(Originally posted by Steph to Planet-IRL.com.)
In the days since The Block, the chatter within the IndyCar community has been incessant.
Brian Barnhart has defended the rule. Tony Cotman has defended the rule. The vast majority of drivers are backing it as well (everyone but Helio, it seems) with some taking the time to publicly explain the justification for it. Pressdog has tossed his hat into the ring in its favor.
However, the vast majority of the masses are still wielding torches and pitchforks and screaming for justice.
Here’s the briefest way to summarize the viewpoint of the yay side: because we’re running spec cars that are all doing more or less the same speed, allowing a leader to protect the inside line would result in parades with little to no passing.
This is easy to see on, say, a 1.5-mile oval, where the cars are so evenly matched that it can sometimes take several laps to complete a pass (overtake assistance being the only relief for that issue). On a track like Edmonton, though, where turn 1 has so many lines to choose from, the need isn’t as cut and dried.
However, Tony Cotman made this point on Twitter last night, and he’s absolutely right: A rule needs to be established and enforced consistently throughout the entire season. The failure to do so, and the failure to inform the masses that it’s being done, creates exactly the sort of confusion we’re dealing with right now.
The clearest lesson to be learned from all of this is that… well, that there are lessons to be learned in how to handle such situations in the future. So, here are some ideas for ways to clear this one up and to prevent similar catastrophes.
1. Don’t call it a blocking rule. That’s not what it is. If it needs to exist, call it an anti-defense rule, and make it separate from the blocking rule (which should be restricted to acts of blocking that are dangerous, such as sudden braking, swerving, or otherwise erratic behavior).
2. Make the punishment for the anti-defense rule less strict than for the blocking rule. The fan base has been loud and clear on this: regardless of whether he knew the rule going in, a black flag that resulted in Helio losing the race (never mind being removed from an excellent battle for the lead) was far too harsh for the crime. These offenses need to be treated with the differing levels of severity that they inherently carry.
3. Be consistent and transparent in the application. The inconsistent application of penalties has been a point of contention for some time. Rules that carry severe consequences shouldn’t be subjective: if a rule that can result in a black flag is written such that it requires a flimsy judgment call to be enforced, it needs to be rewritten. And no one should be immune: the mere fact that fans can point toward identical offenses that didn’t result in a penalty or speculate that certain drivers would have had this rule applied less stringently reveals a very serious problem. Moreover, multiple sources have called Helio a blocking “repeat offender,” but no one has anything concrete to point toward to corroborate the claim. A more severe punishment for someone who’s deliberately flouting the rules will make a lot more sense to a lot more people, so if a driver is being repeatedly warned, tell us about it. This business of the rules being NONE OF OUR BUSINESS (credit to Pressdog) is extremely damaging, particularly in situations like the one we currently face.
4. Enough with the spec cars already. It’s likely that we can all agree on this one: If we need an anti-defense rule, we’re no longer racing. Roll on, 2012.