Stewards take hard line on turn one

Behind Grosjean, H???lkenberg and Petrov are side-by-side

The stewards at the Monaco Grand Prix have set an important precedent ahead of Sunday’s Grand Prix by giving eight GP2 drivers 25-second penalties for cutting the first corner on lap one.

The tough penalty has played havoc with the finishing order of this morning’s feature race. Lucas di Grassi, Nico Hulkenberg, Javier Villa, Roldan Rodriguez, Edoardo Mortara, Luca Filippi, Kamui Kobayashi and Dani Clos all had 25 seconds retroactively added to their race finishing times.

Among other changes, di Grassi was relegated from third to fourth, H???lkenberg from fourth to fifth, and Javier Villa lost eighth place (and, with it, pole position for tomorrow’s sprint race).

The ruling is surprising for a number of reasons:

Although all the transgressions took place on the first lap, the penalties were not handed down until after the race.

At past Monaco Grands Prix stewards have conspicuously failed to penalise drivers for gaining an advantage by cutting the first corner. Two years ago Takuma Sato and Christijan Albers passed Anthony Davidson at the start by cutting the first corner, and went unpunished.

On this occasion it does not seem as though all the drivers implicated gained advantages by cutting the corner.

Autosport’s write-up of the story quotes Andreas Zuber saying: “I think Nico [H???lkenberg] took advantage because I was already side-by-side with him.” It certainly did not look that way from the video I saw of the race and the picture above shows H???lkenberg side-by-side with Vitaly Petrov, not Zuber.

Since the barriers at the inside of Ste Devote were removed six years ago we have seen fewer first-lap accidents at the corner but also more instances of corner-cutting. It seems to me that if a driver cuts a corner there is no need to punish him unless he gains an advantage.

And if he does gain by cutting the corner, the correct punishment should be to yield that advantage back, not an arbitrary 25-second penalty which makes a mockery of the finishing order of the race.

Once again the FIA’s race management procedures is found badly wanting. This problem isn’t confined to F1, it happens in other championships too.

There will be no uproar on this occasion because it ‘only’ involves GP2 drivers. But it could just as easily happen again with an F1 driver (probably Lewis Hamilton) and it’ll be ‘Spa-gate’ all over again

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32 comments on Stewards take hard line on turn one

  1. Filipe said on 22nd May 2009, 16:30

    It was a very clean start and no one take any real advantage. I guess this make a first turn wreck in the F1 race very likely.

  2. PJA said on 22nd May 2009, 16:37

    I really hope the stewards don’t do this sort of thing on Sunday for the Grand Prix.

    Like you say in the article the correct punishment would be to tell the driver who got the advantage to let the other driver through. By penalising drivers for cutting the first corner you increase the chance of crashes as drivers will be reluctant to go off the track to avoid someone else.

    I think overall the F1 stewards are penalising too many incidents these days, a few years ago things that would have been dismissed as a racing incident now get a penalty, Vettel in Australia for example.

    I don’t want to reopen the Fuji 2008 debate but I still don’t understand why Hamilton was punished for what happened at the start when as far as I know no driver was penalised for a first corner incident before. I thought that anything that happened in the first few corners was given extra leeway because of the chaos at the start of a Grand Prix.

  3. persempre said on 22nd May 2009, 16:44

    FIA are fast running out of series to upset.

  4. Dougie said on 22nd May 2009, 17:27

    These drivers at worst should have had a penalty applied during the race, not after it is all finished.

    That aside… At Monaco especially, everyone should be allowed to cut the first corner on the first lap only, thereafter the penalty applies. Basically making the corner wider when the field is bunched and normal again for racing proper.

    • scunnyman said on 22nd May 2009, 17:37

      I totally agree with you Dougie, but i still think 25 second penalties are a bit much.
      As has been said penalties should be given during a race , not after. And how hard would it have been to tell each driver to relinquish the places gained during the race.

    • Filipe said on 22nd May 2009, 17:59

      Actually in this specific case it was better for the drivers to get the penalty later. Di Grassi and Hulkenberg would almost certainly scored zero points had they received a drive through by lap 7 or 8 as everyone was still pretty close at that point and the 8 guys would be at the end of the pack.

    • John H said on 23rd May 2009, 7:11

      That’s true Filpe, but it still should always be better to try and decide the race order on the track, espcially for us spectators.

      @Dougie – this seems like a very sensible strategy for Monaco, I wonder if this has been discussed? Especially with the wide front wings of course.

  5. TommyB said on 22nd May 2009, 17:47

    Watch that and i think I can see why. They didn’t even attempt to make the corner!!

    • Mark Hitchcock said on 22nd May 2009, 18:18

      haha you’re right. It’s fair enough to cut the corner if you’re squeezed or have no-where to go but everyone just seemed to cut it as if that was the racing line…

      Whoever that onboard shot was with near the end of the video shouldn’t have been punished though. Yes he cut the corner, but he didn’t take any advantage from it at all. He lifted and slotted back in behind the guy he was side by side with going into the turn.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 22nd May 2009, 23:12

      Taking Hülkenberg as an example again (because he’s the easiest one to see) I really don’t think he deserved a penalty. He cut the corner to avoid an accident and he didn’t gain an advantage. Perhaps he could have made the corner, but it would have been at the risk of hitting Petrov and potentially causing a serious accident. Is that what the stewards want?

      And as everyone else says, taking until will after the race to decide something like this is crazy.

      So in brief, they took too long coming to a decision and then came up with the wrong one.

  6. F1Yankee said on 22nd May 2009, 18:16

    i’ll argue that an advantage was gained – if they make the corner, they’re at least a car length farther back. those guys didn’t even try to make the corner!

    that said, in a perfect world the correct course of action would be for race control to get on the radio and order the cars into the correct running order, under yellow if necessary. obviously, such world-class racing isn’t available outside of the states ;)

  7. Bigbadderboom said on 22nd May 2009, 18:17

    The stewards must get out of this retrospective punishing, unless there are extraorddinary circumstances the order the cars cross the line should be the final standings.
    The fans are the single most important factor, No fans = No racing, I think the stewards have lost that thought somewhere. The sport needs complate transparency and the only way to achieve that is firstly by ensuring events unfold in front of the audience and not in an FIA stewards office after the race has finished.

    I’m taking my kids to the fair ground next week, will there by an FIA appointed steward watching me drive my son round on the dodgems, it’s the only racing they have’nt screwed with yet!!!

  8. Chaz said on 22nd May 2009, 18:45

    Drivers should give the place back yes, but with such first corner confusion, how about drive through penalties. That will destroy your race but perhaps they will think twice about cutting the corner.

    Does anybody have a link to the whole race as I sadly missed it and really enjoy GP2, or better still do any UK viewers know if it will be repeated on any other channel other than Setanta…

    • Chaz said on 22nd May 2009, 18:47

      Oh and I meant to say I don’t like these punishments after the race as it really spoils things…

    • persempre said on 22nd May 2009, 18:51

      It would have been a drive through as you can see from the series site linked here
      If they have reservations & want to speak to the drivers before reaching a decision they have to wait until after the race & then the drive through becomes a 25 second time penalty.
      That`s the same as in F1.

  9. Dougie said on 22nd May 2009, 18:49

    Having watched the video, if I’m honest, they all got what they deserved.

    There was no need for any of them to cut the corner, the line to the corner is fine and they were all fine, and could slightly back out if needed, to take the corner without collision.

    I was astonished when I saw what happened at the first corner, totally unnecessary in my view.

  10. Dougie said on 22nd May 2009, 18:51

    In fact some of the drivers were managing fine to go two abreast through the corner properly and survive.

  11. Wesley said on 22nd May 2009, 20:07

    I agree that penalties should have been carried out but,I really hate these retro penalties.There is nothing like spending your time watching a race only to have everything changed after it is over.It is like staying with the plot in a “who done it” movie and then they announce the murderer was someone never talked about or shown on screen.I think drive-through penalties would be fair,at least you know the proper running order througout the race.

  12. HounslowBusGarage said on 22nd May 2009, 22:02

    I agree with Wesley.
    Certainly, they all deserved penalties, but why did the Stewards feel they had to talk to the drivers first? It would have been better all round for the Stewards to slap drive through’s on the guilty and let the real racing continue.
    What could they have asked the drivers?
    “Did you cut the corner deliberately?” “I cannot tell a lie Sir . . .”

    • persempre said on 22nd May 2009, 23:31

      Probably because the Stewards are becoming neurotic as every call they make (at least in F1) gets questioned ;)

  13. Why don’t they just build a wall in the corner, or remove the curbs and allow the whole circuit to be used for racing? That way, there is not even a possibility of these stupid penalties.

  14. Stoo said on 23rd May 2009, 1:09

    Firstly, it’s pretty obvious some cut the corner to avoid an incident, and some corner for no reason at all – deal out the punishments where required surely, not to where they’re not. If the stewards want to wait until the end of a race to deal out the penalties, then they have plenty of time to review the footage. This is just another example of stewards being either totally blind or just fancy screwing up the racing for the fun of it…

    Secondly, I agree that the corner is maybe a bit too easy to cut since removing the barriers – so maybe some pretty hefty speed bumps should be installed there, it’ll certainly make the drivers break and think twice about cutting it. Or as Steven says above, just open the damn thing up and make them race the whole width of the bend.

    I’m really looking forward to the F1 this weekend, but I’m not looking forward to some stupid decisions from the batty stewards. Will be another race won on the track only to be lost a few hours after the flag drops.

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