Formula 1 drivers will have to adhere to a stricter definition of the "one move" defensive rule starting at this weekend's Korean Grand Prix as part of a process that is likely to put it formally into the sporting regulations next year.
There is currently no official definition in the rules about what constitutes a legitimate defensive move, with the matter currently only governed by Article 16.1 of the Sporting Regulations. This article states that drivers can be punished for causing an "incident" – which includes if he has "illegitimately prevented a legitimate overtaking maneuver by a driver."
The FIA's Sporting Code also states that: "maneuvers liable to hinder other drivers, such more than one change of direction to defend a position, deliberate crowding of a car beyond the edge of the track or any other abnormal change of direction, are strictly prohibited."
Despite the "one move" rule being mentioned in the rules, there is no proper definition of what it constitutes – and what a driver can do after he has used his single maneuver. However, there is an unwritten rule that if a driver returns to the racing line after blocking the inside of a corner, he must leave enough space for his rival on the outside.
Although enforcement of the one move rule has worked for many years, the issue was thrust back into the spotlight at the Italian Grand Prix when Michael Schumacher vigorously defended his position against Lewis Hamilton. Despite not being given a penalty for what some believed was driving that pushed the limits of the regulations, there were times when he was reminded by race control to leave enough space for Hamilton.
Following the Monza events, moves were made to re-examine the one-move rule, and it has subsequently been approved by the FIA Sporting Working Group that it should become a part of the regulations.
With input from the Grand Prix Drivers' Association to put together a rule that the drivers are happy with, sources have confirmed that the one move rule will now be put forward for ratification by the FIA World Motor Sport Council so that it can be put into the 2012 F1 Sporting Regulations. The wording will confirm that drivers can make one move to defend their position, and must then leave at least one full car's width of asphalt on the outside (which does not include the curb) if they return to their racing line.
Even though this definition is not yet in the regulations, it is understood that the FIA will adopt this viewpoint as a benchmark from this weekend's event in Korea.
As well as the tougher interpretation of the one move rule, race stewards have also been reminded in Korea that they are able to add reprimands to any penalties handed out in races. With fresh scrutiny on driver punishment after Hamilton's recent spate of drive-through penalties, the FIA now reserves the right to start adding reprimands to other punishments, such as drive-throughs, in races if offenses are deemed to warrant it.
With F1 operating a "three strikes" system whereby drivers can be handed grid penalties after getting three reprimands, it means that serial offenders now run the risk of facing further sanctions.
Article 18.2 of the Sporting Regulations states: "Any driver who receives three reprimands in the same championship season will, upon the imposition of the third, be given a 10 grid place penalty at that event. If the third reprimand is imposed following an incident during a race, the 10 grid place penalty will be applied at the driver's next event. The 10 grid place penalty will only be imposed if at least two of the reprimands were imposed for a driving infringement."
The discussion about these extra reprimands came up as part of talks in the SWG looking into the possibility of a points system being used on superlicenses, whereby drivers could face ran bans if they accrue too many offenses. This did not garner much support, but will be discussed further in the future.