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Damon Hill reveals he’s had hate mail over Schumacher decision
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Damon Hill reveals he’s had hate mail over Schumacher decision
Posted By: James Allen  |  18 May 2010   |  1:14 pm GMT  |  180 comments

Damon Hill has spoken to the Times today, questioning the validity of former drivers acting as a fourth steward and sitting in judgement on fellow professionals.

He also revealed that he has received hate mail from Schumacher fans for his part in the decision to punish the German for his overtaking move on Fernando Alonso on the final lap. Hill insists that he acted impartially.


This issue has aroused huge interest. My Sunday night post on the subject here has attracted 532 comments in 36 hours and a majority of fans seem to agree with Schumacher and his Mercedes team that the track was green and therefore the pass was valid.

I have to say that my impression at the time was that the debris from the crash between Trulli and Chandhok was not fully cleared and that if it had not been the last lap of the race, the safety car would have stayed out.

After plenty of criticism of the way stewarding was handled under the Max Mosley regime at the FIA, one of new president Jean Todt’s first acts was to add in a driver to advise the panel on 50-50 calls.

Already this season we have seen them put to the test, with some controversial moves in China involving Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel and the question of Hamilton “weaving” in Malaysia. So far they have been quite lenient.

But Sunday’s decision was all about interpretation not only of the rule regarding the safety car, but also the end of a race. In other words, rules which need to be taken in conjunction with each other.

“I imagined I would be there as a consultant providing driver insight to the stewards, who would then make the decisions, ” said Hill. “My expertise is as a driver rather than a lawmaker or interpreter of regulations.

“It was a fascinating experience but I wonder whether it is right that drivers are put in the position of interpreting the regulations,”

This is a fair point. Stewards have tended to be lawyers or people with some legal background, because rule interpretation is very much what it is about. And once an appeal is made, that is absolutely a legal process, so the basis for the decision needs to be right. F1 is a complex sport.

These people are often derided for having no knowledge of what it is like to race an F1 car. So the temptation is to ask an ex driver for his opinion. F1 drivers understand what is going on, but they don’t have the legal understanding to judge the rules and in the case of most drivers I’ve known, they couldn’t be bothered with the minutiae of it all.

On paper, a mixture of both should be a winning solution and this was what Todt intended. But Damon’s history with Schumacher has overshadowed this decision.

Hill is an intelligent man and a deep thinker. He also loves the sport. There was always a risk that he would be put in a situation where he would have to sit in judgement on his old rival and he has clearly found the experience uncomfortable.

“Partly, of course, my discomfort was because I was called to make a ruling on an incident involving Michael. I acted entirely properly but I have already received some stinging e-mails accusing me of prejudice.”

This does not surprise me. We get some stinging comments here on JA on F1 when fans feel that there is some prejudice in a post or a comment. F1 fans are passionate people.

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1

The problem here is with the rules themselves. Damon Hill has been quite readily fed to the wolves by the system, which finds it more credible to allow Damon to take the blame for this fiasco than they themselves.

What angers me the most is that we have been in this situation before, and yet nothing changes. Following the debacle of Spa 2008, inwhich one of the most exciting races in recent memory was tarnished due to its conclusion being decided in a stewards office, F1 is no closer to having its rules amended.

What I fear most is that a decision like this will cost someone, or hand someone, the world championship. As far fetched as that sounds it is not beyond the realms of possibility, and is the last thing this sport needs.

2

I hope the people who’ve sent hate mail to Damon also sent mail to priests who cover up child abuse and thugs who beat up old women for their next fix.

Or have they no sense whatsoever of perspective?

3

I don’t understand why Hill is blamed for any of this (- only reason he has been is by media types looking for a cheap headline)

As far as I understood, the ex driver is only there to advise the stewards in driving matters… Two cars collide, who was at fault, or who should have done more to avoid it, etc.

In this case, the actual move by schumi was not being questioned, (as I understand it) just whether ANY overtaking move would have been allowable between the safety car line and the finish line. And that is a straight rules interpretation issue. This should have nothing to do with the ex driver at all.

In my opinion, the hate mail is a disgrace but the media deserve some of the blame for deliberately stoking up the situation.

4

There should be a written exam for all persons involved in f1 90% pass mark. Each specialist to have a section specific to their role. Then you could have no excuses about rules. This includes marshals and stewards.

5

Formula 1 has clear rules just like anyone would have house rules in their homes, i know tensions get very high as well as emotions.

However, just as much we enjoy F1, i think hate and all threatening stuff should not belong to Formula 1, its fans and those who are there to make rules that the sport is run in a fair mode. F1 is dangerous and in Monaco Barrichello’s car faced the wrong direction and had a car behind came in full, it would have been a big mess.

The world and Formula 1 doesnt live in the past and I know a few guys who will lose a championship by a point and move on to be better but there are those who will carry the “What If” as it is a disease daily.

I also dont think people in F1 are out for someone, to pay revenge or settle scores in F1.

6
Oliver Neilson

The rules and their interpretation are at fault here, not Ferrari, Mercedes or Hill and the stewards. In a sport as competitive, and litigious as F1 there should be no place for a rule that can rightly be interpreted in two conflicting ways.

For all of the former rivalry between Hill and Schumacher, anyone who has followed F1 would know Damon Hill as one of the good guys. I don’t imagine for one minute that he would allow past history cloud the important position he was in last weekend. The rulemakers, and the marshals, or at least those who directed them, put the stewards panel in a no win situation. Any ire directed at the panel is, in my view, misdirected.

The job of an F1 team is to ensure that they make the best advantage of pushing the sports regulations to the limit, and not beyond (think F-Duct etc), if the rules have holes in them, don’t be surprised if you find smart, competitive people like Ross Brawn and Michael Schumacher driving their car straight through them, it’s their job, it’s what they do. Drop Shumacher back to seventh, apologise for the ambiguity in the rule and chalk it up to experience is the right thing to do. To penalise Mercedes for a problem created by the rulemakers is the wrong one.

7

If Damon was actually involved in this decision then I think the ex-driver steward/advisor has been badly implemented.

It seems to me that the driver should be there only to help advise on incidents involving driving standards – what is and what is not a racing incident.

In case such as this which is purely a case of interpreting the rules it should be down to the “professional” stewards alone, with the driver having no input at all.

I am no big fan of Damon Hill, but I have zero doubt he acting 100% professionally and impartially. The headlines/comments/hate mail etc against him only says something about the writers, Damon should just ignore them and move on.

I can only conclude that the driver advisor role needs further analysis and clarification. Consideration needs to given to both the scope of the role, and whether using drivers who raced against current drivers is appropriate?

8

For all those assuming Damon Hill made the decision at issue, here is a question for James:

Did Damon even have a vote? There were still three stewards. Damon did a pre-race interview with Will Buxton of SpeedTV on the grid, and if I recall correctly, he seemed to indicate that his role was only to provide a driver’s view of a situation, but that the decisions remained, as always, with the three stewards.

Can you check on this and provide further clarification?

9

The leniency displayed by the stewards/FIA sofar this season, to promote racing I presume, has been a step in the right direction.

OK, only a verbal warning about racing in the pitlane was maybe a bit to far but as long as there is consistancy I am happy.

The penanlty meated out to Schumacher was too harse. Accept the green flags where in error and simply reverting to the previous running order gets my vote.

As for Rubens, another petulent display that this time deserves reprimand.

10

I just want to add a note of support for Damon Hill.

I never for one second doubted Damon’s integrity in this situation and I’m sure it was his worst nightmare when it happened.

To those who sent hate mail to Damon, you really should be ashamed of yourself!

To Damon, I would say don’t be discouraged by the vocal minority and keep doing what you are doing.

All the best,

Craig.

11

One final thing, that I find most frustrating of all.

Jarno Trulli and Rubens Barichello both escaped penalty or reprimand I assume for two of the more boneheaded things I have seen in a long time. You have to remember they are two of the most experienced guys in the field.

Rubens threw his steering wheel onto the racing line and it was run over by the two Hispania cars and dragged around the track. He says he “had to throw it”, I say BS, and that it was a temper tantrum that could have damaged and ruined another cars race.

Jarno for that crazy banzi move that only makes sense if he was in a WW2 dogfight over the pacific. It was RASCASSE. Look at Chandhok’s car in the replay, what could he do? Trulli was never going to make that corner. It peeves me off when things like this happen to backmarkers so they don’t care. Do that to one of the points finishers and there would be hell to pay. Same rules for all please. Does anyone remember how angry Jarno got with Sutil in Brazil last year?

The stewards took waaaaay too long dealing with that Schumacher thing. It shouldn’t have taken more then an hour. And they completely forgot about the rest. If that Schumacher-Alonso thing was between two backmarkers it would have been ruled on very quickly.

12

James, do you have any insight into this:

Mercedes press release states that their “opinion appears to have been shared by the majority of the teams with cars in the top ten positions who also gave their drivers instructions to race to the finish line.”

At least Alonso claims he knew not to overtake, same with Hamilton I think. So are Mercedes making this up? Or are others just trying to appear clever afterwards? How do they know who was planning to race and who not? What about Coulthard’s instant BBC comment about Alonso sliding his rear precisely because he was busy racing into the last corner?

13

No I was a little surprised by that line. Certainly Ferrari and McLaren drivers said that they were told no overtaking

14

Also, Damon Hill has no blame in this. That is obvious because there is 4 stewards, and all 4 of them didn’t write the rules.

This issue does call into question though, where or not this idea works or not. Because Damon Hill is well known, he is criticised more rather then if he was a nobody.

So does that make stewards want to award controversial penalties? Even if it’s a fair decision, they will not want to get hate mail afterwards.

15

It’s clearly a murky situation and the now famous article 40.13 needs a slight rewording. Instead of: “If the race ends whilst the Safety Car is deployed it will enter the pit lane at the end of the last lap and the cars will take the chequered flag as normal without overtaking.” should be “In the case where a Safety Car is in force during the last lap of the race the it will enter the pit lane at the end of that last lap and the cars will take the chequered flag as normal without overtaking.”

Clear now?

Plus the FIA needs an amendment to it range of penalties that allows for a little common-sense in the future for such situation where there’s a clear ambiguity, i.e. in this case to just put Schumi back to 7th place.

As for Damon – he’s one of the last gentlemen to have graced F1, there’s not a dishonest or revengeful bone in his body, how dare these idiots send him hate mail!!

16

I think it was the right decision but a harsh penalty. And I think FIA needs to re evauluate it’s goals and rules.

Hamilton weaves and if everyone did that, we would never see a single overtake.. and yet isn’t penalised.

Schumacher overtakes (something that should be REWARDED) and he’s punished harshly.

It’s like the DD where because of one loophole, all the aims and goals of the rule changes were wasted. Banning it two years later doesn’t undo the damage already done.

To the letter of the law, FIA made the right decision. But more often then not, that also means shooting themselves and F1 as a whole in the foot.

The drivers and teams are held accountable but the rules makers are not.

17
Frankie Allen

Damon Hill makes a lot of sense here. It’s the equivalent of having an ex criminal on judges panel for insight and ask them to judge a legal precedent from a previous case. His skills are not necessarily strong in this aspect, possibly non existent.

Alonso could never be denied his original position, because he was told not to race under interpretation of the safety car rules, something totally correct. Something went wrong with the FIA, green lights should never have been shown, only yellows. I don’t know if this is because the track had been cleared and the coincidence of the last lap, being triggered automatically by the safety car as it turned in? Or that this is something that had not been thought through properly when they added the safety car line before the start / finish line, creating this confusion. I can see absolutely no reason why a yellow flag condition should not be maintained. The absence of which being the sole factor as to why teams were attempting to overtake between the safety car line and the start finish line. It would never of happened without the green flags being waved.

18

I don’t think the opinion of fans has any relevance to whether “…Monaco stewards made the right call on Schumacher?”

The rules were sloppy, hadn’t been thought through and the resultant mess is fair to neither Alonso or Schumacher. Some official needs to hold up his hands and say, “we screwed up”. They should then offer Alonso and Scumacher equal points for the race, together with an apology.

Of course no one will be happy with this but, hey, that’s life.

19

I’m surprised this is such an issue, because the rule is pretty clear. I’m American, so I watched on Speed, and all their commentators knew exactly what was happening (i.e. that the safety car would pull off at the last corner and Webber would lead everyone to the line) and mentioned a couple times that overtaking wasn’t allowed. If you look at McLaren’s live race updates, you see them tell Lewis that overtaking isn’t allowed. It’s pretty obvious that Mercedes simply didn’t know the rule.

20

Hill should publish the emails he received AND the addresses they came from to expose the cowards who hide behind technology to air their views…

21

Although these maggots would deserve it, Damon is far too much of a gentleman to ever think about doing such a thing, and that is all fine in my book.

22

It’s amusing that c. 60% of those who took the poll

believe Schumacher was treated unfairly. The rule

is quite clear, and the driver IS responsible for knowing the rules and driving according to those rules. If anything,

failure to enforce the rule would have meant that

all drivers who finished behind Schumacher were treated

unfairly, and that would have been a greater wrong by far.

Mercedes have certainly acted in an intelligent manner by withdrawing the appeal. The rules were clear enough that McLaren instructed Hamilton over the radio that NO PASSING was permitted. So how should Schumacher be

forgiven when other teams acted correctly and his team

did not ?

Schumacher himself ( having been in the thick of the race ) is not as much to blame as Brawn himself, who should have known the rule and sent appropriate instructions via radio to Schumacher, as McLaren did with Hamilton. The responsibility for this mistake therefore rests on the shoulders of Ross Brawn himself. You can be sure he won’t make this mistake again.

23

Although the rule was clear; I must say that I was puzzled because the race finished with green flags… It made no sense because there were no real chance to change the positions or just race for less than 1/4 of the lap.

During the race it seems that Alonso lost the car and Schumi took advantage during “green” flags!!! I couldn’t believe it. Green Flags?

If they are going to finish a race under “no passing” there should be yellow flags. If they want to finish the race in an excitign way for the fans, take a look at the CART/IRL book: The last lap should be a racing lap and that way everybody happy.

For me it was nonsense to finish the race under green flags. The SC should have crossed the finish line before all the cars.

So, just as the rule of the spare cars (that didn’t let Alonso run during qualifying) is dumb, so is this one.

Unfortunately for Hill he was just called to make a very difficult decission…

24

I think the decision by the stewards is correct, according to the rules they had only one option to rule the resolution they did. They were unable to just reverse the place positions, the only resolution available was to rule a drive thru penalty, therefore as the race was finished a 20 sec penalty was issued as the race was finished. However, what should be looked at and clarified is what race control relayed to the teams and stewards. Big questions need to be answered. Who gave the order for the greens to be waived if the end of the race was supposed to be finished under caution conditions? What was the message displayed or given to the teams before the safety car came in from race control that made merc think that they were allowed to overtake when it seems all other teams thought different?

James do you know exactly what race control broadcast to the teams about the safety car coming in before the finish?

25

Hate mail? wow.

26

Shame on these people.

Damon is one of the finest person in this sport (in all aspects).

Pretty much everyone who’s been following the sport for a number of years know this.

I can imagine that it is not an easy task to ignore hate mail from people that have been brought up without any manners thought to them…

James, please forward our support to Damon. We know he is a rightful person. In any case, governing people wouldn’t have given him this difficult task if he wasn’t.

27

Will do

28

Surely the point of having ex-drivers is to give an opinion on driving related matters – which this incident isn’t …

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