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

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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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?

  4. 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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