Bad rule calls screwed Davidson’s race

Lewis Hamilton, Felipe Massa, Monte-Carlo, 2007Anthony Davidson made two criticisms of the race stewards at the Monaco Grand Prix. Ordinarily you’d dismiss this as the whingeing of a driver who didn’t get the job done.

But he’s actually right on both counts. The stewards failed to discipline two drivers who cut part of the course. And it strongly looks as though Davidson’s drive through penalty for allegedly impeding Felipe Massa was not deserved.

Following the Monaco Grand Prix Davidson had this to say about the start of the race:

A lot of people cheated at the start by driving through the pit exit [i.e. cutting Ste Devote], and I didn’t. I ended up damaging my nose on Heikki Kovalainen doing it the right way. It was neither of our faults, it just bottlenecked up.

Sure enough, the race video clearly shows Takuma Sato and both Spyker drivers cutting Sainte Devote at the start. Both Sato and Christijan Albers gained position over Davidson by doing this.

Clearly under the rules both should have been ordered to relinquish the positions. Just because it happened on the first lap and just because the battle was at the back, not the front, of the grid, doesn’t mean anyone should get let off.

Regarding his penalty Davidson said:

I think I’m an intelligent racer, and I know when I’m holding someone up. And I clearly wasn’t, because when he overtook me I caught him back on. So the guy was not faster than me, and I wasn’t holding him up.

It might sound a little far-fetched for Davidson to argue that his Super Aguri, which he qualified 17th, was at that stage as quick as Massa’s Ferrari, which started third.

But Massa had recently made a pit stop and changed onto the less durable ‘super soft’ rubber, and his lap times had dropped off. Massa was also carrying more fuel than Davidson, who had yet to stop. Their lap times leading up to Davidson’s penalty were:

Lap Anthony Davidson Felipe Massa
32 1:17.942 1:17.519
33 1:17.865 1:17.941
34 1:17.806 1:17.636
35 1:19.864* 1:17.617

*Davidson let Massa past on lap 35.

Nor is it the case that Massa’s laptimes dropped before this interval – his times were consistent.

It’s difficult to have much faith in the governance of F1 when the racing rules are not being consistently applied from the front to the back of the field.

Making a judgement on the spur of the moment about when a backmarker has held up another driver is difficult. But ignoring the fact that two drivers cut the course at the start of the race when they had been warned not to is really sloppy.

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14 comments on Bad rule calls screwed Davidson’s race

  1. Number 38 said on 30th May 2007, 15:22

    Nice homework Keith, they say the clock doesn’t lie and the four laps times offered certainly confirm Davidson wasn’t “holding-up” Massa but in so many cases it’s not what one is doing but rather what one EXPECTS should be the case. Massa SHOULD be faster even when he’s not. You’ve brought out a good example of a situation at the rear of the field but let me bring some attention to the front of the field, namely the two McLaren cars/drivers. The flap here is not so much about ‘team orders’ but rather about what was EXPECTED to happen, after all the media hype everywhere was “Hamilton had never lost at Monaco”, Hammy may have wanted to keep the slogan going and many thought he SHOULD win, one headline stated he was “cheated” of his win, but I ask “What WIN?” In the first place both cars are McLarens, McLaren (team) was going to get 18 points no matter what order they finished, Ron Dennis’ concern was that they not take each other out in some foolish display for the cameras. Furthermore I might ask viewers to watch the last 10 laps more closely, Hammy was getting ragged, even if he didn’t take out Alonso he may still have blown his own chances and then the media would REALLY have something to write about!!!
    I don’t care what is said in the media, the outcome was correct!
    But a day or two later and now Bernie has picked up a scent in the air, maybe this is an opportunity to dock McLaren a bit and keep the championship standings closer, Ferrari and Kimi are slipping, hence keep the interest up. Afterall there’s nothing like a good scandel to keep’em coming back.

  2. Simon Stiel said on 30th May 2007, 16:12

    Sorry to bother you again but where did you find the video showing Sato and Albers cutting St Devote at the start?

    Your help is really appreciated.

  3. I’d recorded the race when it was broadcast. On the live footage that ITV broadcast you can see it happened in the background as the leaders come up the hill towards Massenet.

  4. “I’d recorded the race when it was broadcast.”

    that may be true, but it’s sounds like you got all of this info from The Chequered Flag podcast, methinks you should credit your sources more :)

  5. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 30th May 2007, 20:33

    In all honestly I can say I’ve never heard the Chequered Flag podcast – every time I paste the link into my player it doesn’t work!

    I saw the piece on Speed TV and had a look at the video myself. Hand on heart.

  6. oh. apologies, i stand corrected. only i just finished listening to the podcast and Ant said almost exactly what you wrote, in exactly that order.

    maybe Speed TV heard it? i’ll go and berate them instead.

    ignore me and keep up the good work!

  7. i find the Chequered Flag works okay in iTunes, it does seem to have issues coming directly from the beebs own site.

    it’s worth a listen, always some good comments contained within.

  8. This is a typical case of the race stewards in any location focusing their attention upon the front of the field. And I agree with Number 38 that expectations appear to have a lot to do with the stewards’ perceptions (I would argue that this is the case for people’s perception in general, but then again stewards are supposed to be above that…) Anthony has a very good point there, and I would have expected a penalty. Quite what punishment can be meted out to a pair of DNFed Spykers at this stage is a mystery, but Takuma could surely have been given a time penalty if the problem was only discovered post-race. Ideally, these things would be picked up as they happen, but this isn’t an ideal world…

    However, the times you have given for Anthony Davidson and Felipe Massa do not indicate that Felipe Massa wasn’t held up – only that he held station with Anthony. Since the flag marshals do not differentiate between holding station and faster-car-behind when waving blue flags, then the blue flags were waved correctly so far as convention is concerned. The punishment Anthony got wasn’t for holding Felipe up – it was for ignoring blue flags. Watching the flags is an important part of being a racing driver, and unfortunately Ant has learned this the hard way – moral right doesn’t help with regulatory right.

  9. Number 38 said on 30th May 2007, 22:49

    A word from someone who’s been there…….about blue flags.
    Like so many things in F1 definitions get altered in practice from what is in print.
    When a blue flag is waved at a race driver it is only a WARNING to look in your mirror, it is not an ORDER to do anything. The responsibilty of any action is between the signaled car and the following car which many of us call the slower car and the faster car and for some reason we all expect the slower car to merely get out of the way, TOO many F1 drivers have that attitude also. In the Davidson/Massa situation, Massa was ‘heavy’ on ‘soft’ tyres, Davidson was near empty on hard tyres and both were lapping in identical times. If you’re a steward the PERCEPTION is Massa’s Ferrari must be the faster car and the instinct is to WARN Davidson, no harm in that except, but Massa didn’t have the margin in performance to pass Davidson. Davidson knew this but the stewards didn’t. In penalizing Davidson the stewards were in essence telling him to give up his position. As Davidson was then running something like 17th it was not a big deal but what if he were running 8th and got that penalty, same conditions, Massa did not have the margin to pass, and the stewards drop Davidson from a points paying position. Isn’t that “interfering with a race result”? Food for thought.

  10. The blue flag business is yet another example of rules being changed because overtaking is so difficult in F1 these days. The new rule states that a driver not reacting to three waved blue flags (presumably meaning not letting the car behind through) will be penalised. They waved the flags, Davidson did not let Massa through – end of story.

    What is wrong is the rule – it gives too much weight to the interpretation of the marshals. We have seen often enough how marshals’ view of the race can be affected by partisanship and they are more likely to wave a blue early for a driver they like. At the beginning of the season, there was talk of coloured lights being fitted to the cars to indicate blues, yellows, etc. What happened to that? It’s possible that such a system, centrally-controlled, could produce a fairer result than the arbitrary decisions of a few marshals. Flag-waving is a bit of an anachronism anyway and I sympathise with those drivers who have claimed not to have seen flags waved. Their concentration must necessarily be elsewhere during a race.

    As for the Spykers and Sato at the first corner, the offence is quite clear and was missed by the marshals. I don’t know what can be done about it now but it’s something that should be looked at for next year’s race.

  11. Anthony was getting updates from his team over the radio about Massa’a progress. When Massa got within 1.7 seconds behind him, Anthony was just getting ready to move over for Massa when he got closer to him, when the penalty was issued!

  12. Oh, I’m not arguing over whether the penalty was fair or not – in fact I think the marshals waved their flags far too early. But the fact is they did wave them and Davidson, bearing in mind the irrationality of official decisions these days, could have saved himself a drive-through penalty by just slowing and letting Massa through. Unfair, but realistic.

  13. Mike H. said on 3rd June 2007, 12:54

    I will hold my hands up and state that I missed the race on Sunday, but can someone confirm if blue flags were actually shown to Davidson, and if so, did he get the recommended three before the penalty was imposed?

    In all of the tean/driver commnets read so far, I have not found one that refers to the actual waving of a blue flag as a warning..?

  14. The rule is that five blue flags must be waved before a penalty is issued; however the cameras were not sufficiently focused on Davidson to tell how many flags were issued.

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