Date: 13th July 2012 at 9:14am
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Back in January the FIA announced a tweak to how drivers could defend their position on the track.

It had been thought that the tweak would prevent drivers who make a move to defend their position away from the racing line, to return to it, thus blocking the attacking driver twice.

This scenario was seen multiple times during the course of the 2011 season and it was always going to be interesting to see how it would be enforced by the race stewards during the 2012 season and whether the advantage would now be handed to the attacking driver.

Well with the new season at its half way point, we’ve had a number of incidents which has meant that this rule has come under the spotlight.

In Bahrain Nico Rosberg, took a very aggressive approach towards defending his position against Lewis Hamilton, so much so that the Mercedes driver actually put two wheels off the track while the McLaren was alongside him.

The German was then under investigation for his defensive moves while attempting to keep the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso behind him later on in the same race.

The race stewards eventually sided with Rosberg, but calls were being made for clarification on the guidelines by the drivers, with Alonso making sarcastic tweets about the stewards decision.

In Valencia, Maldonado was punished for crashing into Lewis Hamilton in the closing stages of the race. The Williams driver attempted to blame the McLaren driver for pushing him off the track, but the stewards didn’t agree and gave Maldonado a post-race time penalty.

While most agreed with the stewards decision, some Formula One journalists could see the point Maldonado was making in regards to the current regulations.

So before the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, FIA race director Charlie Whiting wrote to all the teams to clarify their position.

Autosport Magazine have managed to obtain a copy of this letter and have quoted parts of the letter in a recent article on their website.

‘any driver defending his position on a straight and before any braking area may use the full width of the track during his first move provided no significant portion of the car attempting to pass is alongside his. Whilst defending in this way the driver may not leave the track without justifiable reason.’

It continued: ‘For the avoidance of doubt, if any part of the front wing of the car attempting to pass is alongside the rear wheel of the car in front this will be deemed to be a ‘significant portion’.’

Now this wouldn’t appear to avoid doubt at all, just by looking at the incidents involving Rosberg and Hamilton in Bahrain and Hamilton and Maldonado in Valencia, you could still interpret the moves differently.

In Bahrain, Hamilton would have had a ‘significant portion’ of his car alongside Rosberg before the Mercedes used the full width of the road, so that would now lay blame on Rosberg.

In Valencia, despite the fact that Maldonado had put his car on the outside of the turn, he too would have had a ‘significant portion’ of his car alongside Hamilton, simply because he broke later than the McLaren. He then remained alongside him going into the chicane because he didn’t attempt to take the initial turn and left the track.

So where does blame sit in this incident? Does it still sit with Maldonado for leaving the circuit and failing to rejoin the track in a safe manner or is Hamilton now to blame because the Brit didn’t leave him enough of the track to take the corner?