The Red Bull driver received criticism from rivals at times during the 2016 season – most notably Sebastian Vettel – for what was perceived as dangerously changing his line under braking, prompting the FIA to explicitly outlaw such a move from the United States Grand Prix onwards.
Ironically, however, it was Vettel that would be the first to fall foul of the rule in Mexico, an incident amongst a series of events that have forced the FIA to review its protocol for 2017 and led to a decision to ‘relax’ reactions to on-track incidents in an effort to afford greater consistency.
“I think there will be a small change in some of the incidents that we’ve seen last year they’ll be handled quite differently simply because the so-called “Verstappen rule” is gone to the effect that before we said any move under braking will be investigated. Now, we have a simple rule that says effectively that if a driver moves erratically or goes unnecessarily slow or behaves in a manner that could endanger another driver, then he will be investigated.
“So there’s a very broad rule now but we’ve done after Austin last year in response to some comments from drivers, we used the existing rules to put notes on how we’re going to interpret the existing rules. And the interpretation simply was that drivers shouldn’t move under braking. That’s what gave rights to the incident in Mexico, that’s what gave rights to the penalty in Mexico.
“But that will be dealt with slightly differently. The stewards will be invited to simply focus on every incident and judging on its own merits. So each incident will be dealt with only on the basis of whether or not it was a dangerous manoeuver, not necessarily because he moved under braking.”
Whiting goes on to say that stewards for this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix have been briefed on how to approach incidents, applying this year’s rules to last year’s incidents.
“We had a meeting yesterday with all the stewards and we reviewed all the controversial incidents from last year to see how they would be dealt with this year under the so-called new rules or the new approach. It was quite interesting. I won’t go into it now, but it was quite interesting.”