a new way of driving which is dangerous. You look at IndyCar, for example, one twitch and the car goes flying, so I think it's definitely the right way."

Four-time champion Sebastian Vettel reiterated Hamilton's viewpoint, saying the FIA's leniency with earlier cases has spread the message that it is a fair tactic to use.

"I think it's very simple," Vettel said. "The day I joined Formula One it was clear and an unwritten law and in recent times we have had situations and got away with it, so for sure the message is that everyone is starting to do it.

"I think that's the wrong thing, because in the end we spoke about it yesterday and we were just waiting for something to happen. Therefore I think it is a good action to look into these things."

McLaren's world champion line-up concurred, with Jenson Button denying that the clampdown was proof F1 had become over-regulated.

"I think this is the correct ruling," the 2009 world champion said. "We started a long time ago in this sport and there's always been an understanding it's incorrect to move in the braking zone when someone is trying to overtake, because when so you're trying to overtake everything is on the limit. You're pushing the limit, pushing the boundaries, on the edge of being out of control.

"And as soon as somebody takes the line in front of you, and takes the line you were aiming for, the space you're aiming for, you're screwed. You're either going to go over the top of them or miss them and go into the barriers. It's common sense more than anything else. For 15 years of racing I haven't really had any issues, just in the last couple of years we have. Now it's clear, they've clarified it, and I'm happy about it."

Fernando Alonso, who this weekend passed the unenviable 10-year anniversary of his last championship, said the rule has always been the same even if consistency over penalties has not.

"Not really much to comment," the Spaniard said. "It was clear before and it's clear now. In football when you take the ball with the hand inside the area, it's a penalty. Sometimes the ref gives you the penalty and sometimes they don't. This it was clear before: but sometimes they gave a penalty and sometimes they don't give anything."

Kimi Raikkonen, who has been at odds with Verstappen on numerous occasions this season, was happy to see the rule clarified.

"Obviously you need some rules, sometimes it feels there are some unclear situations and they make a rule for that. It feels like we probably have too many rules but that's how it is. If there were no rules we could do everything, so we need to have some guidelines of what we can do. It sounds a bit stupid sometimes but that's sometimes it's beneficial for everybody."

Between them, the drivers above account for every F1 world championship since Alonso's first in 2005. Verstappen seemed unmoved by the clarification in Austin, commenting that: "Maybe they can get past now"