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?

Advert | Go Ad-free

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

1 2 3
  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.

1 2 3

Add your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

All comments must abide by the comment policy. Comments may be moderated.
Want to post off-topic? Head to the forum.
See the FAQ for more information.