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

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

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?