Monacogate…

I’m writing this as an impartial fan, someone who watched the race at home, someone who listened to the commentators, and someone who read the rules and listened to the reports after. This is my view on the events that happened on the final lap. They may not please everybody.

But firstly, having seen some of the comments posted on other blogs, and while I respect the reviews of all who visit and read, please do not leave offensive comments. I like a debate, not a slanging match!

I believe, the FIA and the stewards got the decision right. At first, having watched the race, I believed Schumacher had got away with a cheeky pass after the first Safety Car line, as I believed the new rules allowed. However having looked at the controversial Rule 40.13, and looking at other evidence, I believe they got the decision right.

Firstly, what is this rule? As taken from the FIA Sporting Regulations, which can be found on the FIA website – If the race ends whilst the safety car is deployed, it will enter the pit lane at the end of the last lap, and the cars will take the chequered flag as normal without overtaking.

Thinking back, a Grand Prix has never actually finished with the safety car taking the chequered flag. It has always pulled into the pit lane and let the cars cross the line with the leader dictating the pace. The first race to see a safety car finish was Canada 1999, when Frentzen crashed near to the end. It was Hakkinen who led the cars over the line that day. Therefore, the safety car was always going to come in on the final lap, that was never in doubt. The fact that Race Control issued the statement “safety car in this lap” is neither here nor there. That is the procedure when the safety car comes in, no matter when. This is so the teams and drivers are aware that they will be responsible for holding position, and the race is ready to end. It also allows the leader to prepare to lead the cars around.

The main confusion surrounds the flags once the safety car pulled in. Green flags were waved. While I agree this is confusing, the green flag does not actually mean that cars can overtake. However, the marshalls were abiding by rule 40.11 which states – As the safety car is approaching the pit entry the yellow flags and SC boards will be withdrawn and replaced by waved green flags with green lights at the line. These will be displayed until the last car crosses the line. There is no regulation stating that on the final lap, the SC boards and yellow flags will remain.

But where people argue that green means go, this is not true. The yellow flag means ‘slow and prepare to stop’ while the green means, track clear, continue at racing speed. This is down to the FIA International Sporting Regulations. It should therefore be noted that green flags mean proceed at racing speed, and the rule under article 40.13 should apply and take precedence. Continue at racing speed, but do not overtake.

My belief is that this rule prevents drivers from undertaking crazy moves on the last corner of the lap, which could be do-or-die and lead to a serious accident.

This means that Schumacher contravened Article 40.13. It should also be mentioned that both Ferrari and McLaren informed their drivers of this rule, and other teams may also have done so. Therefore this is not a rule hidden away. We, the fans, were unaware, but then, how many of us have read the FIA Sporting Regulations for F1?

Many people have hit out, saying Damon Hill made this decision, and was in charge of the stewards, and he only imposed the penalty to get back at his old rival. That is complete nonsense. For a start, Damon is a man of integrity, and wouldn’t do anything so transparent. He is president of the BRDC, and helps the organisation of the British Grand Prix. He has more than enough to do without resorting to petty squabbles. Secondly, Damon was only one of four stewards, and all four took three-hours to instigate the penalty. If the other three felt it was a legitimate manoeuver, Damon would have lost a vote by three to one. It wouldn’t have mattered if it was Nigel Mansell as a steward, the same decision would have been made.

It was a mistake by Schumacher, and by Ross Brawn. They interpreted the rule differently, and the green flags did not help. It should be written in the rules that if the safety car pulls into the pits on the last lap, the SC boards and yellow flags should remain. As there is no rule, the marshalls were following what is written. These arguments will rumble on, but this is my interpretation of events based on what I have learnt.

Mercedes appeal will not give Schumacher his place back. As we know from McLaren’s appeal against Lewis Hamilton’s 25-second penalty in Belgium 2008, a pit-lane drive through or time penalty cannot be reversed. Mercedes appeal will simply lead to a clarification of the rules. Why couldn’t the stewards have just given Alonso his place back? Because the penalty for passing under safety car rules is a drive through.

As always, I welcome your comments.

UPDATE – 18th May 2010 @ 14:38

Mercedes have decided to drop their appeal to the stewards decision, meaning they accept the ruling that the rules were breached. This is a shame. I do believe the Article 40.13, together with Article 40.11 needs to be clarified, and an appeal, while perhaps not being successful in terms of overturning the penalty, would certainly have aided this clarification.

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5 Responses to “Monacogate…”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by All About F1, All About F1. All About F1 said: New post – Monacogate, a fan's take on the Schumacher pass… http://bit.ly/dyMlJI […]

  2. Hello Phil,

    It seems that you did not understand the argument backing Ross Brawn’s interpretation.

    The rule says (40.13) that if the race ends under the SC then the SC will pull in on the last lap and there is no overtake.

    So there is a precondition that the race should end under SC conditions to invoke 40.13. Ross says that there might be situations where the SC pulls in on the end of the last lap and still the race does not end under SC conditions….while there are situations where the race ends under SC where the SC similarly goes into the pits at the end of the last lap and there is no overtake. How can you make a difference between these two if not by the flags and race control messages???

    Or put it otherwise, the FIA claims that when the SC pulls in on the last lap, 40.13 is always applicable. The rule however, is not worded in this way, for this interpretation to apply the following wording should have been in place: where the SC pulls in on the end of the last lap, the race ends under SC conditions and there is no overtake! It is quite clear to me that Ross is making a strong argument here, which does not mean that His interpretaion should prevail, rather, the FIA would need to clarify the rule (which has basically happened) and should release Schu from the penalty.

    on the appealability, you have a point here, but Ross claims that there is a precedent involving Trulli where the FIA decided upon a similar appeal in merit, it is subject to the dicretion of the FIA if it wants to decide or simply dismisses the claim.

    regards,
    Balint

  3. Pretty sure we’ve had a French Grand Prix finish with the Safety Car leading a Jordan over the line in a wet race? Could be wrong but I think it was the first race to finish under Safety Car. I don’t buy that there’s apparently this belief within the FIA rulemakers that fans would get ‘confused’ and think the Safety Car won the race, even the most casual of F1 viewers surely knows the difference between what an F1 car looks like and what a safety car looks like? If that is the reason for this regulation about the safety car pulling in, the reasoning is extremely flawed.

    I think while the rule was broken, it needs some form of amendment and clarification as even Martin Brundle, a man who DOES pore over the rules of the sport as part of his job, was seemingly unaware of this obscure and pointless regulation, and firmly believed, as did his fellow ex-driver BBCF1 colleague David Coulthard, that there was nothing wrong with what Schumacher did. Also it has to be considered that the team actually told Schumacher he could overtake, so I think in this case a team penalty for a team error would have been far more appropriate.

    Damon Hill, I lost any respect I had for him when he started his bitter whinging about Donington getting the British Grand Prix contract, and then proceeded to approve changes to Silverstone that Bernie Ecclestone had been telling them to make for years and had been ignored. He also used various media outlets to constantly criticise the plans for Donington, none of which was really any of his business to comment on, as he had a definite conflict of interest. If such changes could be made to Silverstone for MotoGP, it really shows how much they care about F1 if they refused to make the changes for F1 for over 10 years… Convenient how we now see him coming out in the media saying he ‘questions the driver stewards role’. If he truly questions it, why did he agree to take the job in the first place, let alone for 2 races? For these reasons, among others, I find it difficult to believe anything Damon Hill says anymore.

  4. additional to above: OK I am wrong about the French GP, but I do seem to remember a race where Murray and Martin commented that it was the first ever to finish under Safety Car, and I don’t remember the Safety Car going into the pits on the last lap. Think the rule must have been changed after this.

  5. I fully agree with both comments. When I saw it, I thought it was a great pass on a sleeping Alonso. When the replay showed that Alonso was over the safety car line that sealed it. I had not heard about Article 40.13 until I read about the result after the race.

    The confusion is that Race Control announced the safety car was coming in this lap, and the green flags were waved. As I said, Article 40.11 requires marshalls to wave green flags at the line when the safety car comes in. Nowhere in the rules does it amend this to say that yellow flags should be shown if the race is to finish under the safety car. I think there was just assumption that the race was finishing under safety car conditions when it crossed the line to begin the last lap – at that point it was always coming into the pits.

    The wording is wrong on Article 40.13, and Race Control should inform all teams that the race will end under safety car conditions too.

    My view is Schumacher broke the rule, but the rule needs to be cleared up, Just like in Belgium 2008 – Lewis did let Kimi past, as the rules stated. Clarification followed after the appeal, and fingers crossed it will this time too.

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