Mercedes has decided not to go through with the appeal into the stewards’ decision to punish Michael Schumacher for his opportunistic pass on Fernando Alonso in the final corner of the Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday.
“We believed that the combination of the race control
messages ‘Safety Car in this lap’ and ‘Track Clear’ and the green flags
and lights shown by the marshals after safety car line one indicated
that the race was not finishing under the safety car and all drivers
were free to race, ” said the statement.
The problem here is that these signals are consistent with the end of a safety car period, not with a situation where the safety car is merely being pulled in for cosmetic reasons. Having viewed the videos again several times, it is clear that the debris from the Trulli/Chandhok accident had been cleared and that therefore the racing could start again.
In other words had there been another 10 laps in the race, it would have started again with what happened on lap 78.
However it appears that this was not the intention of Race Control. In their minds they were merely moving the Safety Car out of the way for the cosmetic appearance of the finish.
So what should have happened is that the SC boards and yellow flags should have stayed out, to indicate no overtaking, but the Safety Car itself comes into the pits.
Apparently in the stewards room everything was handled in an open minded and fair way, but the stewards’ hands were tied by the way the withdrawal of the Safety Car had been handled in conjunction with the way the rules are worded. There wasn’t much room for manoeuvre.
What is also tough is that, given there was some confusion over the way things were handled, Schumacher should be given a 20 second penalty as a result. To return the place to Alonso and drop Schumacher back to 7th place would seem a fairer punishment under the circumstances.
Mercedes have dropped the appeal because it would not change the outcome and the stewards appear to have accepted the reason for their interpretation of the rules. It’s going to lead to a clarification, almost certainly and is on the agenda for discussion,
“The FIA has agreed to include article 40.13 on the agenda of the next
Sporting Working Group for discussion and to consider the scale of post
race penalties. We believe that the 20 second penalty imposed on Michael
to be disproportionate in the circumstances.”
It’s unfortunate the way things have played out for both Schumacher and Hill. Schumacher is being painted as the bad boy again, even by his former Ferrari colleagues, while Hill was apparently very fair in his stance on the matter and yet has been landed with hate mail.
For what it’s worth the fans’ comments to this site seem to be largely supportive of Mercedes’ position. And in a poll of 2,700 people today on this site 60% said that the stewards made the wrong call.
I sense a different mood in the Jean Todt administration regarding the way the stewarding is done. It seems to be more about encouraging racing, as we have seen in previous races this season. And this has to be right.
But consistency is also vital. So it seems rather odd that Schumacher ends up demoted to 12th for this set of circumstances, while Hamilton and Vettel got only a warning for sparring in the pit lane at 100km/h.
And what of Rubens Barrichello, who threw his steering wheel into the path of another car as he leapt from his crashed Williams? This seems not to have attracted any ire from the stewards.
Apparently marshals picked up that steering wheel, or what was left of it, at the exit of the tunnel, so it had travelled quite some distance from where it started! The thing weighs over a kilogramme, not to mention that it costs around £40,000!