Michael Schumacher’s cheeky attempt to steal sixth place from Fernando Alonso in the Rascasse corner in today’s Monaco Grand Prix has been deemed illegal by the race stewards, of whom Schumacher’s former rival Damon Hill was a member.
Meanwhile his former Ferrari boss Stefano Domenicali described the move as “really dangerous.”
Schumacher’s move came on the final lap, as the safety car peeled into the pit lane to allow the cars to cross the finish line. Previously overtaking before the start finish line on a restart was not allowed but this year that rule has changed.
There is a new rule, which allows drivers to pass at a restart once they have passed the safety car line, which is located before the start line.
But there is an exception to that rule, which covers the closing stages of the race.
Article 40.13 of the FIA F1 Sporting Regulations states, “If the race ends while 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.”
Hill, who had many controversial run ins with Schumacher during their battles from 1993 to 1996, along with the other stewards decided that Schumacher’s move clearly breached this rule and so gave him the appropriate penalty, which is a drive through penalty.
But as it occurred in the last five laps, 20 seconds is added to the elapsed race time. This takes Schumacher out of the points and hands Alonso back his sixth place.
Mercedes has announced its intention to appeal the decision.
Ferrari’s Stefano Domenicali pointed out that to make matters worse, Schumacher’s overtake happened at the very place where the accident had occurred, namely Rascasse.
“Our reading of the regulation was that the safety car had frozen the race conditions, also because there was still a lot of debris in the last corner. Any kind of overtaking manoeuvre was really dangerous, ” said Domenicali.
Ironically this corner is indelibly attached to the Schumacher legend already, due to the incident in 2006 where he blocked the track there in qualifying.
It is the first time since his switch from Ferrari consultant to Mercedes driver that Ferrari has been on the receiving end of some of Schumacher’s competitive spirit and it was interesting this evening to observe Domenicali talking about “Schumacher” as a rival, rather than “Michael” as one of the family, as he was until last December.
* This piece has received a lot of comment. I was not suggesting that Hill alone punished Schumacher, but merely pointing out the irony of the situation that these two old rivals should find themselves in this position. Hill was one of four stewards in Monaco who reached this decision. I have amended the headline to make it clearer.