Jenson Button, Brawn, Valencia, 2009

Now the FIA decides F1 teams can talk to race control after all. Maybe.

2009 European Grand PrixPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

We all remember how last year’s Belgian Grand Prix ended: Lewis Hamilton lost his win after the stewards deemed he had illegally overtaken Kimi Raikkonen.

At the time FIA president Max Mosley insisted McLaren were in the wrong for trying to clear up the matter with race control after the incident had happened.

But the FIA has now contradicted this stance after it emerged that race control instructed Jenson Button to yield position to Mark Webber during the European Grand Prix.

Writing in Autosport (reg. req.), Adam Cooper says:

Brawn team manager Ron Meadows was quick to react and ask the FIA if Button should concede the place – better to get it sorted now than face a penalty later. The answer took a while, and it was a yes, so Jenson moved over.

It was previously thought the team had instructed Button to move aside on their on initiative. The fact that it came on race control’s instruction after the team had asked them contradicts Mosley’s explanation of events after Spa last year:

McLaren should not have asked Charlie [Whiting, race control director].

Charlie is in one of the most high-pressured situations and in that situation the teams should not answer him and he should not answer them because he is not in a position to give even the beginnings of a considered opinion.
Max Mosley

McLaren, it will be remembered, sought race director Charlie Whiting’s view of the Raikkonen incident and were told Hamilton could keep his position. This was later overruled by the steward and McLaren’s subsequent appeal was thrown out on a technicality.

If McLaren last year had been allowed to do what Brawn did at Valencia last week, Hamilton could have let Raikkonen by once again and the race could have ended with an exciting battle instead of the kind of petty stewards’ call that brings the sport into disrepute.

Teams should be allowed to get race control’s interpretation of decisions like this during the race. It is standard procedure in other championships, such as Indy Cars, because it avoids needless controversy. The dispute between McLaren and Toyota at Melbourne could have been cleared up in a matter of minutes instead of months.

So what’s the situation now? Are F1 teams allowed to ask the advice of race control during a Grand Prix? Is that advice bund to be reliable and consistent? It is completely unclear, and the FIA owes us an explanation why Brawn were allowed to do what McLaren weren’t.

Update: Brawn have confirmed it was Charlie Whiting who instructed them to yield position to Mark Webber during the race.

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