20 day wait for Raikkonen’s title confirmation

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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. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 28th October 2007, 10:48

    Thanks Journeyer, fixed.

  2. oliver said on 28th October 2007, 13:14

    Mamzee:

    Two races to go, Hamilton was 12 points ahead of Alonso, and the conventional wisdom was that it was the safest bet to support the driver with the greater possibility of winning the drivers championship.
    Alonso was still within a mathematical possibility of also winning, but his chances were more dependent on luck than his own performance.

    When Ferrari got to a similar point, they directed all focus to a single driver. Mclaren on the other hand, decided to give Alonso an opportunity to win it aswell. Alonso was never goin to play a team game, he wanted the win for himself.

    His constant accussations against Mclaren, forced them to continue to dilute their driver support. The net beneficiary was Ferrari.

    Recently Luca De Montezemolo was singing Alonso’s praise, and rebuking Hamilton. Yet he went ahead and signed Massa for another 3 years.
    Do you for one moment believe, he would sign Alonso at the risk of distroying the Harmony that exists in that team? Thats the same reason he was not signed up earlier to replace M. Schumacher, because it was felt he talked too much.

    It is not also in Ferrari’s interest, to help rid Mclaren of a liability, that Alonso has become. Ferrari has realized, that as long as Alonso remains in Mclaren, the instability generated, will be to their benefit. BMW realize that also. For quite some time, BMW kept on delaying, Nick’s contract, with the hope of signing on Alonso. Immediately they saw he would be a liabilty they quickly gave Nick his contract.

  3. carlos said on 28th October 2007, 13:37

    “His constant accussations against Mclaren, forced them to continue to dilute their driver support. ”

    Then, the victim forced McLaren.

    Fine.

  4. oliver said on 28th October 2007, 17:50

    Carlos,

    I used the word “continue” meaning they had always given both drivers equal opportunities and still maintained that policy when it was not in the interest of the team. Ferrari on the other hand, had switched to backing Kimi from about mid season.

    The victim eventually was Mclaren. And if you hear what Pedro has to say about it all, you will really question the state of mind of Alonso

  5. carlos said on 28th October 2007, 19:06

    McLaren was victim of their own mistakes, I think all of us agree in this point. The doubts come about the treatment that Alonso received from McLaren. Pedro(working for McLaren) has an opinion, and many others (Montoya, Briatore, Montezemolo and a very long list ) have a very different opinion.

    If you want to talk about the state of mind of the people, you can do it,(it seems you have direct line with the mind of Alonso, as well as the thoughts of Montezemolo and the BMW team), but I think it drives to nowhere, and for me the 2007 season is done and over.

    The appeal of McLaren is ridiculous, it has been a disastrous year for them, and they are finishing it in the worst way, I am very surprised about Ron Dennis, he had a double champion and a rookie, and he gives preference to the unexperienced one, all the team does know rumours about the Ferrari documents but Dennis says he does not know anything, Hamilton accuses Alonso in Hungary and Dennis is not able to control this…well, I want not to go on, again 2007 season is over.

    I try to be so neutral as possible, but it is not easy to say something good about McLaren in this season, much less about their “equality” to the drivers. I wish them good luck for the next year, but this year, the fate has given what they have deserved.

  6. AmericanTifosi said on 28th October 2007, 21:12

    Excuse my ignorance but what advantage would Williams and BMW gain from using colder fuel? Would it simply keep the engine cooler or is there another atvantage? And if, as McLaren says, they didn’t do it on purpose, how on earth could they control faulty fuel temp during a race? What on the car could break that would cause a feul temp drop? And what if something on the car simply broke midway or there was a flawed part of the car? Could the FIA punish them for something breaking?

  7. Cooler fuel is denser, so the car could be refuelled faster, as well as more fuel fitting into the fuel tank. It is unlikely that anything in the car would break to cause a fuel drop, since F1 cars generally don’t carry active cooling units. You’d have to be really careful not to overstretch the tank, though. Even if the in-car cooling failed, it is unlikely that the FIA would have known, because as far as I can make out the measurement is made as the fuel enters the car. And yes, the FIA can punish a team for something breaking. How else could they disqualify Michael Schumacher for damaging his wooden floor at Spa 1994?

  8. Michael K said on 29th October 2007, 13:16

    I do have to say, the Pro-Mclaren guys should start researching their facts before making these kind of statements about how the FIA rules are Pro-Ferrari, how Ferrari supposedly switched to backing Kimi mid-season, etc… Most of it isn’t true and just polemic. I’m too lazy today to correct them.

  9. oliver said on 29th October 2007, 17:31

    Micheal:

    Watch for the Ferrari pit stops when Kimi is car is given 2 or 3 laps more fuel than Massa.

  10. Daniel said on 29th October 2007, 21:21

    I don’t think Ferrari is supporting Kimi since mid-season, but certainly since Massa was out of contention, they had a clear number one, for obvious reasons, and McLaren would do the same… 2007 wasn’t like when Rubens and Michael were teammates and since the first race the whole time focus’ was Schumacher…

    Yes, not only Kimi stood longer on the track, but Massa, on Raikkonen’s out lap, was 2 seconds lower than unsual, according to a brazilin journalist who investigated it on the timesheets

  11. CS Khew said on 16th November 2007, 10:45

    Let’s be fair to Raikonen; he has displayed humility throughout the season and let his racing do the talking. In the last race, it was his fantastic lap times for 3 laps which enabled him to take the lead at the last pitstop of Massa. Massa may seem to allow Raikonen the lead; but it isn’t so. Further, no one seem to appreciate that Raikonen won the most races; he was nowhere earlier in the lead for the championship because he does not moan because of Ferrari’s lack of reliability at the early stages. Further, I also note that there were no recollection that McLaren did not, or could not even win a race in 2006; and all of a sudden in 2007 begin to do so. I am glad for the finality in the spygate issue.

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