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

Jenson Button was told by race control to let Mark Webber past

Jenson Button was told by race control to let Mark Webber past

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 ?ǣ 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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46 comments on Now the FIA decides F1 teams can talk to race control after all. Maybe.

  1. Alex 3 said on 28th August 2009, 23:52

    The rules should require Race Control to control the race and leave the rest of the rules enforcement before and after the race to the stewards.
    It was clear last year Hamilton gave the spot back. What was he to do? Wait until the half the field went by him so the stupid stewards could establish he really did give it back.
    The non-participants who are not putting up their money, skills and indeed their lives should not be able to interfere with the race at all. The teams trust Charlie so let him make the decisions during the race.

  2. Jonesracing82 said on 29th August 2009, 1:54

    it’s pretty simple really, if the stewards decisions r at least consistant, they will also be considered fair

  3. …and skilled fighting driving by Lewis and Kimi, for it to be destroyed by a ridiculous and wrong decision.

    I was supporting Hamilton’s run for the championship last year, and luckily he won otherwise this would have been a problem, but Hamilton did gain an unfair advantage by cutting the corner. They both drove skillfully and Hamilton was much better in the closing stages, but Kimi had the highground thoughout the entire chicane. Being slightly in front of a car beyond the breaking zone on the outside of a corner doesn’t constitute being in front and there is no way Hamilton would have been nearly as close had he taken the corner legally.

    Had he given the position back in a fair way, Hamilton most likely would have won easily and he should have, but you can’t have drivers overtake by cutting chicanes and slipstreaming past into the next corner.

    I initially missed the race and heard about the result and subsequent penatly before I saw the actual race. I was bummed out, but after seeing the race a lot more objectively I have to say the stewards were right, just very clumsy and slow.

    I don’t get, in both instances the teams radioed race control and did what race control said. So why are people posting things like “why Brawn were allowed to do what McLaren weren’t”???

    McLaren (Ron Dennis in the post race ITV coverage) only asked for confirmation after Hamilton had overtaken Kimi for the second time, not before any position was given back. Also, in that interview he said to be aware that Charlie Whiting’s view was no more than an opinion.

    But I do agree, this is exactly the same situation. McLaren was aware that Charlie’s point of view was not necessarily the ruling of the Stewards and went with his opinion. Brawn contacted race control, got an opinion (which if it was ‘no’ might have just as well been overruled by the stewards) and went with it. Of course Button came out worse, unlike Hamilton, so no further action would have been required.

    It’s pretty surprising to see how almost everybody disagrees with the penalty given to Hamilton last year, but it seems I’m the only Hamilton supporter agreeing with that decision no matter how unbelievably poorly the situation was handled. Hopefully Brawn contacting Race Control will be the long overdue first step towards improvement. All that is necessary is a clear set of rules on communication between teams and race control about incidents involving cars fighting for position and a limited time for a penalty. It sounds simple and to be honest, for the juggernaut that is F1 it really should be.

  4. sumedh said on 29th August 2009, 6:42

    Lets not dig up old bones now. That Spa incident has been beaten to death at F1Fanatic and every other F1 forum.

    Mclaren have time and again shown themselves to be inept at handling issues at the pitwall. Spa incident, the Spygate penalty, the lying incident in Australia. They were unable to keep the Alonso situation under control. Even at Valencia 2009, you can see that the pit-lane incident which cost Hamilton 4 seconds, was the result of a miscommunication from the Mclaren pitwall

    The question posed by Keith, “why Brawn were allowed to do what McLaren weren’t”. I think it speaks not about FIA’s consistency, but the difference in the 2 teams’ thinking strategy on the pitwall.

    It is unfair to say that Mclaren are being made into a scapegoat by the FIA. Part of the blame lies with the officials of the Mclaren team as well, who are either too tentative or on the totally wrong path.

  5. Aaron said on 29th August 2009, 7:48

    get over it 4 goodness sake.

    Yes now u can ask RC’s for instruction, is that bad…maybe in the past it wasnt the done thing but now it is, why make a fuss.

    Congratulations to someone who allowed logic to take over ride history.

  6. I don’t see this as Brawn being “allowed” to do something McLaren wasn’t. Apparently, the practice of the teams getting feedback from race control / the race director with the intention of preventing a potentially controversial scene from being investigated by the stewards is an informal practice. That would mean whatever advice or opinion is given in such a communication isn’t neccesarily binding, accurate or final. It’s the clear responsibility of the stewards of the meeting to assess incidents and impose a penalty if they deem that to be necessary.

    Logically, the teams could try to establish an official channel with the stewards directly, but that would go in the direction of ad-hoc decisions, i.e. football referee territory, which would be worth debating, but is not how it’s currently organized in motor racing.

  7. David Chu said on 29th August 2009, 15:02

    The teams should not only able to talk to race control, but also FIA should make those talks available to viewers during the race like team radio. I understand there is quite a lot gray area in F1′s regulation, but F1 should do what other sports did, make race control’s calls public and clear immediately, at lease as fast as possible. No more investigations after the race.

  8. This inconsistency has just got worse. Autosport are reporting Webber has only been reprimanded for impeding in Q1. Something that usually has a penalty.

    Why aren’t FOTA pushing like mad for this to be sorted?

  9. Alpha said on 11th November 2009, 1:47

    Guys, It was obvious that the FIA were picking on Mclaren, last year. Perhaps Max Mosley. I hate to see races like that to end outside the circuit. It was an amazing fight between Hamilton and Kimi at Spa last year. Very rare to see 2 strong drive with strong cars fighting for position, there is nothing better to watch that that! Isn’t that the whole point of Formula one?

    There should always be prompt communication between teams and the race control. Any incident like such, shouldn’t take more than 3-4 laps before they call for an instruction to the team.

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