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FIA admits “lack of clarity’ in Monaco GP last lap
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FIA admits “lack of clarity’ in Monaco GP last lap
Posted By: James Allen  |  20 May 2010   |  10:10 am GMT  |  180 comments

The fallout from Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix continues. This morning the FIA has accepted that the way the Safety Car was handled on the last lap and the information given to teams was not clear and has said that new rules will be drafted to make sure there is no repeat.

Race control: New Safety car rules (Darren Heath)


According to a statement the incident, “Showed a lack of clarity in the application of the rule prohibiting overtaking behind the Safety Car.

“Adjustments to the regulations are necessary to clarify the procedure that cars must meet when the last lap is controlled by the Safety Car whilst also ensuring that the signaling for teams and drivers is made more clear.”

Given that there was an acceptance that the withdrawal of the Safety Car had not been handled correctly, it is surprising that Michael Schumacher should have been penalised so severely.

More research shows that the stewards may have had some options after all to apply a more common sense penalty to Michael Schumacher, rather than the one which dropped him out of the points.

A poll with a sample of over 4,000 on JA on F1 shows that 60% of fans think that the stewards got it wrong in the case of Schumacher.

Despite the intention being for the race to end behind the safety car, the procedure was not quite right, with green flags being shown instead of yellow as the cars ended the final lap.

It seems that when considering their options for penalties, the stewards were focussed on Article 16.3 of the Sporting Regulations which say,

“The stewards may impose any one of three penalties on any driver involved in an Incident :
a) A drive-through penalty. The driver must enter the pit lane and re-join the race without stopping ;
b) A ten second time penalty. The driver must enter the pit lane, stop at his pit for at least ten seconds
and then re-join the race.
c) a drop of any number of grid positions at the driver’s next Event.
However, should either of the penalties under a) and b) above be imposed during the last five laps, or after the end of a race, Article 16.4b) below will not apply and 20 seconds will be added to the elapsed race time of the driver concerned in the case of a) above and 30 seconds in the case of b). ”

But later on in the same Sporting Regulations, in article 18.1, it says,

“The stewards may inflict the penalties specifically set out in these Sporting Regulations in addition to or instead of any other penalties available to them under the Code. ”

“The Code” is nothing to do with Pirates of the Caribbean but is instead the FIA’s Sporting Code, which applies across all FIA championships. This gives the stewards far more options.

Article 153 of the Sporting Code says:
“Penalties may be inflicted as follows in order of increasing
severity :
− reprimand (blame);
− fines;
− time penalty;
− exclusion;
− suspension;
− disqualification.
Time penalty means a penalty expressed in minutes and/or
seconds. ”

The Monaco stewards decided to impose a very tough penalty, but under the circumstances perhaps switching the cars back again to the original order might have been fairer. There were some indications on Sunday night that this was what might happen. So why didn’t it?

As the Code says, the Stewards are free to add a time penalty, it is not prescriptive of how long that should be, unlike the Sporting Regs. The problem is that the cars were all very close as they crossed the line.

To add a one second penalty would have dropped Schumacher back to 8th place, behind both Alonso and Rosberg. It doesn’t say that they can apply penalties in fractions of a second which is what they would have needed to do to replace Schumacher in P7.

I wonder whether the stewards were aware of their options under the Sporting Code. One would have hoped so.

Instead they applied the one penalty which cannot be appealed – the drive through.

This matter is now to be the subject of a meeting of the Sporting Working Group which will report to the F1 Commission and it is likely to lead to a change in the sporting regulations.

Meanwhile I can tell you that the teams involved have been monitoring your comments on this story and have remarked to me about the very high level of debate about this subject here on the site.

Thanks to all for your contributions.

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180 Comments
  1. FletcherB says:

    I’m glad the FIA recognizes there is a problem with the wording of the rule, and/or the signaling by Race Control, and I am sure it will be addressed properly and rectified.

    However, I do find it laughable that they can’t even describe the nature of the problem properly in their press release.

    They say “Showed a lack of clarity in the application of the rule prohibiting overtaking behind the Safety Car.”

    No one has ever disputed that overtaking behind the Saftey Car is prohibited. That is in fact perfectly clear.

    Whether or not you actually ARE behind the Saftey Car is what is at issue…

    Hopefully they have better brains working on the wording of any rule changes than they have on the wording of their press releases. :)

    1. jed says:

      The sporting regulaions of F1 is a whole set of rules. It is impossible to draft and/or make a whole set of rules and regulations that are black and white clear. The most important thing here is, in my humble opinion, for the fia to appoint a permanent steward whose sole job is the construction of the rules and regs. This steward must have a law background and must study and know the all of the rules and regs and the purpose behind every provision of the rules and regs. All of his interpretations shall be binding unless a team can show grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, which shall be the only ground for appeal. This way in the long run there car be a rulebook with annotations in certain provisions and therefore more stability and less confusion.

    2. Andy W says:

      The FIA does seem to have some real problems with the English Language, I think that the stewards should penalise the Oxford Dictionary a 10 place grid penalty at the Turkish GP.

      Really we (and the drivers/teams) need a set of rules that is clear and unambiguous where ever possible, with acknowledgement that giving the nature of the sport there will always be areas that cause concern. At such times the stewards should be able to sit down with the drivers/teams involved and come up with a ruling and punishments that we the fans can follow, understand and accept as fair.

      Drivers should NOT be penalised for racing within the bounds of the rules, and if the rules aren’t good enough then its the FIA’s fault not the drivers!

      Lets not forget that this isn’t the 1st time that drivers have been penalised for poor rules that have then been cleaned up after the event. Such as Lewis ‘overtaking’ Kimi in Spa a couple of years ago by avoiding a chicane, giving the place back and then getting penalised for overtaking Kimi again.

  2. balint says:

    So if Ross’s interpretation is fine, why to impose a penalty at all….it was Ferrari, who did not discover this ‘loophole’, so they deserve being overtaken?

    Change the reg and release Schu from the penalty…this is what common sense dictates!

    1. Alam Z says:

      They should apply a fairer penalty, although I personally feel that MS was justified in his overtake.

      They should just switch FA and MS positions and be done with it, as this was the most ‘sporting’ thing to do.

      I loved MS move on Alonso… I wish Massa had done it though.

      1. balint says:

        If the rules are ambiguous, coupled with Race Control messages supporting Ross’s interpretation…then the overtake is completely valid! there is no need for a retroscpective application of the new (hopefully unambiguous) regulation, I think that the race should not only happen on engineering/driver level, but it also includes smart interpretation of the regulations! (similarly to the case of double diffusers etc.)

        I am puzzled why Ross dropped the appeal in such circumstances, there should be something else to this matter we are not aware of!

  3. James W says:

    So well Schumacher’s penalty still stand, or will the FIA revise the results? Many fans feel mugged here, and I have no doubts that Schumacher and Mercedes do too.

    1. F1Droid says:

      Mercedes have already publicly accepted the punishment on the basis of the rule clarification, so I doubt the result will change now.

      1. Arul D says:

        We all should remember MS was in Ferrari before, he must have thought not to grab the points from FA after appealing to FIA which will cause fritction between him and Ferrari. He is also not the title contenter of the season so MS & Brawn are very gracious in dropping this issue. FIA need to keep the rules more understandable to all. The penalty given to MS is very harsh. Hill Boy has been very hard on MS.

      2. Knuckles says:

        Oh cut the Hill crap, it’s been clarified by all and sundry. If anything, Hill could complain about being put into a difficult position by FIA, who does not even have a clear idea about what they want from the ex-drivers, to be stewards or to advise the stewards about the driver’s perspective.

    2. James H says:

      Fully agree – if there is even a jot of doubt (or lack of clarity in this case) then the benefit of doubt HAS to go to MSC.

      Worst way, they simply put him back behind FA.

  4. Thomas says:

    This seems to be about setting precedents – or avoiding doing so. The stewards applied the rules that applied at the time. For the stewards to have said ‘this rule lacks clarity, so we’ll ignore it’ is a dangerous precedent, as would establishing a lighter penalty for passing under controlled conditions.

    But the lack of an appeal process in this case is also questionable. We’re back to the FIA being both judge and jury again.

    1. Phil C says:

      The problem in the appeal was highlighted after Belgium 2008. The 20 seconds added was classed as a drive through penalty. It was not a time penalty, and it was not anything other than a drive through penalty. As the infringement took place within the last 5 laps, A drive through cannot be carried out, so time is added.

      This stems from the British GP 1997, when Schumacher won the race in the pit lane. Then, it was totally ok to take a penalty in the last laps of a race. The argument was that Schumacher didn’t really serve his penalty, as he had crossed the finish line before getting to his box. If a penalty is applied 5 laps from the end, the team need to acknowledge the penalty, inform the driver and prepare to receive him, all within 4 laps (the 5th being the final lap, where a repeat of Britain 1997 will occur).

      Obviously, a driver cannot appeal a drive through penalty if applied in the race. They have to carry it out, and it affects the way a race is run. A driver may speed up, pass other cars and end up back where he was (Webber, Germany 2009), Or a driver he was battling with may back off – in which case an appeal may prove to benefit rather than restore.

      As the 20- seconds was applied as a drive through penalty, it too cannot be appealed.

      Right or Wrong, should it be a time penalty and not a retrospective drive through? I thought it was harsh on Hamilton after Belgium 2008, very harsh. I was disappointed with the appeal ruling – but you cannot have one rule for one, and one for everyone else. If the FIA dropped the 20-seconds, there’d be a backlash from others who have had such a penalty.

  5. Rufus says:

    “Meanwhile I can tell you that the teams involved have been monitoring your comments on this story and have remarked to me about the very high level of debate about this subject here on the site.”

    Perhaps FIA should appoint enthusiast fans to their stewards panel instead former drivers? :P

    1. m de p says:

      imagine a schumacher fan making a call on trhis one. What do you think he was going to vote for. Fans are better on the arm chair, with a lap top on his lap.

      1. Rufus says:

        I was kinda joking however now that you mentioned…. Some of the decissions that the stewards took so far this season surely hint at some bias as well. And definitelly that they don’t know their own rules ;)

      2. Formula Zero says:

        Even though you were joking mate. You’ll still make it a better steward than those bunch of overpaid trouble making stewards, particularly Damon Hill. The thing I don’t understand that they still haven’t even intended to penalize Rubens. And even though I love Webber, still the penalty given to him was nothing based on the sevierity of his act (speeding in the pit lane).

      3. Jacqui says:

        Formula Zero I totally agree with you! Can we assume now that Rubens has set a precedent by deliberately throwing debris onto the track and not even being investigated!! It beggars belief! The pathetic excuse from the stewards that they ran out of time and Rubens had left the track is ridiculous! If it was on the agenda as they claim why didn’t they announce before the end of the race that the incident was under investigation? Bearing in mind Rubens’s hissy fit happened quite a while before Michael’s! Ten days on and I am still wound up….

    2. tank says:

      while that is quite funny, we should appreciate that at least fans are getting a say that is being heard. Thanks JAonF1 for the opportunity.

    3. Chris R says:

      hah, nevermind a few hours discussion. We’d still be waiting for the Steward’s decision if that happened!

      On the subject of this, I am quite surprised to learn the Stewards had more options. Considering the lack of clarity re:the flag issue, it was a very harsh penalty applied.

      And I dont think we can assume they did not know of this, because the whole issue was down to the rule book!

      1. Lockster says:

        “On the subject of this, I am quite surprised to learn the Stewards had more options.”

        It sounds like the Stewards are surprised that they had more options too… :)

    4. malcolm.strachan says:

      I, for one, would offer to take on this monumental task, and take one for the team. ;-)

    5. Knuckles says:

      They should put up a wiki with the rules and set up some proper infrastructure and funding for support and gardening. Then let the fans have a go at it until it resembles something useful. Can’t take more than a few years and costs peanuts in F1 terms.

  6. Dave says:

    Great update, thanks James.

    You say that the 20 second penalty is one that cannot be appealed by Mercedes. Do you expect the FIA to reconsider that punishment or is it a case of changing the rules going forwards and leaving Schumacher back in 12th on this occasion?

    Would Mercedes have grounds for any kind of appeal, following this update from the FIA, or do you think they’ll be satisfied that their case has at least been recognised and will be addressed in the future?

    Cheers

  7. Nick says:

    Teams are monitoring comments?

    Then let me put forward the Green-White-Checker rule again! :P

    All teams should be behind this kind of rule, allowing a race to be allowed to finish under green if the race has a safety car in the last few laps.

    1. malcolm.strachan says:

      The problem is that teams run very close on fuel.

      With green-white-checker rules, you often end up with a) carnage, and b) multiple attempts to finish under green. We all know how precise F1 cars (there was a debate about Red Bull having a system to raise and lower their car by a millimeter or two!), so adding 2, 4 or even 6 laps to a race could result in several cars not finishing.

      Leave the gimmicks of green-white-checker, the chase play-off and the “lucky dog” rule to NASCAR, and try to keep the racing in F1 pure! (By that notion, I think push-to-pass should also be vetoed, but that’s a whole other can of worms!)

  8. mvi says:

    So why can’t fractions be used? It does not say “whole seconds”.

    “Time penalty means a penalty expressed in minutes and/or seconds”

    Everybody is used to seeing timing screens in minutes and seconds with decimals.

    1. RV says:

      Why bother with fractions of a second?

      Why not add something like this:

      “In the case of positions being gained due to a RC error the driver will be placed in the position previously held before the infraction occurred”… or some such legal sounding mumbo-jumbo (better yet, in plain english?)

      It’s a way of RC control saying “mistakes happen, we made one, on one should be penalized for it”.

      And as long as teams are reading this… please remove the blue flags. The best part of the race was watching FA pass a back marker that put up a fight.

      Seriously folks, it spices up the show in many ways. We get to see passing (not just drivers getting out of the way… booooring), it gives a car following the leader a chance to catch up and maybe, do a double take as the leader is fighting the slower car… like hamilton did a few races back.

      -R

      1. FletcherB says:

        Blue flags are for cars being lapped…. none were shown to the cars FA was passing as they were rightly racing for position.

      2. RV says:

        I know the blue flags were not shown because FA started at the back and was making his way to the front by passing the slower cars.

        My point is, when a leading car is lapping a slower car, let them race! From a “spice the show” perspective, that is more interesting than seeing a slower car roll over like a whipped puppy (some back markers will behave like that, but then perhaps they should not be in F1?)

        As we saw in Monaco, it can be fun to watch and shows a driver’s blocking and passing skills, some will pass quickly (Alonso, Hamilton) others may take a bit longer (Vettel, Masa).

        We all want to see *racing*, at least I do :-)

  9. tobi-wan says:

    At least something good may come out of it, although that’s not much consolation to Schumacher.

  10. Michael Brown says:

    James,

    Is there any hope/chance that the WMSC, when it meets on 23rd June to consider the clarification of the last lap safety car rules, will adjust the penalty applied to Schumacher (ie, reinstate him to 7th place)? Do they even have the power to do that if they wanted to?

    1. TM says:

      They’ve always said before that they can’t as it’s in lieu of a drive-through penalty, which of course couldn’t be adjusted afterwards.
      Also Mercedes have dropped the appeal anyway.

      1. Michael Brown says:

        Yes, I know all that, but given the exceptional circumstances, and the fact that there will be a WMSC meeting where they have the power to do almost anything, I still haven’t lost hope that they will do the right thing and reinstate Schumacher’s 7th place, just because it’s the right thing to do, regardless of the fact that Mercedes have dropped the appeal (for the good of the sport).

    2. Phil C says:

      Nope

      Belgium 2008, and I believe a totally different section within the FIA

      1. Michael Brown says:

        Spa 2008 is totally different. McLaren appealed, and the appeal was ruled inadmissible.
        In this case Mercedes are not appealing, they are prepared to accept things as they are. However, by altering the SC rules, the FIA have effectively admitted that they screwed up and that, by extension, the penalty applied to Schumacher was incorrect. Regardless of there not being any appeal, they _could_ reinstate Schumacher to 7th place as it’s the right thing to do in these very exceptional circumstances.

      2. Phil C says:

        They couldn’t, as the safety car rules were the safety car rules at the Monaco Grand Prix. Schumacher was adjudged to have broken that rule. The amended rule will not come into affect until the first grand prix after they have been changed, which won’t be for over a month.

        The FIA aren’t in the business of reversing penalties without appeal. And let’s not forget, McLaren’s appeal was ruled inadmissable, but a clarification to the rule was given to wait 2 corners before passing.

      3. TM says:

        But what sort of precedent would it set?
        These penalties can’t be changed because if he had had a drive through it’d be irreversible, so what precedent would it set for unfair mid-race decisions in the future to be contested afterwards? That’d be seriously messy. That’s the reason why the Spa 08 appeal was dismissed; because these penalties can not be reversed.

        In the same way, a dodgy goal could be reversed after a match, much more easily than a drive through penalty in F1 could be. But imagine how messy it’d get.

        Was it a dodgy decision? Yes (although it was much more the fault of the way the race was run than the stewards). But should it be reversed? Absolutely not.

        I’m a Hamilton fan, but I totally agreed that after the act, his penalty should also not have been reversed in Spa 08, for the exact same reason, even though I thought the penalty was outrageous.

        Of course, an option to be able to reverse these penalties in future would be to do away with drive-throughs and always add time on at the end instead. But then people would be moaning that we wouldn’t know race results until after the races.

        Also, sorry, I really don’t understand why the fact that Mercedes haven’t appealed adds to the reason why the penalty should be reversed.

      4. Michael Brown says:

        Replying to my own post as I don’t seem to be able to reply to either TM or Phil C’s post.
        The only precedent that it would set is that there is the possibility of the FIA unilaterally reversing a post race time penalty if it’s clear (as in this case) that no rule was broken and that the penalty was incorrectly applied. In fact a precedent for this already exists: Trulli’s 25s penalty in Australia 2009 was annulled in the wake of the liegate scandal.

        If Mercedes had maintained their appeal, it would have to be ruled inadmissible in the same way as McLaren’s appeal in Spa 2008. However, the fact they haven’t appealed leaves the FIA room to reverse the penalty unilaterally.

  11. James says:

    It’s been so much better this yr (until Monaco) with the stewards giving drivers a slap on the wrist rather than creating a climate of fear.

    Maybe the Monaco stewards are the last of the old guard from the rotten currupt Mosley era.

    Dare I suggest they be strung up? How typical they impose a penalty just because it can’t be appealed. Pathetic.

    1. Dils says:

      I’m not a fan of Mosley, but what was so rotten and corrupt about that era?
      Also do people really think the ‘FIA’ order stewards to apply penalties or ignore them when teams are deemed to have broken rules?
      Who’d want to be a race steward knowing that each time they make a decision based on facts there will be fans out there suggesting they be ‘strung up’?.
      The reasons for the penalty were clearly stated by the stewards and they have no authority to create a penalty outside of the rulebook and apply it in retrospect. If they were to do so then there would be appeals from several teams. Imagine if a football team awarded a handball foul was only allowed a free kick instead of a penalty because the referee deemed the offence only minor from his viewing angle? I believe Mercedes understand this, hence they will not appeal for the interest of the sport.

  12. MacG says:

    Very disappointed that the FIA can’t do the right thing in these exceptional circumstances and give Schumi back 7th place.

    Punishing Schumi and Merc for the FIA’s lack of clarity is absurd.

    Come on FIA – here’s a chance to be magnanimous and sensible.

    1. Formula Zero says:

      So much for former drivers being race stewards!!!!!

  13. Stevie P says:

    So, seeing as the FIA are retrospectively going to sort out the safety car\last lap scenario and clarify the rules to everyone… can’t they do the same to Schumi’s position in the race? Retrospectively remove the punishment and place him back in position, behind Alonso… that would seem fair to me!

    I’m no big fan of his, but I respect his ability on a race-track (when he’s not playing bumper cars and\or parking it up!) and the opportunistic pass in Monaco was a sight for sore eyes.

    Couldn’t FOTA and\or the GPDA get involved too?

    It seems a shame for him to be moved out of the points on a botched job by marshalls and race control… which to me “the FIA has accepted that the way the Safety Car was handled on the last lap and the information given to teams was not clear”, clearly indicates happened.

  14. mvi says:

    “The stewards may inflict the penalties specifically set out in these Sporting Regulations in addition to or instead of any other penalties available to them under the Code. ” [Article 18.1]

    Even Article 18.1 is vague. It does not quite say that you can choose any penalty in Article 153.

    1. Jonny M says:

      I think you have made a valid point in so much as the regulation gives a minimum penalty but the options of further ones if required. The use of the word instead is probably meant as a catch all situation and not as an option to open up further penalties as stated by James Allen. Without knowing what the code is all about and what it refers to we can only guess at here, but my interpretation would be that F1 is encompassing the rules that govern all motorsports under the FIA governance whilst maintaining their own specific rules for this event.

  15. Nihad Gluscic says:

    How is is possible to have a sport which has an “Overtaking Working Group”, former drivers in the stewarding panel and penalizes overtaking under green flag at the same time?

    I must admit, having been a hardcore F1 fan for more than a decade, having organised holidays around F1 calendar, Monaco finish and consequent steward’s decision was a cold shower and I’m beginning to think if its all really worth it…

    I’m not a Schumi fan, never was and never will be but I was happy to see his old self and a bold move.

    And Barichelo went unpunished…

    1. Glen says:

      If they keep adding more races to the calander, you’ll never get to go on holiday!

  16. Graeme Brown says:

    Surely by admitting that clarification is necessary the FIA are admitting the rules were unclear previously – how then can the penalty against Michael stand?

    After the last couple of years the last thing F1 needs is more controversy, yet the FIA seem determined to create some, instead of applauding a ballsy move by a great racer which was absolutely within the rules in force at the time.

  17. Martin P says:

    I’m glad the FIA have conceded it was a flawed rule and (loosely) a flawed ruling. Two people have been castigated over this affair though and deserve some degree of respect and apology;

    1. Schumacher – Regardless of other incidents, he didn’t “cheat” here and there was no intention to cheat. He made a perfectly understandable move which has fallen foul of a flawed rule. I for one was glad to see it. Keep it up Michael…. it showed us the spark is still in there burning bright.

    2. Hill – It seems his role was both unclear and uncomfortable, but I’m sure he was never driven by revenge and I doubt he’d get any satisfaction from these particular circumstances. But next time, let Villeneuve do it!

    Mercedes did the right thing in the end though as the points are unlikely to be significant to their championship race. It was becoming a big story and potentially damaging to the sport. The FIA should now sort the many issues highlighted behind closed doors.

    That said, it’ll be interesting to see the reaction if Alonso wins the Championship by one point this year!

    1. RV says:

      I was wondering about the points lost. Not for the WDC, but the WCC. If those points cause Merc to lose a place in the constructors championship, that could mean major $$$.

      I believe teams get monetary compensation for their standings in the WCC?

      Would it be too cynical of me to think that FIA may have told Merc:
      “drop the appeal, we will clarify the rules, and *if* the lost points cost you a position in the WCC we will pony up the difference”?

      Maybe Ecclestone’s comment about abut being called The Godfather made me think FIA “made an offer they couldn’t refuse” to Merc ;-)

      -R

      1. mvi says:

        I am hoping that the FIA is going towards more transparency. A special, back-room deal like you are suggesting would be a step backward into murkiness.

        If they just give Schumacher back the 7th place for this race, it will be cleanly reflected in the WDC and WCC points.

      2. Martin P says:

        As soon as I read a comment saying Mercedes hadn’t yet decided whether to progress with their appeal I knew they wouldn’t.

        James will know for fact, but my suspicion is that politics is still a huge part of F1 and at the very least Ross Brawn has an extra chip in the game over this one.

        I doubt there’s a financial promise as such, but there’s so much at stake in other ways such as sponsor introductions and most importantly, FIA goodwill (compare Ron Dennis’s FIA relationship with Ross Brawns’). That’s quite possibly worth more than the WDC winnings.

        As much as I disagree with the original ruling, given the “we are where we are” facts of life, this is the right way to close it off.

      3. Formula Zero says:

        Only Hill will know for sure if he is satisfied or not. So far most people will go with the fact that he is the happiest man alive by giving Schumacher the harshest penalty possible. The thing that buggs me the most is that they were apparently too busy to penalize Rubens. That’s almost a crime for both parts, stewards as well as Rubens. But they have had a lot of time since then to penalize Webber (penalty given to webber is almost a joke), still no action taken against Barrichello. Some former drivers should stay former from the sport, full stop. Hill is one of them.

        Merc has lost money for loosing those points surely. But they just don’t want to take the matter too far or come accross as big team influence in the sport (like Ferrari & McLaren). Now everybody else is sorting this matter our without any direct inovolvement from Merc. That’s good for a team in the long run.

  18. David Tan says:

    It’s good to know that the teams do really care what the fans think of the sport!

  19. Dario says:

    Barrichello deserved that penalty more. Someone of his experience should have known better. What Schumacher did was nothing more than pure racing. He caught Alonso sleeping, completely fair. I totally disagree with Hill’s decision.

    1. F1Droid says:

      It wasn’t Hill’s decision, it was the stewards decision, Damon was just an advisor.

      Barrichello got out of a penalty by stating he was in a hurry to exit the car due to the severity of the accident and impending flames… apparantely :-)

      1. Formula Zero says:

        Well all the advice given by Damon were proven shocking. He admitted that he advised the panel about the incident & there was nothing personal about that (laughable comment).

        By the way, in case you miss all the reports published over the last few days about Barrichello here is a reminder mate, “FIA was too busy to penalize Barrichello”!!!!!!!!!

      2. F1Droid says:

        Jeez! who’s rattled your cage!

        Anybody that thinks Hill has been anything but completely neutral and impartial on this incident obviously has no concept of who Damon Hill, the man, is. He is absolutely one of the best ambassadors of the sport for Britain and has enormous respect throughout the community.

        The FIA had 50 laps before the Schumacher incident and, so far, 5 days after the Schumacher decision to investigate Barrichello… you’re naive to believe a rumoured story about being “too busy”… they simply didn’t see it as an issue worth investigating.

      3. Formula Zero says:

        It wasn’t a story about the stewards being busy. Stewards made statements about that, which is fact. Hill could be a good ambassador for Britain, but the result of a pole about Hill being a good ambassador of the sport will be very interesting in the rest of the world.

  20. Brogan says:

    It was fairly obvious that it wasn’t a cut and dried case due to the amount of time the stewards took to come to a decision – over 3 hours wasn’t it?

    The conflicting signals concerning the flags, lights and messages from race control should have at least meant the stewards applied the most lenient penalty, if any at all.

    The fact that they chose to impose a 20 second time penalty speaks volumes.
    Either they don’t understand the rules as well as they should or…

    1. Brogan says:

      Oh I forgot to add, we’re counting Michael’s move on Alonso as an official overtake so there’s at least some consolation for him ;)

  21. michael grievson says:

    It must be hard being a steward. Just how big is the “rule book”. I bet it takes a clever person to understand and interpret each rule

  22. Ray says:

    Completely agree with the posts questioning how the FIA can admit the rules were unclear and thus open to more than one interpretation, yet stand by and allow a competitor to be penalised for violating said rules..

    At the very least the FIA should now reverse the time penalty imposed by the stewards, and IMO should then reverse the finishing positions of FA & MS to what they would have been if the unclear rules had matched the obvious intent of Race control..

  23. Nadeem says:

    James the stewards should have all that info but do the past drivers actually know all of it, do they get any training when they accept the job?

    1. Tom says:

      All former drivers have to do is advise the stewards from a drivers point of view knowing all the rules isn’t necessary. In this case Hill should have said, the over take was after the SC line and green flags are shown in hte drivers opinion he can race. Its up to the stewards from there. BUT we all know Hill didn’t, reading Damons own comments he acted as a steward not an advisor. See James post entitled “Damon Hill reveals he’s had hate mail over Schumacher decision”

    2. Formula Zero says:

      Good point Nadeem. I bet most past drivers don’t even know or understand most of the rules. FIA should not have appointed any former driver without checking the experience factor. Appointing stewards should be based on experience, training, qualifications & most of all track record. Well it was a popular choice for FIA to appoint former drivers as race stewards. But we have only witnessed 6 races so far & already there were about a dozen blunder committed by them. Let’s see if FIA rethink about their standing on former drivers.

      1. TM says:

        Seems the FIA can not win on this one.
        They have people who are legal experts and everyone says these people have no idea what it’s like to drive a F1 car. So they do the sensible thing and also get drivers so they have a mixture of legal and driving experts. Now some armchair experts say the drivers shouldn’t be there. People seem to think Hill was the only steward at Monaco.

        I agree with Hill that the ex-drivers should be advisors only, but I think the FIA almost have this right.

        When you say “FIA should not have appointed any former driver without checking the experience factor”, are you saying that Hill, Herbert, Prost and Wurz don’t have the experience factor? Perhaps they should be forced to take a legal degree first.

  24. tom says:

    in light of what you’ve said there about the stewards having been able to apply the common sence decision of droping Schu back one place as if nothing had happened but weren’t aware of the fact (apparently) it’s pretty appauling.
    i’m a schumi fan but when i heard i thought “well the stewards hands were forced by the regs and you can’t win ‘em all (not for a lack of trying, hook or by crook!)”

    the rules were ambiguous at best, contradictory at worst, and i’m glad that’s being addressed. i think it’s very mature of the Mercs not to go balistic over this.

    even tho it’s a pretty shocking series of events, compared to the last few years of the Mosely era i’m sure it can be dealt with professionally. i’m disappointed that Hill’s contribution seems to have undermined the case for having drivers in the stewards office, especially given his role in British motorsports today.

    overall however, i feel the sport is in a place where it can hold it’s hands up, admit mistakes were made (big ones) and move on in the spirit of fair competition. it’s been a while since i’ve felt that way about F1.

    1. Formula Zero says:

      I hope Damon Hill is reading all these comments. That would take the satisfaction out of life for sure.

  25. Jon says:

    If the teams really are monitoring the comments.. please take note of this comment. It is an issue to the very core of F1 in my opinion, and I hope that this issue can be raised within FOTA.

    The issue I am talking about is NOT Schumacher and Alonso or safety cars. It is RACING. The very core of what F1 should be about.

    It’s worried me to see comments from teams wanting KERS as soon as next year. KERS is something that primarily pleases the heads of the manufacturers because it relates to the product they sell for average citizens to buy. It relates to road car customers and also pleases the green environmental crowd (for which I am one). That’s fine. But don’t try and confuse the situation by saying that it’s to improve racing. It won’t. The same thing can be accomplished alot cheaper by allowing the cars to run at 18500 revs for 10 times per race, for example.. all by the standard McLaren ECU. KERS isn’t “that” environmentally safe, because of the batteries that need to be disposed of. The ECU solution is more environmentally friendly then KERS. The other problem is that the teams won’t want KERS to be allowed if it’s limited to 10 times per race. Indycar has shown that this limiting the number per race is more effective then just using it every lap as a part of your normal pace. Limiting it to 10 or another number helps to get around the problem of “everyone has it and will use it at the same time”, because it comes down to how the driver budgets the use of it.

    The crux of my point is that F1 needs to get to the core problem in F1 right now. I love F1, I am entertained by watching a drivers onboard in clear air. But many other people are not. During the races, there should be as much opportunity as possible for change of positions. Whether it is by pitstops or on the track, there needs to be unpredictability. There needs to be excitement and a reason for the casual viewer to watch. The casual viewer won’t care if there is KERS or not, the viewer cares about whether Alonso will hold onto his third position or if Hamilton will overtake him in the last 10 laps of the race.

    The ban of refuelling has been an utter failure. Why is KERS being talked about, and going back to refuelling sprint format? It’s made F1 WORSE in terms of processions, not better. Refuelling gives wider windows for fuel strategies which means the possibility of 3 stop cars overtaking heavier two stop cars. The last 60-70% of F1 races this season are drivers conserving everything and not pushing. That is not what F1 should be about. The drivers aren’t being tested the same way they were in years previously.

    The banning of the double diffusers will help for next year. However, the fact remains that for the last 2 seasons they should never have been allowed in the first place. Because they completely went against the goal of the 2009 aero changes. Which gets to my next point.

    The teams have a say in how things are run in F1. The teams claim to have F1′s best interests at heart, but then when they get to the first race they only care about one thing.. beating everything else. Their vested interests are only in themselves and they don’t care about the fans watching, or if it’s boring or not. A perfect example of that is Horner wanting minimum of 2 stops this season to help against boring races and teams not wanting to hear about it because they thought it was only because Redbull has high tyre wear. As a result, F1 continues to get worse year after year. I am not lying look at the last 6 years in terms of overtaking on track. This year is even worse because not only is there no overtaking on track but also little overtaking in the pitstops either.

    F1 will NEVER be MotoGP, but Suzuka 2005 for example you had Alonso overtaking Webber for third and Kimi overtaking Fisi for the win. Turkey a few years ago had Hamilton overtaking Massa for the lead on a 3 stop strategy. The current regs mean that the fastest car is lucky to be able to overtake any in the top 10. F1 will always be processional to an extent, but is it the best it can be? Not even close. So please.. can the teams put their own interests aside for a minute, ignore concerns about the environment, and get to the CORE issue.. SOLVE that first.. THEN start worrying about side issues like the environment and road car technology.

    If next year had no double diffusers, refuelling back again, and an overtake boost with ECU limited to 10 overtakes per race that would already be a big step in the right direction. The other factor is the tyres. How about bring two compounds but letting the teams choose when they want to use them? So that they can go aggressive if they want to and push the limits. A 3 stop strategy using only softs for example, or a 1 stop using hards for both stops. The key is being aggressive at all times, pushing the limits. Not strolling around protecting everything. Alonso being able to survive the whole race on one set of hards last week was a bit of a mockery.

    Please put aside vested interests for a minute, get the core issue fixed. Try to have a product that invites all racing fans to watch, and then worry about side issues like road car technologies and the environment. When these side issues are addressed, it should be carefully addressed so that they don’t tamper with a good thing. Assuming it’s in a good place, which right now it’s not.

    The same can be said with all rule changes. F1 has a habit of changing rules too much. It’s good for the drivers because it keeps them on their toes. It’s good for the engineers because it keeps them on their toes. But please, if things are going to be changed, make sure it’s for the better.

    And one final thing.. the rules makers and stewards need to be trying to encourage overtaking, not penalising it. I know it’s hard to change rules after they are written, but there was a situation where Schumacher is penalised for overtaking, and Hamilton wasn’t penalised for weaving in Sepang. Does FIA and F1 want overtaking or not? The message of these decisions is opposite to what it should be.

    Indycar has a rule, that I don’t necessarily agree with, but it’s effective. They aren’t allowed to block.. it’s hard enough to overtake at the best of times in open wheelers, blocking makes it even harder. ESPECIALLY if you have an expert blocker. So banning blocking could be one easy way to enable overtaking without changing the cars at all. If that is too extreme (defensive driving is a skill in itself after all), how about restricting how much you are able to block, or being more strict on what you can or can’t get away with? Hamilton’s weave.. if all drivers did that, NO DRIVERS could ever overtake. I couldn’t believe how many people justified Hamilton’s move as if it were nothing. Yet again, looking out for personal vested interests over the sport as a whole.

    F1 needs to assess it’s priorities. What’s the point of winning a race, if by the end of the race most people have turned the TV off? Does F1 teams enjoy it just as much if no fans were watching at all? Sometimes it feels like they are only trying to please themselves. USA is overly commericalised but at least they never lose sight of the fans and the viewer experience.

    It’s a worrying thing that lately Bernie has been going to inner cities for the new tracks, trying to cash in on the glamour side, rather then the racing side. It’s like F1 has accepted internally that it is boring and doesn’t want to do anything to fix it.

    A long post.. I hope it doesn’t fall on deaf ears. Please consider your prorities. Saying that KERS improves the racing is like when FIA bans an ugly innovative aero part on the car, and bans it under “safety” reasons.

    1. Formula Zero says:

      Good post Jon. There is good depth in your post. Yep, the rules are changed so much from season to season that it is hard for anybody to understand those clearly. Where this year could’ve been the most exciting year in the history, turned out to be chaos in terms of inconsistent penalties (possibly personal preference). And unless there are safety cars and rains, this season has very little chance of having anything but boring races.

  26. CD says:

    If the FIA accept responsibility for the lack of clarity, then they should be forthcoming in overturning Schumacher’s penalty, give him back 7th and wipe the slate clean.

  27. Girts says:

    Thanks very much for the investigation and explanation of the rules to us fans James. Interesting stuff. I doubt, however, whether the stewards were aware of these rules as I guess that they did not mention any such rules in the official statement.

    But, anyway, it looks like FIA has become more tolerant and more ready to listen and acknowledge its mistakes since Jean Todt is the president of it.

  28. VicWeir says:

    It seems to me that the most sigificant aspect of this affair is that drivers immediately concerned were given different instructions by their teams; both complied with the instructions so although acting on the ‘wrong’ instruction may have to incur a penalty of some sort if the rules of the sport are to have any effect at all there might be some leeway in its application in future so far as the drivers’ positions and points are concerned.

    In this instance it would have been perhaps appropriate to have placed Schumacher back in the position he was in before committing the offence since it was not actually his fault (nor indeed Alonso’s in losing his position).
    what would have happened if neither driver had actually radioed in to query before taking action? It would have been purely his mistake and therefore he should be penalised accordingly.
    This incident bears some comparison with the McLaren business in Australia 2009 when they misinformed Hamilton. Of course, there was the small matter of lying to the stewards too which was not the case here by either side.

    Article 40, para. 13 of the F1 Regulations as employed by Ferrari seems quite unequivocal – there should be no overtaking at the end of the last lap of a race when the safety car has been employed and cars simply proceed to the chequered flag in the order they were in when the safety car pulled in to the pit lane. It’s not very dramatic, but it’s fair on all.

    Mercedes seems to have employed a different ruling rather than misunderstood or misinterpreted Article 40, one which does not include mention of the ‘final’ lap arrangements. Probably an easy mistake, but still the wrong advice to their driver. Drivers sometimes let down their teams and sometimes it’s vice versa: it’s supposed to be a team sport. If there were no penalties for ‘misunderstandings’ everyone would claim to have misunderstood!

  29. Érico says:

    Teams monitoring us? That’s neat.
    Makes me wonder how seriously would they take us if there was a post/debate dedicated to our views of F1, especially what technical direction it should take and how to retain competitiveness and excitement as a sport (not a damn show, I hate the FB coined expression).

  30. Ron Colverson says:

    In my view the flag and light signals should override everything else, even if they are shown in error. Drivers are expected to obey them without question. Just how can you penalise someone for obeying a green flag?

    1. Formula Zero says:

      It seems like we all need to have PHD to even understand what any of those rules mean. And from race stewards point of view, they seem to be there for a free holiday & thirsty for attention.

  31. Morton says:

    If the FIA want to avoid further confusion, amendments to the rule should be discussed and the revised rule need to be implemented by the next race in Turkey. It seems the WMSC discuss the matter at its next meeting on 23 June.

  32. Elliot says:

    How can a man be convicted of a crime – with an enforced penalty – if the ruling authorities admit ambiguity in the wording of their own laws?

    It’s a embarrassing situation.

    Schumacher should, quite clearly, have the drive-through revoked. A man is innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt – and in this case, it is not beyond doubt if the FIA don’t even know the rules!

  33. TM says:

    James

    It looks like the penalties set out in 16.3 can be used instead of any of those in ‘The Code’. As you wrote:

    “The stewards may inflict the penalties specifically set out in these Sporting Regulations in addition to or instead of any other penalties available to them under the Code. ”

    But unless ‘The Code’ says the vice versa, i.e.:

    “The stewards may inflict the penalties specifically set out in the Code in addition to or instead of any other penalties available to them under the Sporting Regulations. ”

    …then it seems not to be true the other way around, i.e. you can substitute a ‘Code’ penalty for a ‘Sporting Regulation’ penalty, but not the other way around.

    If this is true (and I’m not saying it is as I haven’t read the Code regulations!) then the Code regs weren’t available to the stewards, and so the 20 second penalty was the only penalty available.

    1. Formula Zero says:

      Why would you even have race stewards if they don’t even know or have access to the code regulations!!!!!! Who was suppose to have those if the stewards don’t?

      1. TM says:

        With respect, I don’t think you understand what I’m saying.

        James’ article says that a penalty set out in the 16.3 can be used instead of any penalty in the ‘Code’. But it does not say that a penalty in the ‘Code’ can be used instead of a penalty in 16.3.

        When I said “If this is true then the Code regulations weren’t available”, I didn’t mean the stewards couldn’t gain access to reading them, I meant the penalties within them weren’t available to use.

      2. Formula Zero says:

        Thanks for clarifying.

  34. Rudhren says:

    Does anyone have the power to overturn or change what happened or are the results now cast in stone? Is this possibly why Merc saw it would be pointless and of no gain because the FIA are going to revise the rules in any case?

    Thanks James for the great info and constant updates especially the insider stuff you have access to! Much appreciated!

  35. Robert Keating says:

    Right! The FIA now admits it handled it wrong!
    So adjust the decision correctly. Move Michale back 1 position and the is all!
    The Stewards also admit they were too busy to deal with Rubens throwing his wheel!! That was dangerous! They need fair and consistent rule enforcement!

  36. Mobeen says:

    As a fan of F1 I feel disgusted by the FIA’s behavior. Rubens very carelessly threw the steering wheel (which could’ve killed someone) and Micheal caught the “famed” Alonso off guard and delighted the fans. Guess who gets the penalty? Even after FIA says it f’d things up. Amazing!

  37. Stuey says:

    The penalty can’t be changed, the decision has been made, and the penalty that was applied (effectively a drive through) means it cannot be appealed, as Mercedes GP said they were not going to.

    Much as I thought the pass was correct and should have been allowed, in the interests of the sport, I don’t think the decision should be changed as some people are calling for here. Its like when a ref in football disallows a goal that was valid… you can’t start changing decisions at a later date as it will do more damage than the dodgy decisions themselves. No incident would be safe from being scrutinised at a later date.

    I’d rather have a quicker decision that might be the wrong one, rather than hours and days of debate by the stewards dragging on after the race.

    Hopefully the revaluation of the rule will stop any confusion in future. In the meantime, we just have to except it, live with it and move on… though you don’t have to be happy about it!

    1. Stuey says:

      accept it – not except it!

  38. Rodger says:

    Hill screwed Schumi over – no surprise there.
    Why haven’t the FIA reinstated Schumi back to behind Alonso? That’s fair to everyone.
    They’ve admitted things are confusing but haven’t corrected the decision.
    This is a ridiculous state of affairs.

  39. neil m says:

    I think the ‘new’ FIA have done quite well here. OK, it’s a mess that can’t be resolved to everyones satisfaction, but in the end sensible things have been said all round and the damage has been ameliorated as far as possible.

    I have some sympathy with the stance that the 20seconds, once applied, can’t be amended. You can’t undo a blocking manouver, and you wouldn’t want decisions endlessly challenged.

    They may wish to give some thought as to when a ‘suspended verdict’ may be given so that it can be looked at in more detail in the week after the race. Your idea that other penalties (like the 1 sec or sub sec penalty) could be applied is a new one on me, and we’re half a week later.

    Has this played differently on blogs/boards in other countries? Germans want harsher penalties, Italians/Spanish more outraged? I know, stereotyping, couldn’t help myself sorry :(

    I’m not sure Barrichello has got away with his ‘toys out of pram’ moment yet. Haven’t punishments been applied at following races in the past? It’s probably just a 1 – 40k fine I guess, I would have thought was too late for anything more, especially in current (good, sensible) climate of “that’s your last warning” stewarding. Maybe Ruebens could parlay the fine down by owning up…

  40. PaulL says:

    What’s not clear to me, is what rights the teams have of appeal. Can a stewards post-race penalty be rescinded in light of a successful appeal? We know Hamilton’s couldn’t at Spa 2008.

  41. Lalit says:

    James,

    I am pleasantly surprised at this acceptance and openness about the episode from FIA.

    Is this the sign of things to come under the Todt administration?

    I also think Mercedes,Brawn and Schumi came out as winners from this in the long run.

  42. khan says:

    Its of topic but i got to know that redbull had to modify the rear of there car before monaco. Mclaren’s Paddy Lowe had seen something fishy and consequently FIA acted. Any insight James?

  43. John Snow says:

    Your last two paragraphs are very interesting. A possible future article for you might be “How much interest does F1 pay to the press?”

    I remember Kimi not caring what the media think of him, but do any of the other drivers? Do any of the teams ever come back to you to clarify / correct any of your work James?

  44. Steve Rogers says:

    Admitting a lack of clarity puts Schumacher’s mistake clearly in the lap of the FIA and the Monaco stewards. Give him his points back, it was your fault guys!

  45. malcolm.strachan says:

    While I agree the penalty was harsh, I must say that I believe it was warranted.

    I doubt the rules work like the precedent-based Common Law system, but in this case, I think it was good to set a precedent that trying to exploit slight irregularities to your favour is outside the spirit of the rules and will be punished. As someone involved in various forms of motorsport, it is pretty clear that racing from the safety car exit to the finish line is a ludicrous idea outside that of the original intent of the new passing-before-the-line rule, and it is just asking for carnage.

    Imagine if they had touched in the last corner, with 10 cars behind them, all battling each other for that last corner and run to the line? I’m not sure how many people saw the carnage at the Formula Mazda race in Montreal a few years ago, but I tend to think both situations would have a solid resemblance.

    It would not be good for the safety of the drivers and marshals if a precedent was set to allow teams to look for loopholes in the sporting regulations as they normally do with the technical regulations. This could lead to several dangerous situations as drivers could be instructed by teams to attempt to gain advantages through other situations involving yellow flags, safety car periods and restarts.

    Schumacher broke the intent of the rule, and was punished accordingly, which is well within the rights of the stewards. If precedents matter, then it is clear that the stewards will not stand for creative interpretations of the sporting regulations.

    1. Ray says:

      As someone involved in motorsport, can you clearly define what a Green flag means to a driver?

      As a marshal (both flag and post chief) I can tell you that a Green flag is a signal to the drivers, as well as neighbouring marshal posts that your section of the circuit is clear, any previous obstacles have been removed, and it is safe for the drivers to proceed at racing speeds in that section of track..

      The course was Green flagged when the SC entered the pits – As per the most fundamental of all racing instincts – Green means Go.. We cannot ever have a situation where Green means Go except….. Drivers have to act and make decisions in fractions of a second – you cannot expect anyone to reasonably do when conditions and possible outcomes and interpretations are introduced.

      The fact that Race Control messed up and Green Flagged the race, despite their best intentions, does not mean that a driver should be punishable for not behaving in manner beholden to that intent.

      There are many examples on other F1 forums but the one that stands out to me is: What if the Pit->Car radio wasn’t working, and the driver was not fully aware of the lap count.. In this situation a driver has only 1 option – to fall back on the course signals (instinctual fallback) and the information on his pitboard (*IF* he can read it when he passes the pits).. In this instance, any driver under those circumstances would have nailed it as soon as they saw the Green flags.. Green means Go.. Not Green means proceed in an orderly fashion so we can get a photo with green flags…

      Race Control messed up in the moment, the Stewards chose a penalty based on an interpretation of the rules that is linked to the old rulebook, while the FIA admitted the new rulebook is unclear.. Why after all that should the competitors retain any penalty?!

      1. malcolm.strachan says:

        No need to apply the slippery-slope argument.

        The fact is that he knew it was the last lap, and he was instructed by his team to pass Alonso if he could. They were trying to take advantage of the loophole in the rules. Schumacher did not make a “split-second” decision; the decision was made for him by Ross Brawn.

        If there was no radio communication, chances are they would use the pit-board, and then he would also know that it was the last lap, specifically since the prior lap was under yellow as well and therefore was at much lower speeds. Beyond that, the stewards would have taken that into consideration in applying a penalty, and may have applied a 1-second penalty to minimize the effects on what they may consider an unfortunate set of circumstances.

        As for what a green flag means to me? If a safety car was pulling into the pits on the last lap for a processional finish, and I saw green flags being waved by marshals, I would assume there is a procedural mistake and I would hold position. I would likely still accelerate to race speeds and defend, but I would not overtake.

        Honestly, these drivers aren’t idiots. They know what’s going on and and both Brawn and Schumacher were willing to gamble and take advantage of a potential loophole.

      2. Ray says:

        Without hearing the radio commentary, it is impossible for us to state if it was completely pre-meditated or conditional..

        If Ross knew the rulebook did not cover this eventuality, and there was a potential loophole to be exploited and instructed Schumi to try and overtake irrespective of the flags, I agree that would be an intentional gamble/exploitation of the rules and they would be more in the wrong than in the right..

        However, if the instruction was something like “IF we get a green light, then you can try overtake”, then its somewhat different, and does not intimate a “reckless” desire to exploit the loophole purely because the rules don’t cover it properly. It implies they had interpreted the SC rules to allow for racing on the last lap after a SC deployment, and thus if Race Control allowed for more racing by showing the Greens, then go for it..

        The pivot here is if Schumi/Ross based their decision on the display of the green flag or not.. Unfortunately, we will likely never know what the actual instructions were, and can only speculate on what the intentions were – something the drivers & teams had to do with the unclear procedures taken by RC…

  46. Snowy says:

    So the upshot of all of this is that the FIA are effectively showing themselves and their representatives (the stewards) to be morons in that they can neither interpret nor implement their own rules and procedures correctly but ultimately can act with impunity by hiding behind acts with no right of appeal for those who fall foul of those flawed actions.
    Tough luck for Mercedes (in this instance but other teams/drivers in others) – they’re just the collateral damage along the way to the FIA being perfect.

    I wonder if the FIA would’ve put out a statement admitting that things were mishandled if Mercedes were still intending to protest? In fact, despite saying they don’t intend to protest, presumably there’s nothing stopping them from doing so up until the cut-off date. They seemingly only decided not to protest after pressure was brought to bear to save face and protect the ‘sport’ (and the FIA) from any connotations of negativity.

    It seems beyond belief that this ‘sport’, or rather this multi-billion dollar business, can so frequently operate in such an amateurish way. People are quick to write off the penalty to the team as a minor and ultimately unimportant but decisions such as those at Monaco result in the unfair loss of points and potentially championship positions, and for the teams that can mean millions of dollars to their income. They, and the fans who provide those millions, deserve much better.

  47. Jose Arellano says:

    if they ammend, ammend it properly and just put schumacher back to his place..

    i think if a driver see a green flag. that overrides everything in the rule book.

    driving an f1 car around the tightest circuit and you see a green flag you go racing. you dont think “oo wait in the article 45454.2121 of the II sporting codee. says that….bla bla”

  48. malcolm.strachan says:

    A question to those who were able to watch the race (I was unable to see it):

    Were the lights on the safety car on or off on the lap it pulled into the pits?

    In addition to that, I guess I also need to know if, like in other racing series, the lights on the safety car are turned off on the lap before a start or restart, and if that procedure is changed on the last lap. If the procedure is similar, that would be another clue to look at.

    Aside from that, is there anyone else that thinks pulling in the safety car on the last lap is a farce? No-one would honestly believe that, because there is no safety car there, the race ended under green… unless, of course, they believe the fans to be rather unintelligent. Personally, if the race is to end under yellow, the safety car should lead them around, past the finish-line and on the cool-down lap. It is ridiculous to pull it aside for aesthetics.

    1. Jose Arellano says:

      i was thinking the same when watched the race. the safety car lights werent off, like in any other series where is about to go out…

      but dont know in f1 aplies the same of turning them off when about to restart race..

      it is kind of a farce but i think theres a lot of non specialized newspapapers etc. that dont cover the race into much detail and just throw a pic of the finish. so its not ideal that the ONLY pic that a lot of people see of f1 is behind a safety car…

      1. malcolm.strachan says:

        This is true, but they could just ask the drivers to stay 10-15 car-lengths behind the safety car for photography purposes.

        Either way, I still think it’s ridiculous to put a photo-op ahead of safety. Obviously the potential for danger is low, but with a different set of circumstances it could have been bad, especially if there was a marshal still on the track.

  49. Jason C says:

    Glad to see the FIA putting their hands up for once – really good actually.

    Doesn’t help Mercedes though. As I mentioned before on this blog, I think both applying a penalty to Schumacher and leaving the positions as they were would both have been unfair to one driver or another.

    So as you suggest James, I agree totally that switching the places back around would have been the fairest solution. The question is, why didn’t they?

  50. Haplo says:

    The FIA only makes a fool of themselves, again, with its silly rules, its silly way of applying ones and not others, and punishing way beyond what is reasonable.

    What about Rubens and his steering wheel? That, in my eyes, was VERY dangerous.

    And what is that nonsense about not being able to apply time penalties in fractions of a second? Any number of fractions of a second, if meassured in seconds, are still seconds. As has being pointed out before: it doesn’t read “whole seconds” either.

    Silly FIA, very silly.

  51. verstappen says:

    Maybe this has been mentioned before, but it looked like Alonso made a mistake and Schumi just made an opportunistic move.

    So there’s at least a similarity between this situation and the Hamilton/Trulli controverse, being that one driver makes a mistake and the other passes.

    If Alonso indeed made a mistake, then Schumi was allowed to pass, regardless of the safetycar.

  52. Ash says:

    Hold on though — the F1 Sporting Regulations as quoted by James say that “The stewards may inflict the penalties specifically set out in these Sporting Regulations in addition to or instead of any other penalties available to them under the Code.”

    That means that that the Stewards have two options: (a) replacing an FIA Code penalty with an F1 Sporting Regulation penalty (ie a drive-through); or (b) supplementing an FIA Code penalty with an additional F1 Sporting Regulation penalty.

    There’s nothing there about disregarding an F1 Sporting Regulation penalty and applying an FIA Code penalty instead.

    The stewards’ hands still appear to be tied — if they penalise, it’s a drive-through, stop-and-go, next-race grid-drop, or nothing.

  53. Robert says:

    Thanks James, another excellent piece.

    “Instead they applied the one penalty which cannot be appealed – the drive through.”

    I am glad you pointed this out, as no-one else seems to have stressed this yet. Surely, that is the main reason why Mercedes did not go through with their appeal. They might have won the argument, but the race result would not have been changed.

  54. Bill Day says:

    Trying in my mind to reconcile two facts: (1) the rule is “unclear” vs. (2) every team but one interpreted the rule correctly (i.e. no passing allowed).

    The Schumacher-hater in me was delighted to see him relegated out of the points, but that does seem too harsh. The fair thing seems to classify him where he was before the illegal pass.

  55. Komieko says:

    I have looked at the race, specifically the accident and last laps of the race thanks to DVR and what I see is Alonso’s rear end stepping out which to me meant he was racing and Michael taking advantage of this opportunity to overtake and making the move stick. Unfortunately the outcome was not what anyone had envisioned. It has been said in previous post that the racing this season would not be that interesting, however now I beg to differ. Although in some cases decisions have been made that I do not agree with, Mark Webber (Australia)not being penalized. However I like Michael am mature enough not to cary this on further than this race. Michael is probably excited that finally he has his mojo back and the rest of the paddock needs to be afraid. Be very afraid.

  56. For Sure says:

    I think the biggest loser here is FIA and F1 itself. They handled it very very poorly. F1 fans paid top dollar to watch it and they and their rules took away the best part of the show. Schumacher was penalized heavily and Rubens wasn’t. Damon was a judge. I think it’s more than reasonable to raise a few questions.

    Hi James, since you mentioned that the teams the read the comments here I would like to propose something. I am tired of looking at the sector times to understand who goes faster at which corner.If there is a software that replays the two cars at the same time on the same track, it would be very helpful. Because it makes the beginners easier to understand the sport. I hope I am not confusing. It’s basically all about replacing the numbers with virtual reality. I don’t think that technology is a limitation but I suspect drivers may not want their rivals to see which line exactly they take, where they brake etc..
    Do you think that’s the case?

  57. Joe says:

    I can see why the 20 second penalty was selected. No matter how this is looked at, Safety Car rule 40.13 was broken according to the book. Since the FIA is all about precedence, the last thing you want is to make drivers think that getting their spot back is worst it can happen when overtaking in the scene of an accident.

    Wake up call for everyone. It is time to memorize the Safety rules.

  58. Mark says:

    When the safety car is out the track is under yellow. So, what’s the regulation regarding passing a car under a local yellow? If the driver lets the overtaken car back by, then it’s no harm, no foul, right? If the driver crosses the finish of the race before they’re able to let the driver by then how should they be penalized?

    Merc didn’t have time to be notified by the stewards and let Schumi know to let Alonso by or they would be penalized. If the race hadn’t ended wouldn’t that have been the process? (ignoring this new rule this year that, had the race continued the move would have been legal) With a penalty only after he refuses to give up the position?

    1. Mark says:

      All the while… the frustration of the fans is that any weekend karting club would get this right with little or no hesitation. That kid passed under yellow, put them back to the original order and make sure the kid knows if he does it again there’ll be a bigger penalty next time.

  59. Prof Bolshaviks says:

    If they leave the result as is. Fine but it leaves a bad taste in fans mouths.
    It also sets a precident, I thought creative use of the wording of rules was part of the game in F1. Case in point double diffuser, mcLarens F-duct etc.
    These were seen as great examples of expoiting the rules, even if some teams thought they were against the spirit of the rules.
    This is an example where the intention (read spirit) of the rules is more important than the wording and execution of them.
    I note the mass dampner was deemed illegal but the rule was not enforced retrospectively following the wording being disussed.
    Schumacher should have been given the place and then the rule clarified for subsequent events. I agree with macG when he said this is an exceptional circumstance surely the WMSC will see this and reverse the penalty.

    1. Jack Strawb says:

      “If they leave the result as is. Fine but it leaves a bad taste in fans mouths.”

      You emphatically do NOT speak for all fans.

      1. Prof Bolshaviks says:

        No, just 60%

      2. Jack Strawb says:

        “No, just 60%”

        That means 40% of us know you’re wrong, and the rest
        are confused.

      3. Prof Bolshaviks says:

        Clearly, you are not approaching this with an open mind.
        Nor are you seeking debate, but rather you seek to shout and scream and sulk.
        I find it incredibly arrogant of you to dismiss 60% of fans as “wrong” and “confused”.
        I also take it you are a die hard anti- schumacher fan, in which case you would swear that black was white if it got him a punishment. Which is fine, you can like and dislike whoever you want, but people who disagree with you are not necessarily “confused”.
        We could discuss the fact that even the FIA think there is a case of lack of clarity, but I guess you think they are wrong too.
        Hey it’s only their sport, I am sure they will consult you for your highly exhaulted intellectual insights sooner rather than later.
        At least I hope so.

  60. Arthur says:

    James, for once you have got this all wrong. Article 153 of the Sporting Code does not offer the race stewards an alternative to the penalties detailed under the Sporting Regs. It’s the other way round: the SR penalties could be imposed “instead of” potential SC penalties. The Monaco Stewards’ hands were tied, and in fact they imposed the minimum penalty available to them.

    Do hope you revise the article accordingly; the blog has been really good so far, and this is not a good subject on which to lose your credibility.

  61. Jodum5 says:

    I find this whole “controversy” amusing. I never thought it was that big of a deal. Yes, it was all caused by FOM and the FIA tinkering with procedures for a pretty TV image but okay Schumacher lost a few points, get over it. Based on the options available to the stewards the 20 second penalty was not the most lenient but also not terribly harsh. Okay he and the team lost points, but they did break a rule (during a stupid period of the race – the safety care should on principle stayed out).

  62. Jack Strawb says:

    It would have been just to demote Schumacher
    back to seventh place, which was a place he had fairly
    gained, rather than to apply the drive-through penalty.

    To give Schumacher sixth place would have been
    100% wrong, because it would have penalized those teams which DID understand and obey the rule. When all the teams are constrained by a rule, those who violate the rule should not stand to gain from doing so ! To claim otherwise is to make a mockery of the idea of rules, per se.

  63. Peter says:

    James – is Alan Donnelly (ex Labour MEP with who probably knew absolutely nothing about motorsport and made enough cock ups in stewarding decisions to last a life time) one of the stewards or has Jean Todt thankfully gotten rid of him?

  64. Frankie Allen says:

    I think for the integrity of F1, the FIA have to give 7th place back to Schumacher. But how you can do this when you leave it too late and and the change would start influencing positions at a late date, does make this look unlikely. For everything we had during the Mosley years, this is one thing that will give some fans the impression that things have not really changed.

    All the hogwash with the rules requiring clarifying / changing, when all that was required was for the yellow flags to still be in operation. The FIA screwed up, let’s not pretend otherwise and call it as it is. This really concerns me, not for the error per se, that is always going to happen. But the attitude that this error can be ignored and a driver suffer because of such an error, really makes this look a backward step for the FIA.

  65. There’s a lot of talk about things that can’t be appealed. WHY can’t they be appealed? Only because of an arbitrary statement which could easily be set aside. It isn’t just & proper to impose a penalty which subsequently becomes very questionable and in this case, downright unfair and simply say “Hard luck, this is not subject to appeal” Who says it isn’t? Let’s just change the rule that says you can’t appeal things.

    I’m glad that Mark Webber only had a fine for speeding in the pitlane and Felipe Massa escaped any sanction for the line crossing. These are not things which should affect the Grand Prix and it’s good to see that the Stewards now realise this.

  66. A-P says:

    James

    Generally a great blog, the kind that reminds me that I don’t write one myself because I generally have nothing useful to say. But whilst you’re talking, amongst other things, about wording, you might want to reconsider your poll.

    You write, “A poll with a sample of over 4,000 on JA on F1 shows that 60% of fans think that the stewards got it wrong in the case of Schumacher.”

    And the question asked by the poll? “Do you think that the Monaco stewards made the right call on Schumacher? Yes/No”

    But the stewards made [at least] *two* calls:
    * that Schumacher had infringed the rules;
    * and that he should consequently be subject to a 20s time penalty.
    How do you know which of those calls each voter in the poll was referring to, just the first, just the second, or both? [or some other I haven't yet noticed]

    Put a poll up for each call seperately, see how it breaks down. Are people unhappy that the stewards deemed Mercedes / Schumacher to have broken the rules? Do people believe the stewards imposed too harsh a penalty?

  67. David says:

    If the teams are monitoring the comments on this story than they can read this. The situation is pathetic and makes Formula One a laughing stock where the green flags being waved mean you can get a 20 second penalty for overtaking under them, a sad day for F1.

    The fairest thing would be to let the pass stand as it was made under green flags!

    It should not need a Mercedes appeal to do this.

  68. Carl says:

    Is it really conincidence that all the decisions made by the stewards/FIA always benefitted Ferrari?

    A small example that was unpunished at Monaco; Massa went with 2 wheels over the pit lane exit line when leaving the pit….almost the same way Rosberg did last year in Singapore…that is at least a drive through penalty. But the stewards were only staring at Schumacher it seems.

    Bari was free to endanger drivers and stewards with his wheel too. Alonso driving dangerous and being a whiney lil boy behind cars he couldnt pass. Etc.

    This penalty for Schummi was one of the worst decisions of the last few years (this coming from a fairly anti-Schummi guy!). And they admit they made a mistake by having green flags waving instead of yellow/ Give him back his position. don’t be such fools, because this does make F1 look biased, yet again.

  69. Lopek says:

    What a joke, the FIA admit they got it wrong, but still penalise an innocent party.

    I felt that the ex-driver consultant had given the stewards some much needed credibility after years of inconsistent decisions. This has completely undone that in my eyes.

  70. Mark Crooks says:

    Hi James

    This is unrelated but I read an article about some talk about proposing for an additional test session on the Monday at the end of Abu Dhabi.

    This got me thinking why stop at just testing why don’t they extend this so that every team brings their test and reserve drivers and lets them race that day. This would be very interesting to watch and would add an extra exciting element to the sport.

  71. AmandaG says:

    This is probably one of those scenario’s where penalties should be able to be appealed. It was at the fault of race control. Operating under 40.13 but due to the protocol they used it led to some teams believing they were operating under 40.11. Maybe there needs to be a review of the stewarding procedure with regards to timeframes of allocating penalties. Potentially an announcement of a provisional penalty pending investigation. Especially if it is to do with race control procedures. Their definately needs to be a review of the penalties themselves and maybe less structured penalties. They also need a permanent steward so that there is more consistancy with the penalties.

    Schumacher should morally be given 7th place back. It was not his or Mercs fault that race control messed up by not notifying the teams of which article they were operating under.

    I must say that one positive has come out of it, the fact that the FIA are effectively holding up their hands and saying they messed up. Although it makes them look stupid on one hand, it gives an air of honesty on the other.

  72. Carlm21 says:

    It’s about time Bernie Ecclestone sorted formula one out. The FIA don’t have a clue. They should listen to the fans because Schumacher’s overtake was perfectly legal. Great overtake, caught Alonso sleeping. The FIA should of gone to Specsavers.

  73. Kieren Bloomfield says:

    Whatever happens the FIA need to leave the result as it is. It’s bad enough as a viewer to turn off the telly at the end of race thinking you knew the result only to find it’s been changed when you read the news the next day. We really don’t need the result to change again.

    As an aside, does anyone know why the rule was changed to allow overtaking on the safety car in-lap before the finish line? Under the old rules this wouldn’t have been a problem.

  74. CanadaGP says:

    A lot of comments from Schumi fans with the expected viewpoint.
    Mercedes did not appeal the penalty because it is to their advantage in the WDC.
    Due to Michael’s demotion, Rosberg gained an additional 2 points moving from 8th place to 7th place.
    Schumacher is out of contention in the WDC, Rosberg is certainly still in contention. Those 2 extra points might prove critical at the end of the year. Only blind Schumi fans will say that he still has a chance to fight for the WDC in 2010. I say, you’ll just have to wait until 2011.
    It’s all win-win for Mercedes because the overtaking move even though it backfired certainly gave a boost to Schumi fans who have been worried that the legend has lost something and has served to quiet down the skeptics and critics of his comeback.

  75. Christopher Snowdon says:

    I’m a force india fan, Im so proud of the team with it’s first double points finnish, which it would have been with or without the nonsense the stewards/fia have thrown the formula 1 into, but somehow are better result because of it feels false and not as good. James surly Jean Todt will sort this mess out?

    1. Jack Strawb says:

      ” …surly Jean Todt will sort this mess out?”

      I have not heard Todt described as surly before, but
      you might be onto something here.

  76. PeteJ says:

    schumacher has done some reprehensible things in F1 over the years. He should be glad he’s still allowed to be involved at all, nevermind trying to get away with breaking the rules yet again.

    1. Prof Bolshaviks says:

      “schumacher has done some reprehensible things”
      agreed, but this isn’t one of them. Here he didn’t crash into someone to win a title, or park his car. Here he made an overtake he genuinely thought was legit.
      Also he isn’t appealing so I think he accepts the punishment even though he clearly has ground to appeal.
      Blame him for the other stuff, but this is not a case of him trying to get away with breaking the rules again.

      1. PeteJ says:

        Well, he did break the rules, otherwise he wouldn’t be sitting with a 20 second penalty, would he?
        In light of what happened to Briatore & Symonds, and what should have happened to Piquet Jr, he’s lucky he’s still able to take part in F1. Imagine if he pulled the Hill/Villeneuve rams last year, case’s of blatant cheating. He’d be gone forever.

      2. Prof Bolshaviks says:

        You are correct. However if merc followed up with the appeal, there was a good chance of them being exonerated, and then they didn’t break a rule. The whole thing is a horrible mess. Criminals have walked free for less of a technicality than this.
        You are again correct, if he had tries those things last year he would be hone forever. But he tried them in 94 and was allowed to keep the title.
        He did it in 97 and was disqualified, this is another case of the FIA making a stand at the wring moment. Surely taking his title would have prevented him trying it in Jerez 97. Taking second place? Who cares he would clearly rather finish in gravel than finish second.
        Barrichrllo did something very dangerous and got no penalty, he didn’t break any rules?
        Sadly it seems that to the FIA, a punishment is little indicator of guilt.
        I think the real key problem in thi case is that it would be easy to sort out fairly. But punishments that cannot be appealed is insane.
        What if next race the stewards give alonso a drive through for disliking his hair? He can’t appeal!
        That is no way to run a sport.
        The stewards need to be consistent and fair.
        That is what is lacking at the moment.

  77. lesley says:

    Some of you talks about the green flag as the one and only information for the driver what to do on the track. I wonder if Michael would have paid so much attention to the flag rules if he had been shown a blue one by steward mistake. I can bet he would not have let the car behind to pass him despite the flag rules.

    1. Robyn says:

      As you can pass three blue flags before yielding, I doubt one erroneous blue would matter.

  78. Tim says:

    I agree with most of the posts here, and I’m always dismayed at how people entrusted to enforce laws can’t use any discretion.

    It was a great oportunistic move by Schumacher, when Race Control gave out unclear signals.

    I can’t help seeing the irony in the whole situation though. It was Silverstone 1998 when Schumacher won in the pit lane,after obtaining a drive through, and thus provoked a clarification of the rules.

    The rest is history. Karma at it’s finest.

    1. Jack Strawb says:

      “Karma at it’s finest.”

      This is not a correct application of the concept of karma.

      Nor is it a correct application of the use of an apostrophe
      in the word “its”. FYI : “it’s” means “it is”.

      The initial attraction of this blog for me was that the great
      majority of the participants were above a certain minimum
      standard of education and intelligence. Sadly, that seems no longer to be the case.

      1. Prof Bolshaviks says:

        Jack Strawb, you seem to be just insulting Tim in your post.
        Tim is a normal person with normal views and opinions, I think it is once again poor form on your part to swan in and pass judgement on grammar.
        If you want to impress everyone with your intelligence, please learn the correct use of the [return] key. Its preferred use is to end paragraphs rather than the liberal application it receives from you mid sentence.

  79. Clayton Mendonca says:

    If Schumacher isn’t handed back 7th place in Monaco, there is no hope for justice in F1. It’s as simple as that!!!! The rules weren’t clear enough and Schumacher has to be reinstated 7th place. I’ve watched F1 for nearly 20 years now, and if this continues, I’m just gonna switch off the television.

  80. Pete Aaron says:

    Meanwhile we found out that the stewards can handle only one rule infraction per race. They didn’t have time to rule on a driver throwing a two pound object directly into the narrow racing line right in front of an oncoming car.

  81. Owen says:

    Come on FIA be magnanimous and reverse MSC’s penalty – at least restore him to 7th. I realise the effects of a ‘drive-through’ cannot be reversed – even when the driver was innocent, but this mistake can be reversed. Why not declare the result as things stood on the penultimate lap.

  82. Charles says:

    Will the stewards be replaced, fined or even banned ?? Unlikely i suppose but because it was Michael at Monaco they did what they did. A fair punishment would have been to swop him with Alonso BUT only because of the ambiguity in the rule. How can a racer not respond to ” the track is clear, the lights are green so you can race” or when he sees that the SC boards are gone and the green flags ( lights ) are out he races..and that’s what Michael is – A RACER. We miss your commentary in Cape Town James … Jonathan does not do it for us !!!

  83. Kedar says:

    Simpler solution,
    why cant you finish the Race under the safety car? this would keep it simple for most of the people and we wouldnt need attorneys to decide whether what you saw on TV still holds!
    if you want a Photo finish, they can tell the lead car (we heard Webber speaking to Charlie, surely the communication other way round is possible) to back off a bit and tell Bernd Mayländer to step on it!!

  84. Mike from Medellin, Colombia says:

    We have seen too many races ruined by ridiculous and out of proportion penalties that cannot be appealed….the most memorable being Spa 2008.

    Maybe drive through penalties should not be one of the options of the stewards in the last 3 laps?

    Teams should be allowed to appeal stewards decisions that have taken after the race….there is no sense in them not being able to do so.

    1. Prof Bolshaviks says:

      The odd thing about spa 2008. I assume you mean, Hamilton’s penalty, was I can remember a couple years before Montoya got done for the same thing in Suzuka, he did an illegal pass but then slipped behind and retook them. He was told to let the car back through, but I think he had passed more cars by then too. This is all very hazy, I admit. However I recall montoya being told afterwards that te stewards has said it was permissible after all.
      It seems there are just some drivers the stewards go after. Alonso, Schumacher, Hamilton. Odd list of names.

  85. Ben says:

    Ross Brawn correctly interpretted what the meaning of the words of the rules as written in conjuction with the actions of the stewards on the day. However, it is clear that while this was a correct literal interpretation the actual intention of the rules is to prevent the Safety Car crossing the finish line first.

    As has been pointed out on several Internet forums with photographic evidence of Monaco and the end of Melbourne 09, the yellow flags should have remained out and so should the SC boards.

    In my mind, I suspect Mercedes assumed most teams eould follow the intention of the rules but having spotted this loophole in the wording of it figured they could catch Alonso unawares. Much has been made of Alonso’s slide before Schumacher’s move but I suspect this was more down to a lack of concentration (being ‘asleep’ as one driver put it!) than to him being racey.

    Of course, the stewards ruled in favour of the intention of the rule rather than the actual wording. Given that both Ferrari and McLaren have very publically confirmed this as their prior interpretation of the rule I think Mercedes knew there was a risk in attempting the overtake, although obviously they expected that their argument would prevail.

    That having been said – I think there is certainly a case for Mercedes to take legal action against Race Control (NOT the stewards). Their handling of the situation caused the ambiguity, they could have said ‘Safety Car in this lap, Safety Car conditions to remain until end of lap’ and more importantly they should have kept the yellow flags out.

    I think there is certainly a case to be answered here and given the loss of points impacts the financial reward at the end of the season I think that that might be a case Mercedes would win.

  86. Alex says:

    The part of 40.11 that defines the procedure for ending the safety car period was adhered to, therefore it had ended. As far as I can see, it is that simple. The penalty would therefore seem to be a bit of a farce, but at least it has been dealt with quietly, and steps have been taken to clarify things for the future. I’m relieved to see that the FIA hasn’t used it as an opportunity for a display of power. Personally, I wouldn’t have chosen Todt to be FIA president, but I’m happy to put my hand up and admit that I might have been wrong.

    Well done for spotting 18.1, but I don’t see why you assume that time penalties have to be integer numbers of seconds. For instance, “0.8 seconds”, is most definitely expressed in seconds?

    I’m a little concerned about the race stewards English comprehension skills. With such complicated regulations, written in English, assessing this should perhaps form a larger part of the selection process. Unfortunately that would lead, at the very least, to a perceived bias in event stewarding. Translating the regulations would probably just muddy the waters further; fine distinctions can all too easily be lost. Anybody have a solution? I know that the regulations could probably have been written a little more clearly, but I personally I would struggle to rewrite them clearly enough.

    1. Mike from Medellin, Colombia says:

      Yes, I would guess that the point about minutes and seconds is so that penalties are not expressed in distances on the race track.

      It is time as opposed to distance and whether or not time is expressed in whole seconds is irrelevant.

  87. sixtenths says:

    Reubens did something really dangerous and gets no punishment, Michael tried an opportunists overtaking move and gets punished. It is so clearly wrong, all he should have to do is have the place taken back, if that.

  88. Anthony says:

    Surely the reason for the ambiguous wording of the press release is because there’s actually no lack of clarity in the rule, but they don’t want to admit that Charlie Whiting messed up.

    If the intention was that the race should end under the safety car, there was no need for Race Control to send any message at all to the teams. The SC would have come in, under the perfectly clear rules, everything would have stayed yellow and nobody would have tried an overtake. Once he told the teams the SC was coming in, it’s perfectly natural to think ‘why has he said that? It must mean the race isn’t finishing under the SC, so rule 40.13 doesn’t apply.’ That is what was unclear, and that is why James is correct in my view in arguing that the penalty on MS was unduly harsh. [Although to be fair, MS was also completely wrong in accusing Alonso of being asleep.]

    Everybody has a high regard for Charlie Whiting, but this isn’t the first time that FIA has twisted things to avoid embarrassing him when he has made a mistake. Another aspect of this which hasn’t attracted much comment is that it was actually safe to race. There was no need for the race to end under the SC. CW is always prone to spoiling the races by keeping the SC out for too long, and this is yet another example of it.

  89. Seifenkistler says:

    There was another option which is not discussed at all:
    Schumi keeping place 6 but being penalysed by moving him back by a number of places next race. Let the number be 0.

    So there would have been a (formal) penalty, Ferrari would have appealed (they could, probably because it wasn’t a drive through) and there would have been a lot of confusion and discussion still going on.

    But would this have been best for the sport doing it this way?

    Opps did i see another loop hole by having the numbers not limited to positive numbers? Sorry for this FIA.

    Hope i was using the correct english words in 50% of the writing.

  90. Michael C says:

    in your words James ‘I wonder whether the stewards were aware of their options under the Sporting Code. One would have hoped so.’

    It seems not given the stance taken since when they seem to have backtracked and I’m guessing had they known they might have gone for say one second penalty .

    Whew!! – as has been said on another site if football fans were as vociferous on blogs as F1 fans seem to be then every Monday morning would be hell (or heaven dependent on your viewpoint) were

    1. Michael C says:

      ‘were’ at the end is superfluous sorry

  91. Seymour Quilter says:

    For me the elephant in the room is the very idea behind this rule! This rule exists so that if a race finishes under the safety car, TV viewers see only the F1 cars crossing the finish line. But this is a sham if there is to be no overtaking, even though green flags are being waved on the final lap.

  92. jaeone says:

    am i missing something? in a normal safety car period, not at the end of a race.. the safety car goes in and the drivers arent allowed to pass until the start/finish line.. why would the end of the race be any different?

    1. Jon says:

      Because now they want the race to end under green flag because it looks better for the TV when the cars go fast over the finish line. So if the accident is only semi cleared, they say SC in this lap, but no overtaking.

    2. Jon says:

      And the start/finish line rule was also changed, to a white line near the final corner. That is the new start/finish line for this season.

      1. Frankie Allen says:

        That’s not the start/finish line, you still have to get over the official start/finish line to claim for position and points.

        And yellow flags always have been used when finishing under these conditions, they just made an error this time.

  93. Bruce says:

    I am puzzled because the Ferrari team told Massa and Alonso that they couldn’t race so Alonso wouldn’t have been expecting Schumacher to overtake him. When he did see Schumacher make his move he accelerated and spun his rear wheels and then it was too late.
    The real question is, why did the two teams read the rules differently?
    One cannot blame Schumacher to try what he did, but the fairest result would have been to put him back into seventh position.
    No wonder this rule needs sorting out!

    1. Jon says:

      “The real question is, why did the two teams read the rules differently?”

      Because it’s F1, and each time tries to get an advantage wherever they can!!!

      And sometimes the sport suffers because of it. *cough* double diffusers *cough*

  94. Ago says:

    Gents,
    It will be very silly to race when the cars were all stuck behind the SC the second before and would be relased for a 400m final sprint on the last lap… Huge risk of crashes…
    On top of that I would find very unfair to see the potential winner 20s in front of the whole field, loose the race because all cars were regrouped behind a safety car on the last lap and some crazy idiot will take “a chance”

  95. Mary Stern says:

    HI James – one thing that I haven’t seen anyone mentioning in this whole saga is that Alonso’s car seemed to “fishtail” as he got on the power and slid sideways a bit which is why Schumacher could take advantage and overtake him.

    What I don’t quite understand is the situation on re-starts where one driver makes a mistake: is the following driver allowed to continue with his existing speed. Imagine Alonso came to a sudden halt: should all the drivers behind him suddenly put on their brakes and then wait for him to get going again? This is a bit extreme, but imagine Alonso had, instead, brushed the wall and had to limp on slowly: what then?

    There was the case when Trulli slipped off the track and Hamilton therefore overtook (as I remember) and was penalised (which seemed very unfair as he let him by anyway),

    Also, can you explain why they changed the re-start rule to use a safety car line instead of the start-finish line? I presume this was to avoid the leader backing up the cars behind, but it makes it very hard for us poor spectators to understand when they can start racing again (or is it always as soon as the safety car peels off)?..We can all see the start/finish line!

    Thanks for your excellent blog James :)

  96. Rich C says:

    Lack of clarity my ass! Lack of common sense is more to the point! And it was way over the top to penalize Schumi that heavily.

    The “new” FIA has not exactly covered itself with glory of late!

  97. Robert Whitting says:

    I am a lifelong F1 fan, ever since Australia 1994 when my father shouted at the TV in frustration at Schumacher. Since then I have never been a fan of him what so ever and always supported his rivals.

    This time I would say that Mercedes GP should have had the benefit of the doubt based on the Green flags being waved and the race control declaring ‘safety car in this lap’. It’s a simple case of a rule clash and the FIA should have the resources available (ie lawyers) to proof read these regulations before they come into effect. Not a good episode for them I think, the cars should have been free to race on the last corner despite what most team principals thought in the heat of the moment.

    At this level of sport with all the money flying around in general I would say that I am a little disappointed that the FIA can make a rule clash like this. This is a premier show and the fans should be treated as such.

  98. Sharp_Saw says:

    This is a good gesture from the FIA to admit their fault in terms of the wording of the rule and it should set a good precedent for the future.

  99. Feb says:

    it’s good that FIA itself has accepted they didn’t handle the incident correctly, but now it’s such a shame that Schumacher was deprived of points for a silly “lack of clarity”..

    and assuming Schumacher will race like his old self from Monaco on, i expect more of these incidents and talks involving Schumacher-Alonso-Hill-FIA in the future races..

  100. mvi says:

    James, do you know how the teams are informed of new sporting regulations? Surely they receive an announcement from the FIA, but I wonder if they all sit down and discuss it together with the FIA.

  101. Bevan says:

    Its probably been said already but I feel lack of clarity is symptomatic of nearly every race decision the FIA have been involved with,Spa 2008 being the doozy we all most remember.IMO Schumacher should have only been relegated back to his original position due to confusion on the prevailing rules,on everyone’s part.

  102. ChrisS says:

    Thanks James for a very good summary of the issues.

    It actually seems to be clear that race control gave the wrong information by signalling that the safety car was being called in and by showing green flags.

    If they had wanted the race to finish under safety car conditions and to apply rule 40.13, the correct procedure would have been to switch off the safety car’s flashing orange light (otherwise the cars would have been obliged to follow it into the pits) while continuing to display the yellow flags and SC boards until the end.

    All the signs implied that the race wasn’t finishing under safety car conditions but the safety car was being called in on the last lap, meaning that there would be a short period from the first safety car line to the finish line where racing was permitted.

    So Schumacher should not be penalised for wrong or, at best, misleading communication from race control.

  103. Pdac says:

    Absolutely agree that Schumacher should not have been given any more of a penalty than having his overtaking move declared void. The marshalls flags have to be the number one indicator to the drivers as to what is happening.

    It’s not unheard of for a drivers radio to fail. In such circumstances would the stewards still ruled against the driver if he saw the safety car go in and green flags being waved?

    There was no fault on Michael Schumachers part (nor any of the other drivers who made a mad dash to the finish line as soon as the safety car left the track) – the fault was with race control and the marshalls who waved the wrong colour flags.

    And that from somneone who, to say he’s not Mr Schumachers number one fan, is a bit of an understatement.

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