Is Reversing of the Car Allowed in F1?

Published 04/19/2021, 3:48 PM EDT
Formula One F1 – Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates – Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton in action after the race Pool via REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed


The sport that arguably has the most stringent rulebook is F1. And understandably so, since the margins are so slim. Not to forget that the drivers are risking their lives every time they go out on track. So, when we saw Lewis Hamilton reverse his way out of the gravel trap recently at the 2021 Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix, it made us ponder over this less-talked-about F1 rule.

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Are the drivers allowed to reverse their F1 cars?

Like your normal road cars, it is mandatory to equip the F1 cars with reverse gear. So, why was Nigel Mansell black-flagged for reversing his car at the 1989 Portuguese GP?

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It is because he did the maneuver in the pit lane and not out on track after accidentally going past his pit crew. Article 28.3 of F1’s sporting regulations states: “At no time may a car be reversed in the pit lane under its own power.” 

In the pit lane, the pit crew has the responsibility of manually reversing the car using their physical force.

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But why was Lewis Hamilton let off the leash? Did he not break any F1 rule?

During lap 31, Hamilton went into the barriers at the Tosa hairpin in Imola. But he was able to back his car into the gravel trap and then onto the track.

But why wasn’t he penalized in any way by the FIA?

Formula One F1 – Emilia Romagna Grand Prix – April 17, 2021 Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton in action during practice. REUTERS/Jennifer Lorenzini TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

It is because the rules allow the drivers to reverse in case of incidents like these. However, they must follow the safety protocols in such a scenario. The Mercedes driver abided by the rules in his case.

Article 27.3 of the Sporting Regulations states: “Should a car leave the track the driver may re-join, however, this may only be done when it is safe to do so and without gaining any lasting advantage.”

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Article 27.4 adds: “At no time may a car be driven unnecessarily slowly, erratically or in a manner which could be deemed potentially dangerous to other drivers or any other person.”

AUSTIN, TX – Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes WO9 is pushed onto the grid before the United States Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, United States. (Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images)

It invokes the memory of the time when Daniel Ricciardo reversed into Daniil Kvyat at Baku in 2019. He was duly handed a three-place grid penalty for this erratic incident. Hence, the drivers have to be aware of their surroundings when engaging their cars in reverse gear.

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Else it could not only land them in hot water with the FIA, but also endanger the safety of others.

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Bharat Aggarwal

757 articles

Bharat Aggarwal is a sports analyst for EssentiallySports, covering Formula 1 and NBA. A Delhi University graduate, Bharat has multi-year experience in sports writing, having closely worked with the content strategy aspect as well. Bharat Aggarwal supports Manchester United, Lewis Hamilton, Cristiano Ronaldo, Rafael Nadal, Dirk Nowitzki, Sachin Tendulkar, Ayrton Senna, Kristaps Porzingis, and Dallas Mavericks.

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