The importance of track image

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johnnoble1990

Guest
When playing poker, one thing you always need to be aware of is table image. Not just your own, but your opponents too. Once you get a good idea of a persons level of aggression, you can exploit this and pounce on their weaknesses. You can tell if they are likely to raise you or fold their hand and cower away. You can also exploit your own table image, showing a certain level of consistent aggression to later win hands simply by being in them.

I think this idea of table image can be applied to the track. I think every driver has an attacking and defending track image. Some drivers are happy to follow till they can make an easy, safe overtake; some drivers are happy to let drivers past without too much fight; some drivers are going to send one up the inside at any corner and some drivers are going to turn in, whether you are there or not. I think that some drivers benefit from setting an aggressive track image early. Lewis Hamilton is one who in his past has been able to exploit this. Many drivers identified early on in his career that he was an aggressive overtaker and, as a result, were less willing to push him to the limits when racing.

I think ignoring track image was the undoing of two drivers last season, Hamilton and Massa. Hamilton is the most aggressive of overtakers and Massa, in my opinion, one of the most aggressive defenders. I'd name only 2 on a similar level of aggression, Schumacher and Mark Webber.

Warning: If we are going to go on from here I don't want this to turn into a thread where blame is apportioned to either driver from a stewards point of view. The point of the following is that both are only able to control their own actions and therefore need to make decisions from their own point of view knowing the consequences of their actions, as these consequences as a whole are the penalty of collisions, not just the penalties given out by stewards.

It seems to me that both Lewis and Felipe are guilty of completely ignoring each others track image, which resulted in miscommunication on a level we haven't seen for sometime. Firstly, from Lewis' point of view. Lewis' own track image has worked very well for him in the past. Lewis' biggest flaw though is treating all drivers the same. Felipe is not the type of driver to give a place up without a fight, even if a driver is clearly quicker than him. Had Lewis identified this at any point last season he would've known that half-opportunities against Felipe are not worth it and he is better biding his time.

Felipe's point of view though is the one that most interests me, because he spent the season being told that he was the driver who was right in these incidences by stewards and pundits, but, if we look at Massa's decisions alone, you have to ask why he chose to turn in on Lewis time and time again, knowing full well that Lewis was going to make the moves regardless. I think by half way through the season we weren't exactly surprised when they came together again and again. We knew well of Lewis' track image, and as much as Lewis seemed unaware of Massa's, Massa seemed equally unaware of Lewis' and spent most of the season blaming Lewis for his problems. But, it seems to me, had Massa thought about the inevitability of the result of his own choices, he could've had a much better season. From Massa's point of view, it is pointless to bemoan the actions of Lewis, even if they were wrong, as he cannot control the actions of another driver. Other drivers are simply variables that create decisions, but you have to wonder, if Massa saw Lewis as such a livewire, was he not best to just get out of the way?

This creates a new problem for drivers, because simply getting out of the way is a change in track image. It is an extremely passive way of driving and if other drivers recognise this, they will exploit it as a weakness. Which leads to the question, how often can you let a driver get away with a move before you destroy your track image? Do drivers need to take risks at times to benefit them in the future? Crash now and he won't try it again? or is a driver with an aggressive track image more trouble than they are worth, and one should simply stay out of their way, at all costs? Has Lewis' track image made him feared by other drivers or made them more stubborn to him, refusing to give him space if he doesn't get the required distance along side?
 
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johnnoble1990

Guest
I'd like to point you to Lewis' overtake on Button, in China, as an example of a drivers track image leading to an overtake without him getting alongside. Running down to the first corner, Lewis wasn't even level with Button's back wheels, yet had positioned his car for what could be critically described as a "lunging" out-braking manoeuvre. The overtake was called "beautiful" by Martin Brundle and many on CTA at the time saw it as the move of the weekend; it was also featured in the BBC overtakes of 2011 video. Yet, I think the credit has to go to Jenson for avoiding Lewis, being aware of Lewis' past track image and brilliantly spotting the move, so as to not turn in and cause a collision, which would've likely ended both their races. Had Jenson turned in though, the blame would've been apportioned to Lewis, who despite making it fairly clear he was coming through, was far from the required distance alongside to make such a move, and the result would've been far more catastrophic than any of his future incidences with less generous drivers. So, was Jenson right to leave room to avoid an incident with his team mate and avoid ruining both their races at a crucial time, or did the move have wider implications on the inter-team battle going on at the time. If Jenson wanted to send a message, that would've been the time and even Martin Brundle said at the time "I would've just turned in".

In a perfect world, of course drivers would make decisions simply according to the rules. But I personally think overtaking is far more complex than that and drivers will make decisions based on what is best for them.
 

ExtremeNinja

Karting amateur
Contributor
Fantastic post. People often forget about this or ignore it in discussion. Much of competition is about controlling others expectations of your intentions, actions and reactions. In motorsport, this is as important as anywhere else.

Sometimes it is even enough to win to have your competitors think you are the best driver, whether you are or not. Boxing is a fantastic example of that.

(Appended pedantry: "intra-team", not "inter-team")
 
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johnnoble1990

Guest
Yes. A point that originally made in the first post, but removed, was the fact that often having a Hamilton, Alonso or equilavent behind you is enough to make an overtake unnecessary. Simply seeing their colours behind is enough to force you into a mistake and easily give up a position. :)

One of my favourite radio moments this:
 

FB

Not my cup of cake
Valued Member
Someone once suggested that Alain Prost should have changed to a yellow helmet when he and Senna were racing together at Mclaren to "scare the rabbits out of the way". Ayrton worked hard on his track image from very early days in motor racing and many drivers assumed if they didn't get out of the way he would simply run into them - If I can find the Senna/Brundle F3 video again I'll post it.

The problems today are perhaps different. Aggressive overtaking is frowned upon and the days of back markers holding the leaders up don't exist without a penalty. This, perhaps, allows the leading driver to be more complacent than before as if a driver attempts to make a pass as in days of yore the chances are they will end up getting a penalty of some kind or admonished at the end of the race.

I think the issues between Massa and Hamilton last season were the culmination of a number of events. Hamilton's well discussed personal issues which had a negative effect on his performance in the car, often qualifying out of position. Massa's inability to get anywhere near Alonso, the frustrations that must have caused and hang over from the famous FIFTY incident. Both, for me, were trying too hard to prove they still had it. Overdriving, taking risks in overtaking that they either wouldn't normally have had to do or should have not even attempted. I also get the feeling Massa will be more circumspect this year after he was given a penalty after tangling with Hamilton (in Korea?) as it will have made him realise that he wasn't always going to get the benefit of the doubt in 50:50 incidents.
 
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johnnoble1990

Guest
I think the issues between Massa and Hamilton last season were the culmination of a number of events. Hamilton's well discussed personal issues which had a negative effect on his performance in the car, often qualifying out of position. Massa's inability to get anywhere near Alonso, the frustrations that must have caused and hang over from the famous FIFTY incident. Both, for me, were trying too hard to prove they still had it. Overdriving, taking risks in overtaking that they either wouldn't normally have had to do or should have not even attempted. I also get the feeling Massa will be more circumspect this year after he was given a penalty after tangling with Hamilton (in Korea?) as it will have made him realise that he wasn't always going to get the benefit of the doubt in 50:50 incidents.

Obviously in all incidences it was Lewis overtaking Massa, other than the Quali collision which wasn't racing. I think Massa was often being told to hold Lewis up not always to his own benefit.
 
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johnnoble1990

Guest
There Senna dives down the inside of Brundle when perhaps most other drivers would have waited and gotten past later. However he set the tone that unless you move your not going to finish the race.

Very much a tone that Lewis has set, although drivers seem less willing to care now because they always get redemption through stewards penalties. I hope Lewis' track image works for him this year. Regardless of right and wrong, if drivers know there is a good chance they will crash if they push too hard against Lewis, they would be making a mistake from their own point of view to do it, but I guess it goes back to, at what point do you make a stand...
 

Bill Boddy

Professional layabout
Contributor
There Senna dives down the inside of Brundle when perhaps most other drivers would have waited and gotten past later. However he set the tone that unless you move your not going to finish the race.

Very much a tone that Lewis has set although drivers seem less willing to care now because they always get redemption through stewards penalties.

Are you really saying that Hamilton has been running into other drivers on purpose? I, for one, do not believe you and would hope that any driver doing that would be at least suspended for a period.

Being put out of a race only to see the driver who did it getting a drive-through, redemption?

I hope Lewis' track image works for him this year. Regardless of right and wrong, if drivers know there is a good chance they will crash if they push too hard against Lewis, they would be making a mistake from their own point of view to do it, but I guess it goes back to, at what point do you make a stand...

I'm sorry, but I just do not understand your attitude. Is it that Hamilton can do no wrong even when he purposely drives into another driver, putting him out of the race? You did say your favourite sport is football, didn't you?
 

ExtremeNinja

Karting amateur
Contributor
I don't think anyone is saying Lewis drives into people on purpose, Bill. I think what John is saying is that Lewis has built a reputation for being the last to yield by being the last to yield. At least something along those lines.
 
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johnnoble1990

Guest
Are you really saying that Hamilton has been running into other drivers on purpose? I, for one, do not believe you and would hope that any driver doing that would be at least suspended for a period.

Being put out of a race only to see the driver who did it getting a drive-through, redemption?

I'm sorry, but I just do not understand your attitude. Is it that Hamilton can do no wrong even when he purposely drives into another driver, putting him out of the race? You did say your favourite sport is football, didn't you?

You do make me laugh Bill. Of course I'm not saying Lewis crashes into people on purpose; what benefit would there be in that? And also do not make assumptions of me based on the fact that I said football is my favourite sport. I see no relevance in this to the thread :rolleyes:

You clearly have the attitude that ambitious overtakes are a form of cheating, whereas I see it as the choice of a driver and whether it is a good move depends on the result of the overtake. Clearly by this definition, Lewis made some bad moves last year, but he is far from the only driver to ambitiously dive down the inside of another and it is not a form of cheating, that must be stressed.
 

Bill Boddy

Professional layabout
Contributor
You do make me laugh Bill. Of course I'm not saying Lewis crashes into people on purpose; what benefit would there be in that? And also do not make assumptions of me based on the fact that I said football is my favourite sport. I see no relevance in this to the thread :rolleyes:

You clearly have the attitude that ambitious overtakes are a form of cheating, whereas I see it as the choice of a driver and whether it is a good move depends on the result of the overtake. Clearly by this definition, Lewis made some bad moves last year, but he is far from the only driver to ambitiously dive down the inside of another and it is not a form of cheating, that must be stressed.

Where do I say that ambitious overtakes are a form of cheating? The video shown was of a driver who bullied others by the process of saying if you don't get out of my way then I will run into you. That was not an ambitious overtake, it was a failed attempt at bullying, Mansell was the wrong person to pick on. As for your last sentence did you not read the part where I said that I do not believe that Hamilton has been running into other drivers on purpose?
 
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johnnoble1990

Guest
Yeah but clearly that was not what I was saying, so why did you ever put it? I don't think you can speculate on the motives of Senna in that overtake. I don't think we have any reason to believe a driver ever runs into another intentionally, as there is nothing to gain from it. What I was saying was "going for gaps" is an aggressive move that sends a messages to other drivers. And where did I say, you said "that ambitious overtakes are a form of cheating?". I simply inferred that from what you were saying. I think if you go back and read some of the posts, you'll understand what is being spoken about, because as you said yourself, you don't think Lewis is driving into people on purpose, and clearly I don't think Lewis is driving into people, so why have we been lead down this tangent. The point I have been making is drivers can set a general aggressive track image for themselves that can be exploited in future.
 

Andyoak

Race Winner
I'm afraid that referencing Senna when saying there is no 'reason to believe a driver ever runs into another intentionally' is completely the wrong example. I'm afraid that Senna had form and admitted to deliberately driving into other drivers (Prost) for his own gain.

However, I do agree with your general point about track image; the master of whom was Michael Schumacher. But even he gained that image from the other drivers believing he would push them off the track if needs be.
 

Bill Boddy

Professional layabout
Contributor
The reason that the other drivers believed that they would be pushed off the track was because Schumacher had done it several times before, despite the rule saying that you must not do that.

I come from the generation who saw driver after driver killed because of going off the track. To have a driver doing that on purpose sickens me, however safe the cars are going into something hard at 180 mph is not a game.
 

Andyoak

Race Winner
Bill, I chose Senna because he actually admitted to it years later.

To the best of my knowledge, MSC has never held his hand up to this although there have been a number of occasions that we've all gone over and over and...

I chose MSC because he was someone that we are all familiar with; in no way do I condone what I consider his occasional unsporting and dangerous antics on track. On that front I'm with you all the way.
 
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