Reversing back onto a live track under yellow flags is within the confines of the regulations though had he done so in the pitlane it would have been another story.
Under the sporting regulations section 27, articles 27.3 and 27.4 cover this off with the following:
27.3: “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.”
27.4: “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.”
Section 28 confirms that such an action in the pitlane would contravene the regulations: 28.3 “At no time may a car be reversed in the pit lane under its own power.”
There is no specific rule that prevents reversing back onto the track safely and with yellows waving, Hamilton’s reversing away from the racing line was legal and a clever move too.
Tsunoda could have been key for Red Bull
At the race restart, Hamilton was down in eighth and Verstappen was leading, things were looking perfect for the Dutchman. By the chequered flag, he’d lost the fastest lap to his rival and found that black Mercedes pulled up alongside him in parc ferme in front of the board with the number two on it. Quite a surprise considering it was nosed into the barriers not long before.
But the title race might have taken another twist in his favour had Yuki Tsunoda kept his AlphaTauri on the track at Turn Two. The Japanese driver actually demoted Hamilton to ninth entering the Tamburello chicane on the restart but, having crept onto the wet part of the track to take the place, he was too eager on the throttle with damp tyres and flung himself off into the gravel.
Had the AlphaTauri have held position, it could have tipped the scales in Verstappen’s favour in the championship. While Hamilton was eventually able to clear all those in between himself and the race winner, an extra Honda-powered car would have cost vital time and crucially, tyre life.
He made it by Norris on lap 60 of 63 but it took several laps behind each driver ahead to clear them. A Tsunoda-shaped blockade likely would have capped Hamilton’s comeback with a best-possible result of third, handing the championship lead to Verstappen.
Ultimately the game of ifs and buts means nothing and the end result means that the 2021 championship is separated by a knife-edge heading into the Portuguese Grand Prix.