FIA race director Michael Masi has explained why the stewards decided no investigation was deemed necessary after the clash between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton at the São Paulo Grand Prix.
Verstappen and Hamilton had collided in the main race at each of the first two F1 sprint weekends this year at Silverstone and Monza.
At Interlagos, they again came close to disaster for a third time when Verstappen appeared to run the seven-time champion off track at turn four on lap 48
Both drivers ran wide but Masi explained he applied the 'let them race' principle while dismissing a lack of consistency from the stewards despite five-second penalties previously awarded for similar incidents.
“If you look at the proximity of the cars heading into the apex, where it is, the nature of the corner, the fact that both cars went off, neither car lost position or anything like that, that was probably the general view of it," said Masi.
“I disagree that it’s inconsistent. You have a look at it and, as I’ve said many times before, you judge the incident on its own merits.
"And let’s not forget, we have the overall ‘let them race’ principle, so I’m looking at it all with all of the angles that we had available and that philosophy was adopted.”
Masi conceded he did not have access to the forward-facing onboard footage from Verstappen's car which would have shown if the Dutch driver had deliberately opened his steering wheel to deny Hamilton a pass.
Masi added: “If you keep going a little bit further, obviously they are, give or take, about side by side, so I think that for the benefit of everyone, it was to let them race and we let them race.”
What the F1 rules say
The rules on forcing another driver off the track are clear in the up-to-date sporting regulations with drivers required to remain between the white lines unless there is a "justifiable reason" to leave the confines.
"27.3 Drivers must make every reasonable effort to use the track at all times and may not leave the track without a justifiable reason.
"Drivers will be judged to have left the track if no part of the car remains in contact with it and, for the avoidance of doubt, any white lines defining the track edges are considered to be part of the track but the kerbs are not.
"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.
"At the absolute discretion of the race director, a driver may be given the opportunity to give back the whole of any advantage he gained by leaving the track."