Two sides to the Hamilton-Trulli controversy: Another avoidable crisis

Race Control could have resolved the problem in seconds, not days

Race Control could have resolved the problem in seconds, not days

Radio conversations have shown that in the moments after Lewis Hamilton overtook Jarno Trulli in the Australian Grand Prix McLaren’s first concern was to ensure they had not broken any rules.

The responsibility for the controversy that ensued lies as much with the FIA and the stewards as it does McLaren.

Race control

Here’s how Martin Whitmarsh explained the discussion on the McLaren pitwall after Hamilton had overtaken Trulli:

As soon as that happened, we then spoke to Race Control, to explain that and ask if we could retake that place. At the time, understandably Race Control was busy and they were not able to give us an answer. We asked several times, but clearly they were very busy. So we had to then deal with it.

It is doubtful a controversy quite as unnecessary as the one we have just experienced in F1 could happen in sports like Indy Car or NASCAR.

Why? Because they have established the practice of using race control to resolve queries like this to minimise changes to the race order after the chequered flag.

If a driver appears in the wrong position during a safety car period, they don’t wait until after the race to shuffle the order around. And they certainly don’t do it by handing out an arbitrary time penalty that bears no relation to the severity of the infraction, as Jarno Trulli originally experienced.

They use common sense. They radio the teams, tell them to swap their drivers around, and the job is done quickly and painlessly.

After the Spa controversy last year Max Mosley made it known that teams should not consult race control (in the form of race director Charlie Whiting, mentioned in the McLaren transcripts) on such matters.

This is a mistake. By denying teams the opportunity to sort out problems with Race Control quickly Mosley is dooming F1 to suffer a cycle of scandal after scandal.

Indy Car run races on tracks comparable in length to F1 venues, with more cars. If they can use race control to resolves problems like this quickly, F1 can too. And it must.

Evidence and rules

This weekend we saw the first signs of the FIA’s promises to make the stewarding process more transparent in 2009. There were some obvious improvements: radio broadcasts and transcripts were published on the FIA’s website.

But there is much room for improvement as well. Not least the fact it took until four days after the race for this material to appear.

The reasoning for some of the decisions were woefully thin. Sebastian Vettel was handed a penalty because “caused a collision and forced a driver off the track”. There are no details why he was the one considered responsible. It later emerged FIA steward Alan Donnelly took him to one side at Malaysia and explained the reasons in greater detail, but the public has not been given this information.

The FIA have made some improvements to how they communicate their stewards’ decisions and it is appreciated. But far more is needed than these cosmetic changes. We need clearer and more explicit rules for driving standards and far greater detail given in the reasoning behind decisions.

But more than anything else, someone needs to see sense and start using Race Control to avoid minor misunderstandings needlessly spiralling into something that damages F1’s credibility.

With that, assuming there are no major developments in the Hamilton-Trulli story this weekend, let’s get back to the racing.

Read the first part of this post: Two sides to the Hamilton-Trulli controversy: Hamilton apologises

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62 comments on Two sides to the Hamilton-Trulli controversy: Another avoidable crisis

  1. Simon said on 3rd April 2009, 14:25

    Things stand as they should now, but it took too long and Mclaren should have had an answer from race control, to tell them to concede the place or otherwise, then there’s no issue at all. Good post Keith, the FIA could do far worse than listen to your points!

  2. Well it’s all a big joke really, Bernie, Max, the FIA, the Stewards and consequently Formula One.

    With a clear and comprehensive set of rules, which F1 blatantly lacks as is evident from the diffuser row, all of this could have been avoided.

    Who knows what the logic behind Max & Bernie’s stupidity is.

    • I would never accuse Max or Bernie of stupidity; they are way too bright/devious for that. It is us who can be accused of it by getting emotionally and intellectually involved in their power game and overlook the bigger picture. A race or 2 on their own is neither here nor there – but the TV contracts,money, commercial deals and lording over the peasant team owners is probably far more satisfying to these misguided egos.

    • I guess that it depends on what you would class as stupid.

  3. pSynrg said on 3rd April 2009, 14:37

    I think the only thing really missing here is transparency.

    A clear communication about everything that was said by anyone regarding post race decisions. Not just a few sound bites and quotations.
    Minutes of every meeting and the rationale behind the judgements and penalties.

    A lot of clarity on what race control actually represents. Or do they only have three buttons in that room (we got a shot of it during Melbourne, complete with fat ***** someone lolling about on a chair uninterested in proceedings – I have pictures!) Green (everyone us moving ok), Yellow (someone may not be moving), Red (someone has become immovable).

  4. Erico said on 3rd April 2009, 14:44

    Its very very sad to see two British citizen (Bernie and Max) working soo hard for the downfall of a fellow british citizen (Hamilton) and team (Mclaren) .

  5. Point taken, BUT, why lie?
    Sorry, but by answering NO to the question, meant that Trulli was penalised for nothing…please dont forget that.
    Mclaren(2 Mclaren ppl)lied.
    Did Mclaren highlight this to FIA….NO
    After a week mulling it over….its a disgrace..really

  6. ERICO…catch a grip!

  7. Kanyima said on 3rd April 2009, 14:50

    In a sport as fast-paced as F1 where even a few hundredth of a second can mean so much, it reflects prodigiously gross on the FIA for using such Neanderthal problem solving techniques as post-race investigations. One would think they would try to get in tune with the demands of the sport and resolve problems as fast as possible. Failure to do that, at least they should try. IN most of the recent F1 scandals, nothing has shown us that they FIA has eagerly sought to resolve a problem with the urgency that we F1 lovers would like to see. For this reason, we will continue to suffer at the hands of a bunch of idiots (not my first choice word)until the organisation realises they have absolutely failed to do their job and change the system completely to reflect a sport as sophisticated and fast-paced as Formula One.

    • Agree completely but the suggestion would not help our Emperor Max to guide/bully teams into submission !! Note the frightened tone of LH and pit wall radio comm.

  8. Captain Caveman said on 3rd April 2009, 14:55

    I am not really a Lewis fan, but that aside I would have to say that his apology did seem sincere. (although he only apologised because he got caught)

    But the fact is that he still lied or at least misled with the knowledge that someone else (innocent) was going to be penalised.

    He still went of his way to not tell the complete truth. The fact that he was told to do so is no excuse, he has his own opinion and strength of character.

    What it raises to me, is that now everyone is questioning… was this the first time? What did happen the season before last (Hungary and Monaco). When he wants to represent himself he can.

    I might be wrong, but I am sure this will take some time for him to lose the tag of a liar, in the same way as Kimi is lazy, Alonso moody and Senna great

  9. Clare msj said on 3rd April 2009, 15:14

    I think that the stewards made the right decisions, and were right to re-open the case, even if it was a couple of days late – they realised their mistake and rectified it – i think that is something that should be applauded, because, without appeal, these things dont usually ever get changed!

    My problem is that it took so long to come to light in the first place. Yes they had misleading evidence, but why did it take until Wednesday after the race for this ‘new’ evidence – part of which was Hamiltons post race interview and the radio transmissions, all of which were available in the public domain relatively quickly after the race, let alone to the stewards – to be discovered. They should have been much more thorough in the first place. They werent helped by Mclaren and Hamilton though.

  10. mp4-19 said on 3rd April 2009, 15:16

    News just coming in that the legendary director stephen speilberg has plans to make a multi-million(perphaps to the tune of 100 million $ ) movie. The new movie is titled LIAR LIAR II. Lewis ‘liar’ hamilton replaces Jim Carrey in the lead role. Vodafone r supposedly funding the entire movie. The movie also features ron dennis as one of lewis’ co-actor. Rowan atkinson is supposedly to be writing hamiltons script. The movie is to be made in a record time. It is set to release during the british g.p. P.S. I SWEAR ON THE FIA’s CODE OF CONDUCT BOOK THAT THE ABOVE MENTIONED FACT IS TRU(LLI)E.

  11. trip123 said on 3rd April 2009, 15:18

    IMO… The real issue is with the shortcomings of Race Control/FIA and their inadequacy to provide clear rules/quick decisions during a race.

    To pin the blame on the teams is diversionary. This racing and not a court of law.

    Drivers are best at racing. That’s what they do. I would look elsewhere, not F1, if I was looking for examples of high moral standards.

    Let the teams/drivers Race.
    Let this continue to remain a sport.

  12. BaKano said on 3rd April 2009, 15:40

    I haven’t read all the comments, so I might be saying something repeated.

    Of course it is completely stupid to wait so much time to take a decision on something so trivial as a mis-placed driver.
    When the SC car comes out, overtaking is prohibited even if cars have not queued behind the SC car, correct? So if at next lap, there is a change of positions, the stewards should take an immediate action! They could talk to the teams asking what happened and giving an order, like “hold positions” or let someone else retake its spot.
    Of course if something odd or different information came at the time, they would have to take a decision later. But this was something that everyone was aware at the time, Lewis passed Trulli and then Trulli passed back, without having acces to all the telemetry and othr communication the stewards (or race control) have, that its just plain silly that it takes all this time, and they take one decision then another…

  13. Oliver said on 3rd April 2009, 15:42

    The FIA is publishing the teams transcripts which are already open to all. What we need to see are the FIA’s transcripts, the questions they ask and the answers, and the personnel asking the questions. That is the true TRANSPARENCY.

  14. James Allen revealed on his f1 blog that there are no minutes kept of stewards meetings. This is a pretty shocking revelation for a sport that teams spend billions on.

    Until there is an amendment to this (lack of) policy how can the F.I.A ever deliver on their promise of transparency for Stewards decisions?

  15. gilgen said on 3rd April 2009, 16:13

    I think Whitmarsh is in a damage limitation mode now. He should know the rules and should not have to ask Whiting for advice. Anyway, he was not supposed to contact Whiting, so he was a fault there as well! But the main issue here is that Hamilton was told to lie. Just shows the strength of his character that he agreed to do just that!

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