In his Australian Grand Prix pre race notes, FIA race director Niels Wittich has highlighted Article 55.14 of the sporting regulations, which states: “In order to avoid the likelihood of accidents before the safety car returns to the pits, from the point at which the lights on the car are turned out drivers must proceed at a pace which involves no erratic acceleration or braking nor any manoeuvre which is likely to endanger other drivers or impede the restart.”
Wittich also provided a diagram with examples of manoeuvres which will not be tolerated anymore, including drawing alongside the leading car ahead of the end of the Safety Car period.
This same move has been used by Max Verstappen on at least three occasions, most recently with Charles Leclerc at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, but perhaps more famously with Lewis Hamilton on the penultimate lap of the controversial 2021 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
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At the time Verstappen got alongside Hamilton ahead of the race restart, at one point even getting in front of him. This led to Mercedes protesting the move based on Article 48.8 of the 2021 regulations, which said “no driver may overtake another car on the track, including the safety car, until he passes the Line (see Article 5.3) for the first time after the safety car has returned to the pits”.
The stewards, however, immediately dismissed the protest saying that “although Car 33 did at one stage, for a very short period of time, move slightly in front of Car 44, at a time when both cars where accelerating and braking, it moved back behind Car 44 and it was not in front when the Safety Car period ended (i.e. at the line).”
Well, in 2022 Verstappen won’t be able to use this tactic anymore, which kind of confirms it was not really ok in the first place.