Stewards’ decision could give Brawn title (Update: No penalty for Rosberg)

Barrichello fell behind Rosberg following the safety car's appearance

Barrichello fell behind Rosberg following the safety car's appearance

Nico Rosberg is under investigation from the stewards at Suzuka following the Japanese Grand Prix – and the outcome of the hearing could hand the constructors’ championship to Brawn.

Brawn claim Rosberg drove too quickly when the safety car was deployed following Jaime Alguersuari’s crash. The lap time data from the race shows how Rosberg gained six seconds on Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button on the lap before he pitted:

(Update: The Japanese Grand Prix stewards have decided not to penalise Rosberg. This means the championship standings remain as they were. Full decision below.)

Rosberg pitted on lap 45, and gained six seconds on the Brawns the lap before

Rosberg pitted on lap 45, and gained six seconds on the Brawns the lap before

Alguersuari crashed on lap 44, and Rosberg came in for his pit stop on the following lap. He was placed between Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen at the time, and completed lap 45 quicker than both of them:

Nico Rosberg: 1’39.697
Lewis Hamilton: 1’41.469
Kimi Raikkonen: 1’47.511

A typical in-lap at Suzuka is around two seconds slower than a racing lap. On the strength of this data it looks like Rosberg was faster than he should have been when the safety car came out.

However the stewards have access to other information and may take further factors into account: such as how quick Rosberg was on the portions of that lap when the track was green, and what the ‘target lap time’ given to him by his computer readout was.

The sporting regulations do not specifically state drivers must adhere to the times given to them during safety car periods to prevent them driving too quickly. But they do say:

From [the moment the safety car is deployed], any car being driven unnecessarily slowly, erratically or which is deemed potentially dangerous to other drivers at any time whilst the safety car is deployed will be reported to the stewards. This will apply whether any such car is being driven on the track, the pit entry or the pit lane.
FIA F1 Sporting Regulations, article 40.5

If Rosberg does get a penalty, it is likely to add 25 seconds to his race time, promoting both Brawn cars a position and making the team world champions.

Update: The stewards said:

The Race Director reported to the Stewards that Car No 16, Nico Rosberg exceeded the time delta from when the ‘Safety Deployed’ message was displayed until crossing the Safety Car line. The Stewards met with the drivers and the team representatives and considered the telemetry data, GPS records, timekeeping and video evidence. This evidence showed a ‘low fuel’ message on the drivers display had overridden the time delta information preventing the driver from being able to accurately follow the timing information.

However the telemetry data shows that the driver from a safety point of view had reacted adequately to the yellow flags and safety car boards. In view of this the stewards intend to take no further action.

The chart below shows the lap times done by each of the drivers on the lead lap on lap 45. At this time The running order was Vettel, Trulli, Hamilton, Rosberg, Raikkonen.

As the safety car period began on this lap, those further down the running order should have slower lap times. Rosberg’s should be another 2s slower because he came into the pits. However it is around 2s faster than Trulli and Hamilton in front of him:

Drivers' times on lap 45

Drivers' times on lap 45

In my view he did slow down, but not as much as he should have done. I am very surprised to see the stewards to take his explanation about the fuel warning into account, as they generally concern themselves only with what a driver has done wrong, not how it happened.

I think Rosberg should have had a penalty. What do you think?

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84 comments on Stewards’ decision could give Brawn title (Update: No penalty for Rosberg)

  1. adz2193 said on 4th October 2009, 9:30

    I can’t see how Rosberg believes he gained no advantage. He might have come out ahead of RB and JB, narrowly, but he certainly wasn’t realistically racing Heidfeld.

    • Mussolini's Pet Cat said on 4th October 2009, 10:27

      Surely the rule is more from a safety aspect rather than gaining any advantage. As much as i like Nico, if he went over the set limit, he should be penalised.

      • Ronman said on 4th October 2009, 13:20

        I think he should be made to stand in the corner on FP1 in Interlagos… i think the low fuel readout is understandable… and still don’t think that the FIA has the safety car details right in order to penalize people, something they did a lot of last year.

  2. Mahir C said on 4th October 2009, 9:42

    I dont know Rosberg broke the rules or not but it is not really necessary for Rosberg to break the rules to emerge ahead in this case. Lets say drivers need to be 1km ahead in order to emerge ahead from a pitstop in full racing speed. If Rosberg was smth like 900m ahead, he could still emerge in the lead as his chasers will cover that distance in slower speed, hence more time.

    It could be just that the current system favors people who havent pitted unless last year.

  3. Thanx for breaking it down..

    He clearly went faster when he wasn’t supposed to but is it considered “unnecessarily slowly, erratically or which is deemed potentially dangerous to other drivers”, I don’t think so… It doesn’t seem like a very strict definitive rule…

  4. mp4-19b said on 4th October 2009, 9:46

    Was it Brawn who went complaining to the stewards? Are they seriously considering that Red Bull still have a chance to win WCC? Championships should be decided on track, not in the stewards room. Unsporting behavior by Brawn, even though they are entitled to raise objections, winning in such a manner would be hollow. They should be looking at how to wrap it up in style. A 1-2 for Brawn at Interlagos with Barrichello winning would be a fairytale finish. Instead they want to “sneak” . Really unmanly stuff.

    • Austin said on 4th October 2009, 10:01

      Button and Barichello still want the points, the WCC is already in the bag. I think they will let Rosberg off because it would help the drivers championship to become more exciting for a possible final race decider at a new track.

    • I agree with the sentiment -yes these things should be won on the track… but both Brawn drivers were penalised 5 places for speeding under yellow flag conditions in quali 3 -we do need to be consistent. Why on earth Rosberg’s display cannot also the minimum time back to the pits when the safety car is deployed is a poor excuse.

  5. Art. 40.5 is broad enough for the FIA to claim that safe speed is req. and happens to be indicated on the dash. As he was going faster than (all, most ?) other drivers, there has to be a suspicion. Might well depend exactly where and when the SC was deployed, and when he did the fast parts of the lap- he if pushed hard on an in lap, then backed off in the last sector due to the SC, could still be quick but legal.

  6. Austin said on 4th October 2009, 10:01

    No penalty

  7. Well, since cars are in different parts of the track, the distance Nico needed to drive slower was shorter than the one by Brawns. I think this explains how he got ahead.

    It was also causing some massive gaps at the end of Italian GP. Nakajima was something like 2 and half minutes behind winner.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 4th October 2009, 10:15

      It is confusing – what I don’t get is why he was 2s faster than Hamilton when he probably should have been around 2s slower. Can anyone explain?

      • Austin said on 4th October 2009, 10:25

        Here the stewards explanation – “The Stewards met with the drivers and the team representatives and considered the telemetry data, GPS records, timekeeping and video evidence. This evidence showed a ‘low fuel’ message on the drivers display had overridden the time delta information preventing the driver from being able to accurately follow the timing information.

        “However the telemetry data shows that the driver from a safety point of view had reacted adequately to the yellow flags and safety car boards. In view of this the stewards intend to take no further action.”

        It basically means they are sweeping it under the carpet, even though he did break the lap delta in the strictest sense. Its there way of not courting controversy by handing the WCC to Brawn and alienatng more fans. IMHO

        • It basically means they are sweeping it under the carpet, even though he did break the lap delta in the strictest sense.

          Rosberg could not see the time delta, because it was covered by the ‘low fuel’ message. Nevertheless, he slowed his lap time by six seconds, whereas those able to see the delta slowed by eight (assuming that they were not behind the SC already). In other words he was able to judge his lap to within 2 seconds of the recommendation.

          I would say that this was as good as anyone can reasonably do.

          In Singapore Rosberg missed a certain P2 because of SC, so stop whining.

          • Toby Bushby said on 5th October 2009, 23:46

            Rosberg missed a “certain” P2 for Williams in Singapore because of brain-fade, not the Safety Car. A rookie mistake, at best.

        • bassman-g said on 5th October 2009, 6:56

          The stewards are saying that the data showed a low fuel warning which had over ridden the time delta on the steering wheel, yet when interviewed after the race, Nico said nothing about a low fuel warning display, and, that as far as he was concerned he had seen the time delta and stuck to it…..I’m confused….did anyone else notice this?

      • Jelle van der Meer said on 4th October 2009, 10:26

        This might be because neither Kimi nor Hamilton had anything to gain by driving quickly or the allowed time.

        They likely slowed down and patiently waited for all cars to line up behind the safety car.

  8. steph90 said on 4th October 2009, 10:34

    It wasn’t really dangerous and probably to make the championship limp on…
    Would have been annoyed people either way, though I’m not too convinced by either side of the story, can only guess so much about where, when and how he made time, but I do hope that stewards are being consistent and doing this to stick to the rules or is that too optimistic?

    • Austin said on 4th October 2009, 11:16

      Yes, it was a damned if do and damned if you dont decision. On the stewards being consistent, in my time that i’ve watched F1 they have never been consistent. I just knew they weren’t going to hand Brawn the WCC. The stewards are there to benefit the F1 spectacle not stick to the rules. Hopefully this will change with new governance, but I don’t see things changing if Todt is elected and the stewards are different every race.

  9. Scribe said on 4th October 2009, 10:44

    its a simple delaying tactic by bernie.
    in most situations Rosberg would take the penalty

    • I hardly think this is the case, what’s the likelihood of Brawn not picking up half a point in two races and Red Bull pick up maximum? The way the Red Bulls have been going its more likely one wont even finish one of the remaining races.

  10. Brawn will take the title at the next race. It’s just to spin it out a little longer. Jenson should also take the title at the next race. ( but don’t be surprised if it spins out to the last race).

  11. I think this was the right decision. He might have been quicker than Raikkonen and Hamilton, but I doubt they were on 100% quali-style attack. They were also on heavier fuel, having made their stops, I believe.

    Ironically, the issue is about breaking a rigidly interpreted rule, i.e. do not go faster than this time, even if it gave you an advantage or not. Yet when it comes to the “use all of the track” rule, it comes down to if you gain an advantage or not. Another straw on the huge pile that have already broken the back of the “use all of the track” camel. The rules are long overdue being revised, and even the idea of a Safety Car. With an automatic initialisation of the pitlane limiter by use of FIA transmissions, this would never be a problem (and we wouldn’t have the the fiasco of Singapore either). Yet we keep it because we need F1 to be made artificially close.

    • Dr. Mouse said on 5th October 2009, 12:32

      With an automatic initialisation of the pitlane limiter by use of FIA transmissions, this would never be a problem

      Actually that sounds like a good idea. Maybe not the pit-lane limiter, exactly, but an FIA-controlled (or driver-controlled) speed limiter would stop the need for the safety car. The drivers could be given a waring that a safety speed restriction was to be engaged in x seconds, it’s up to them to slow down (as is the case with pit limiter), then the cars are limited in speed until the obstruction/debris/other dangerous conditions are cleared. This could also be used to limit the speed only in certain areas (i.e. where the danger lies), so keep the race going.

      Take the case of a crash. Why should the cars have to slow down on the rest of the track when only a small part is unsafe? Have them enable a speed limiter a few turns away till a few turns after, and allow them to continue racing for the rest of the circuit.

      This would be much better (IMHO) both from a safety perspective AND from a spectators perspective.

      • SaloolaS said on 5th October 2009, 15:28

        I completely agree. Glock’s crash in Hockenheim last year didn’t need a safety car – the drivers could race all around the circuit, and drive through pits every lap – with some special rule that would say that drivers who make pit stops should be standing still for another 15 seconds there, so noone would take advantage of it. Then we wouldn’t need SC, the Alonso/Vettel incident, and an un-deserved 2nd place by Piquet.

      • Marcus said on 6th October 2009, 18:24

        Well first off the track has to be cleared of debris plus extraction of driver etc.. And second you don’t want another racing accident while already attending to the first.

        The safety car is an excellent solution and is generally safe. Racing around to the accident site would not be.

  12. Patrickl said on 4th October 2009, 11:39

    They have got to be kidding me?!?!?! Rosberg gains 4 seconds (and keeps his lost position) by breaking the rules, but he’s excused because they obfuscated the display with some lame ‘low fuel’ message?

    Why even bother with this delta stuff if all you have to do is take your foot off the pedal for the 100 meters or so around the accident scene?

    Incredible. Sometimes I really wonder why I still bother watching this nonsense. Is it realy that hard to simply apply the rules and then the same rules for everybody and all the time?

    For that matter I thought it was ridiculous to only put the Brawns, Sutil and Alonso 5 places back. The rule is that they take their fastest times away.

    • Steph90 said on 4th October 2009, 11:45

      On that issue I think Alonso got doubly punished, he did seem to back off whether for safety or shrewdness) didn’t get through to q3 and got punished. Didn’t understand Rubens penalty either. That helped decided part of the race already.
      Nice excuse by Nico though :P Hope he hasn’t upset his future employers too much ;) Apparantly Button is still arguing over pay

      • Patrickl said on 4th October 2009, 13:20

        I remember how Hakkinen dealt with yellow flags at Monaco. He kept his foot down, but waved his hand out of the cockpit to indicate that he saw the marshalls and was “in full control” of the situation.

        So he was steering with one hand going flat out and claimed that that was the safe thing to do. He got away with it too :)

  13. The stewards continue to be consistent by being inconsistent. Their incompetence shines yet again.

  14. Rosberg was cleared by the stewards because the ‘low fuel’ indicator overrode the speed/time screen on his dashboard display.

    • pSynrg said on 4th October 2009, 12:23

      But is that not like for example, saying ‘I didn’t see the flag because it was blocked from my vision by ‘?

      If an apparent technical ‘glitch’ is enough to get you off a penalty then we are in trouble!

      • He would have no idea what his lap times were until he was informed. He did his best job to guess instead.

        It would be like saying he didn’t see the flags because the marshals weren’t waving them – which would be a legitimate reason.

  15. pSynrg said on 4th October 2009, 12:18

    Should have been a penalty. What kind of penalty I’m not so sure.
    His target delta being obscured is not an acceptable excuse.
    They let this one go purely for political reasons, to keep the CC open for at least one more race, indeed maybe to the final and maybe draw a larger audience…

    • Patrickl said on 4th October 2009, 13:01

      Why is that “low fuel” warning even on there? Wouldn’t that display be for these “delta” purposes to begin with?

      Rosberg also missed all the SC signs at every marshalls station?

      Why not introduce penalty weights to level the field? At least then it would be clear upfront that the leaders are being penalized to keep things artifically “exciting”.

      I guess in the grand scheme of things it al doesn’t matter much and Brawn will be constructors champion anyway (either by scoring half a point or by Red Bull not scoring a 1-2 for both next races).

      It’s just so damned frustrating that they so often get the penalties wrong.

  16. cswilly said on 4th October 2009, 12:36

    Another horrible decision by the stewards.

    They are saying Rosberg broke the rules , but it OK because of a display bug. Stupid.

    This means if I speed in the pits due to a software bug it will be OK too, right?

    Sometimes I get the betting the FIA is the World Wrestling Federation which they fix races to have a cool outcome in the championship. Except the WWF everybody knows is 100%. I sometimes wonder if the F1 is the same.

    • Tiomkin said on 4th October 2009, 13:09

      I came to the same conclusion, F1 is like the WWE. (World Wrestling Entertainment) Decisions are made to please the ‘show’.

      The Evidence is there, but it is ignored.

      • beneboy said on 4th October 2009, 14:40

        F1 is like the WWE

        No it’s not, I’ve never fallen asleep watching a WWE main event :-)

        Refereeing decisions are also far less questionable than most stewards decisions and are far more consistent :-)

        I know what you mean though, there have been quite a few decisions made in the past that have “fix” written all over them, normally you tend to get them near the end of the season and they end up keeping the title fight going for an extra few weeks.
        You do end up feeling that Bernie has had a quiet word with the stewards before they’ve made their decision.

        Seriously though, there are some major differences between WWE & F1, Vince McMahon knows how to look after his fans while providing them with everything they want, he also goes to great lengths to put on shows in every country that has a sustainable fan base. He would never drop most events in one of his main markets because he wanted to expand into new markets either.
        If Vince was running F1 the America’s would have several races, we’d all be able to watch in HD with loads of on-line content & every race would be available on youtube a few days after being run.

        He’d probably power slam Max all over the pit-lane too if the racing started to get a bit boring, although from what we’ve heard Max may like that sort of thing…

        • dsob said on 6th October 2009, 7:02

          F1 is like the WWE

          No it’s not, I’ve never fallen asleep watching a WWE main event :-)

          True enough, lol.

          Vince McMahon knows how to look after his fans … He would never drop most events in one of his main markets because he wanted to expand into new markets …

          Vince is definitely a shrewd businessman. And he really does know how to put on a fan-pleasing show, and give people a feeling like they got value for their money paid.

          While people in F1 always talk about “the show”, I really think most have forgotten what “the show” is. Teams are worried about sponsors & finishing well enough in the year’s points to get enough money for next year. The drivers are to involved with …well, a lot of them just too involved with themselves, or being politically correct and mentioning the sponsors a lot. And Bernie is only concerned with lining his own pockets, and stopped giving a d@mn about the fans or “the show” a long time ago.

          We really need a new broom to sweep F1 clean. Way too many dust bunnies under the grandstands in too many venues. Hopefully Vatanen will make it in, and clean up the FiA side of the paddock.

          But,whatever will we do about Bernie? He apparently plans to never retire. And CVC will never replace him, for Bernie has all the connections to get the venues to make the money to pay the debts, and they don’t.

  17. Patrickl said on 4th October 2009, 13:09

    That chart misses the few laps before Rosberg’s stop. From lap 39 till 44 Button closes up 1.8 seconds on Rosberg. A stunnign drive which would have certainly put him ahead of Rosberg (who was .7s ahead of Button after lap 39).

  18. Hotbottoms said on 4th October 2009, 13:20

    I also think Rosberg should have been punished, he clearly didn’t slow down as much as he should have.

    However, I don’t think stewards wanted to take those points away from Brawn. No one believes Red Bulls could take constructors’ championship anymore. While it is true this decision might make drivers’ championship more interesting, it’s still only one point per Brawn driver. Maybe they just didn’t want to change results because of couple of seconds (this time)?

    Everyone on this site is always saying stewards shouldn’t change results after the race – atleast not because of minor things. But now you Brits are complaining because Button and Brawn would have benefited from changing results : )

  19. John H said on 4th October 2009, 13:23

    “This evidence showed a ‘low fuel’ message on the drivers display had overridden the time delta information preventing the driver from being able to accurately follow the timing information.”

    If you’re going to have a standard ECU with SC time deltas, then for god’s sake do it properly. How long until Vatanen gets in?… this is a farce.

  20. By reading many comments on here I don’t think many people really understand what happened.

    Rosberg couldn’t see his time delta and so had no idea how much to slow down by.

    However this is clearly an issue of the car and team and so the team should arguably still be penalised.

    Any other technical issue that results in dangerous activities results in drivers been disqualified or fined or being called into the pits etc. Speeding under a safety car is clearly a dangerous activity caused by a car problem.

    • Trouble is that it’s an ECU issue, which isn’t produced by the team as it’s a standard part.

    • Patrickl said on 4th October 2009, 17:21

      Rosberg can see the yellow flags and the SC signs.

      He would have known he had to drive slowly.

      4 seconds a lap faster is quite a difference.

      the problem is not in the ECU, but in the display. FIA should punish them for overriding that display with nonsense about fuel levels.

      • As you state the standard part did not fail – the teams parts did. Consequently its the teams part that caused the speeding / danger.

        Also with the flags being shown and knowledge of safety car he would have surely been questioning his speed/times on the radio like he would normally check it in the car – and should have been told to slow by the team.

        “the team should arguably still be penalised”

    • Philip Morrison said on 4th October 2009, 20:11

      I’m not so sure Nico didn’t see the time delta he was interviewed immediately after the race:
      Jake Humphrey: “looking at the lap delta time on your steering wheel were you within the rules”

      Nico Rosberg: “As far as I’m concerned I definitely did what I should do”

      No mention of a low fuel warning there and he did not confirm there was no delta time displayed. Draw your own conclusions!!

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