20 day wait for Raikkonen’s title confirmation

Comment

Kimi Raikkonen, Felipe Massa, Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 2007 | Ferrari MediaThe watching world will have to endure a 20 day wait to learn whether Kimi Raikkonen really has won the 2007 world drivers’ championship.

To me this seems an unacceptably long amount of time to wait for such an important decision. Howls of criticism have been hurled at McLaren for choosing to appeal, but I think the real villains here are the FIA and stewards for taking so long.

Waiting

Appeals against the results of races are nothing new. The most celebrated such case concerned the Ferraris of Eddie Irvine and Michael Schumacher in the 1999 Malaysian Grand Prix. Initially disqualified (making McLaren’s Mika Hakkinen world champion) they were later reinstated, and the championship was decided at the subsequent Japanese Grand Prix.

On that occasion the FIA mobilised itself quickly enough to hear the appeal in the two-week gap between the two races. This year the appeal against the finishing positions of the Williams and BMW cars in the Brazilian race will take place 25 days after the chequered flag fell.

Of course the court’s first priority is to arrive at the correct verdict. But there is no reason to believe the matter is being delayed to ensure the accuracy of the verdict by waiting for all the evidence to come to light. It seems the extent of the evidence is already available.

The court of appeal was originally scheduled to meet next week to hear the case between Williams and Prodrive over the use of customer cars (which is also pressing and due a resolution). Why can the Brazilian GP enquiry not be heard in this now-vacant slot?

Many argue that it would be injurious to the reputation of Formula 1 for the championship to be decided in a court room. I certainly agree with that point of view. But it is just as bad that there will be such a long wait to see the matter resolved.

Are McLaren right to appeal?

Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton, Interlagos, 2007 | Ferrari MediaAnother popular sentiment is that McLaren are being bad losers by appealing. They can’t win on the track, the argument goes, so they’re trying to win with lawyers.

It’s easy to see things that way especially at the end of another season scarred by controversy. But McLaren aren’t doing anything wrong.

The rules are clear and it seems that two teams broke them. The reaction of the Brazilian Grand Prix stewards to dismiss the case on the grounds of insufficient evidence might seem to some an attempt to dodge the issue on a technicality.

But this is not like accidentally using an extra set of wet weather tyres in non-qualifying practice – four cars might have gained a performance advantage by using fuel that was several degrees cooler than their rivals’ throughout a race. Whether that statement is true or false I cannot say – but it behoves the FIA to make sure.

McLaren has said that, “it does not question the integrity of either the BMW or Williams teams,” suggesting it feels the discrepancy was simply a mistake and not an attempt to gain a performance advantage.

How can McLaren appeal?

Writing in the Autosport.com journal Thomas O’Keefe argued that McLaren’s right to appeal might be rejected on various technicalities.

However the admission of the case to the appeal court would seem to set those issues aside. At any rate, denying McLaren the right to appeal against a decision that might have cost one of their drivers the world championship might not reflect well on the sport.

How will McLaren appeal?

On the face of it the smart money is against McLaren winning the appeal. But this season has been anything but predictable, and McLaren might be able to use their own expertise to transform what looks like a lost cause into a very difficult decision for the appeal court.

Whatever conspiracy theory nonsense has been devised about the FIA favouring Lewis Hamilton, there is no way the sport’s governing body will want to change the identity of the champion after the final race. It would be unprecedented and potentially even worse for F1’s reputation than the ‘spying’ scandal.

But this is not an appeal against Raikkonen’s championship victory. The question before the court is whether four cars (three of which finished in front of Hamilton’s) broke the FIA Technical Regulations article 6.5.4:

No fuel on board the car may be more than ten degrees centigrade below ambient temperature.

There are two key grounds for dispute. First the accuracy of the FIA’s track temperature may be disputed. The FIA put the temperate in the low sixties, but Bridgestone’s thermometers put it in the high forties.

McLaren may point to the fact that every other teams’ fuel was in line with the FIA’s figures, and that on past occasions when these figures have appeared incorrect the FIA have instructed the team to adjust that figure. No such order was given at Interlagos.

Nico Rosberg, Robert Kubica, Interlagos, 2007 | Andrew Ferraro / LAT PhotographicThe second potential dispute concerns how hot the fuel in the car actually was. BMW and Williams were first investigated because the temperature of the fuel in their refuelling equipment was found to be too low. But would it have been sufficiently high once it had been transferred to their cars?

McLaren might be able to show from their own experience that the fuel would not have been heated to the correct minimum temperature by the act of transferring it into their car.

Much has been made of two supposed precedents that point to different outcomes. When the fuel in Mika Hakkinen’s McLaren was found not to match a reference sample he was disqualified and the drivers who finished behind him promoted in the points standings.

But two years earlier when a similar thing happened to Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard in the Brazilian Grand Prix, both drivers kept their points and their teams lost theirs.

Neither of these cases, however, were to do with fuel temperature.

Further action

The worst possible outcome would be one that leads to a further appeal – particularly if any party chooses to involve a higher authority.

It’s not likely, but with the championship at stake who’s to say this sorry mess might not drag on even longer?

Photos: Ferrari Media | Ferrari Media | Andrew Ferraro / LAT Photographic

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26 comments on 20 day wait for Raikkonen’s title confirmation

  1. My guess is that BMW and Williams will be excluded from the Brazilian GP. But Hamilton will not be bumped upto 4th place. The FIA reserve the right to do this, and in the interest of the championship, it would be the best decision.

  2. nick clews said on 27th October 2007, 18:12

    I believe that Mclaren have done the right thing appealing for this. Although Raikkonen has had a terrific season this year hamilton deserves to win the title. Basically when raikkonen was second in the race hamilton only had to get 7th place to win the title. but massa let him pass. This means that raikkinen never really won the race it was massa and if massa had won the race which he would of hamilton would of won the title. Also for williams and Bmw it is not one that they are cheating the rules.

  3. Robert McKay said on 27th October 2007, 18:16

    “My guess is that BMW and Williams will be excluded from the Brazilian GP. But Hamilton will not be bumped upto 4th place. The FIA reserve the right to do this, and in the interest of the championship, it would be the best decision.”

    I’ll be surprised if that happens. It would very much look like, intentional or not, that the FIA were finding any and every way to stop Mclaren winning the championship. From a PR point of view that kind of ruling would be disastrous, regardless of whether it was fairest or not. And anyway I’m not sure how it would square with other teams, too – Red Bull sitting in 9th with DC would surely be just as annoyed that two teams ahead of them were excluded but that they had effectively “blocked” RBR from points, etc. Plus, when you look at other situations, e.g. Canada (can’t remember the year, 2005?) when Williams and Toyota were removed from points scoring positions because their brake ducts were a tiny bit too big and everyone else moved up, again does not square.

    If (and it’s a big if, given Max has already made up his mind that there’s nothing to answer for) there is a penalty, then I expect either the drivers points will stand but the WCC points will not for BMW/Williams, or there will be no loss of points but some sort of fine to pay.

  4. SoLiD said on 27th October 2007, 18:43

    they won’t dare to give hamilton the title… that’s for sure.
    And yes McLaren’s appeal is normal, if it was midseason, nobody would say a damn thing! As it’s the right thing to do.
    If they did have some horse powers extra because of this, it could have costed Lewis the championship! Cause for a car that has been frozen for some time the bmw and williams went really good.

  5. Those other punishments look just as okay, McKay.

    As long as they don’t make Hamilton champion, which will create uproars across the board, and disillusion many many fans, the punishment won’t matter.

    My solution is one of a last resort, and using it won’t be good PR, but trust me – making Hamilton champion because of this incident will be alot worse, even if McLaren has gone through too much this year…

  6. Wesley said on 27th October 2007, 20:37

    @ nick clews

    I agree that the final Brazil race result was not possible without the help of Massa or bad luck within the McLaren camp but,Kimi deserves the title more at the end of the season because he was right there with them in the points even after 2 DNFs and,he won the most races overall.

  7. This will not affect the driving championship. Much like the Spygate rendering a “proper” result is one where the drivers keep the points but the teams do not. This will benefit McLaren in that they will get more constructors points which means their record fine will be a little less.

    Max Moronsly and the FIA are a complete joke. Rules enforced at will by untrained, unprofessional people.

  8. Barood said on 27th October 2007, 21:41

    Lets hope this doesn’t affect the drivers c’ship…. I am sure no one (read Hamilton) would like to become champion like this.

    Let’s hope all this 2007 season mess gets over soon.

  9. oliver said on 27th October 2007, 21:57

    The FIA did not hesitate in causing Mclaren great pain and embarrassment this season. I thus see no reason why Mclaren should not cause them some likewise. Lets not forget, it wasnt Mclaren who made noise out of the whole temperature issue, rather it was the FIA appointed race stewards. For them to now try and hide it under the carpet is rather pathetic.

    To me, let Kimi keep the title, but let the FIA have a red face. Well its red anyway, I mean Ferrari red.

  10. Tut tut oliver never the old fia bias towards ferrari – didnt they get allowed to supply 2 customers engines instead of the regulation one l only? – plus red face or not (how apt a frase – no one involved is going to face a fine as bad as mclaren’s – williams would be bust straight off!!!

  11. Number 38 said on 28th October 2007, 0:27

    For the benefit of “SoLiD” and any others who think the ‘cool fuel’ gives more HORSEPOWER, hence more PERFORMANCE let me assure you it doesn’t. In fact a case could be made for the opposite. Chilling the fuel contracts it’s volume, in others words during a stop one car may take on 30 litres at ambient temperature and the car taking on chilled fuel might get 31 litres. The cost and benefit are obvious, more weight but more distance. Frankly the numbers are so small I don’t understand why this is even an issue except that some one complicated the REGS and now we end up with this mess. At the instant of combustion, ‘fuel temp’ is idealy the same in every engine. McLaren are making fools of themselves by appealing and the FIA will likely make BIGGER fools of themselves with a strange decision. Welcome to F1.

  12. openwheelfan said on 28th October 2007, 2:04

    Number 38 — a rule is still a rule. The winner of the last race should have been Massa. If Massa did not let Kimi finished P 2 Hamilton would have needed P 7 to win. Look I don’t believe in taking the championship from Kimi but the rules are the rules. I am glad that I am not a steward this week.

  13. Journeyer said on 28th October 2007, 5:05

    openwheelfan – Are we really sure Massa would have won that race on pace? Although we do know Ferrari have a history of team orders, that was back in the Schumi era. In this post-Schumi era, both Kimi and Felipe had a shot at the title all the way to Fuji. In fact, many of us were saying that if Kimi were to lose the title, it would be partly due to lack of team orders in the 1st half of the season. As for Interlagos, Felipe had a bit of an excursion around a lap or two which brought Kimi right to Felipe’s rear wing before Kimi pitted for the final stop. Whether that was intentional or not, there’s no way for us to prove it was a team order. I’m not saying they did it or didn’t do it. It’s just that they’re innocent unless proven guilty on that count.

    alan – from what I understand, none of the other teams had a problem with Ferrari supplying 2 teams. They did that this year already and no one complained.

    keith – a correction: But two years earlier when a similar thing happened to Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard in the Belgian Grand Prix, both drivers kept their points and their teams lost theirs. – this actually happened in Interlagos, not in Spa, back in 1995. Ironically, it ****** off Ferrari, who would’ve taken the race win with Berger had the drivers also been excluded.

  14. Daniel said on 28th October 2007, 6:40

    I know it’s not the main point but, anyway, I have to tell it…

    I heard FIA measured the air temperature as 37ºc… I was in São Paulo that weekend (I watched Qualifying, at the M sector, the covered grandstands at the end of the pit straight, in front of Spyker’s garage, close to Williams’, and I was less than 10 miles away from Interlagos on Sunday) and I can assure you it wasn’t hotter than 34ºc…

    From what I heard, there was a big controversy about the real ambient temperature, and that would be another obstacle for McLaren’s appeal…

    As many of you said, after “spygate”, when Hamilton and Alonso had clear benefits for the data stolen from Ferrari, but only the team was punished, It would be the supreme incoherence punishing Rosberg, Kubica and Heidfeld for a minor, probably non intentional violation of the rules by their teams…

    I’m sure Hamilton deserves to be champion on the track (even though China and Brazil showed he’s a “genius-in-the-making”, but still very much “in-the-making”), not in a courtroom…

  15. Mamzee said on 28th October 2007, 7:36

    I’ve been following F1 for the past twenty five years (if not more), never have I witnessed such a chaotic championship. I must admit, I’m a Ferrari Fan, and it’s not up to me to judge, but if I had to be asked for an opinion, I can only come to one conclusion, BAD MANAGEMENT on the part of Mc.Laren. We can blame whoever we want, but, I am sure that if the Management of Mc.Laren used their brain and not their hearts, this year a Mc.Laren driver (and by that, I mean Alonso) would be world champion. Hats off to HAMILTON, a great and memorable year, ending with a bad taste, I must say, Louis is still young and as Sir Jackie Steward said, he will eventually become a world champion. A year to forget for mighty ALONSO, in spite of what he has gone through, he finished second together with Louis, well done Fernando, I’m sure you’ll be in a better position next year. The credits have all got to go to the Cavallo Rampante (the Prancing Horse), Ferrari managed the team wisely and calmly, at times they had crises, but shrewdly they came from behind and took what they believed belonged to them, both the Construction Champions and Drivers Champions and they did that with their technology. The rest is rhetoric.

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