Every now and then, for whatever reason, an overtake which is technically illegal is allowed to stick
The rules say that Max Verstappen was right to be penalised for passing Kimi Raikkonen off the track on the last lap of the US GP. Indeed, in most motorsports, it’s a rule that gets enforced.
But there are times when such overtakes go without penalty. Sometimes it’s because the stewards don’t care, sometimes it’s because the attacking driver was forced to do so, and sometimes it’s because the move was so damn exciting that officials didn’t want to diminish the spectacle.
An overtaking move so legendary it’s become known simply as ‘The Pass’. On the last lap of the last race of the 1996 IndyCar season, Alex Zanardi launched his car down the inside at the fabled Corkscrew corner and took the lead and the victory - but not without running off the track to do so.
The win stood, but the rules were changed in future to stop drivers from pulling such a move. It’s still seriously cool though, right?!
IndyCar may have banned the move, but MotoGP sure didn’t. In 2008 Rossi used the runoff to pass Casey Stoner during their battle, and five years later found himself on the receiving end of such a move.
Marquez went around the outside of the Italian on the way into the corkscrew, took to the dirt to complete the manoeuvre, and went on to win the race. Far from being annoyed at getting passed off-circuit, Rossi congratulated his rival for the move in parc ferme!
On the last lap of the rain-soaked 2007 Japanese GP, Felipe Massa was up behind Robert Kubica and trying everything to get past. In what turned out to be an epic battle, both drivers ran each other off the track multiple times.
Massa eventually prevailed after using the run-off at the final corner to stay ahead, and wasn’t penalised. But with both drivers ignoring the very concept of track limits, where would you even start with penalties?!
Max Verstappen hasn’t always been punished for abusing track limits! During his first season with Toro Rosso, he put this absolute beauty of a pass on Felipe Nasr, going around the outside of Blanchimont and then making it stick on the way into the Bus Stop.
The only problem was that in doing so, he took advantage of the runoff on the outside of Blanchimont. Not only was he not given a penalty, the move ended up winning the FIA’s ‘Action of the Year’ vote!
Of course this is the sort of thing that happens in touring cars! Back in 2001 on the last lap of the DTM race at Zandvoort, Uwe Alzen tried to barge his way past Christian Abt but wasn’t left much room. Undeterred, Alzen skipped across the gravel to get in front, and stayed there to the flag.
Towards the end of the 2003 German GP Jarno Trulli was running in second, but his tyres were completely shot and Michael Schumacher was closing in fast.
Now the Trulli train isn’t easily derailed, and he pushed Schumacher wide on the exit of the hairpin. Michael kept his foot in though and blasted ahead, using the runoff to gain traction. Though he wasn’t penalised by the stewards, he was punished in the form of a puncture, which dropped him down to seventh.