FIA must learn from Valencia shambles

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Start, Valencia, 2010

There’s no reason to believe Ferrari’s claim that the European Grand Prix was somehow “manipulated”.

But considering the penalties that were handed out, particularly the nine drivers who were penalised after the race was finished, it’s clear there’s still room for improvement in how F1 races are refereed.

The FIA should start by bringing back the ‘pit lane closure’ rule and changing how drive-through penalties are applied.

The delay in handing out penalties

Inevitably, much attention has been paid to why Lewis Hamilton’s penalty came so late, as it had a crucial bearing on the race.

As well dealing with the aftermath of a potentially very serious crash in which the medical car was sent out, Hamilton’s infringement was just one of 12 incidents the stewards had to deal with, all of which occurred within a very short space of time.

Hamilton’s infringement was among the first to occur and he was the first to be handed a penalty. He was the only driver who received his penalty soon enough to serve it during the race:

Lap Incident Time decision was published
10 Hamilton overtakes safety car 15:07
9 Incident in pits involving H???lkenberg and Buemi 17:40
9 Incident in pits involving Petrov and Liuzzi 17:41
? Glock disobeys blue flags 17:43
9 Kubica exceeds safety car target lap time 18:09
9 Button exceeds safety car target lap time 18:10
9 Barrichello exceeds safety car target lap time 18:11
9 H???lkenberg exceeds safety car target lap time 18:12
9 Buemi exceeds safety car target lap time 18:12
9 Sutil exceeds safety car target lap time 18:13
9 Liuzzi exceeds safety car target lap time 18:14
9 Petrov exceeds safety car target lap time 18:15
9 de la Rosa exceeds safety car target lap time 18:16

The clearest proof of Hamilton’s infraction was the helicopter shot of him crossing the second safety car line. That video was apparently not available to the stewards immediately.

In the meantime they had to rely on timing information which was also sketchy, as Tony Dodgins points out in Autosport (sub. req.):

Depending on where the timing transponders are placed on a car ?ǣ for instance if one was at the back and the other at the front, you can have a situation where one car that appears to be ahead of another one actually records the same time. So, when it’s that tight, installation positions have to be checked, times and distances noted and calculations made.

This explains why the stewards took so long but does not excuse it.

In the build-up to the race BBC viewers were shown details of the Global Positioning System-based control centre the stewards have access to, allowing them to see where every car is on the track at any given time.

With access to that kind of computing power, it should not take 48 30 minutes (see comment) to decide which of two cars crossed a line first.

This is far from the first time the stewards have been criticised for taking too long to reach a decision. At Indianapolis in 2004 it took them until lap 59 to disqualify Juan Pablo Montoya for an infraction that took place before the race even started.

Unnecessarily complicated rules

The five second penalties given to nine drivers for “failing to stay above the minimum time set by the FIA ECU when the Safety Car was deployed” stem from regulations which are outdated and should be replaced.

Drivers are required to stick to minimum times to prevent them rushing to the pits too quickly after a safety car deployment, as they may be passing the scene of an accident.

This rule was introduced to replace a rule which closed the pits during safety car deployments. This pit lane closure rule was removed because some drivers had to make pit stops during a closure to avoid running out of fuel.

That is no longer a concern as refuelling has been banned. Therefore the FIA should drop the unnecessarily complicated rules requiring drivers to stick to minimum lap times, and go back to closing the pits until after the safety car period, perhaps with an exception for damaged cars that need to come in.

Read more: Ten drivers get penalties, Alonso and Rosberg gain extra points

Consistent penalties

The five-second penalties

The FIA has published little to no information about the five-second penalties.

We don’t know what target times the drivers were set – they may have been completely unrealistic. And we don’t know how much each driver failed to meet them by.

Therefore, we have no way of knowing if the penalties were fair, or too harsh, or too lenient.

What we do know is that a five-second penalty is not one of those defined under the Sporting Regulations:

The stewards may impose any one of three penalties on any driver involved in an Incident:

a) A drive-through penalty. The driver must enter the pit lane and re-join the race without stopping;
b) A ten second time penalty. The driver must enter the pit lane, stop at his pit for at least ten seconds and then re-join the race.
c) a drop of any number of grid positions at the driver?s next Event.

However, should either of the penalties under a) and b) above be imposed during the last five laps, or after the end of a race, Article 16.4b) below will not apply and 20 seconds will be added to the elapsed race time of the driver concerned in the case of a) above and 30 seconds in the case of b).
2010 FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations

Lewis Hamilton and Timo Glock both got penalties under these rules. So where does the five second penalty the other drivers got come from?

It’s possible the stewards were using the powers given to them by articles 152 and 153 of the International Sporting Code, although they did not refer to it:

152: Any breach of this Code or the Appendices thereto, of the national rules or their appendices, or of any Supplementary Regulations committed by any organiser, official, competitor, driver, or other person or organisation may be penalised or fined.

Penalties or fines may be inflicted by the stewards of the meeting and ASNs as indicated in the following articles. […]

153: Penalties may be inflicted as follows in order of increasing severity:

?? reprimand (blame);
?? fines;
?? time penalty;
?? exclusion;
?? suspension;
?? disqualification.

Time penalty means a penalty expressed in minutes and/or seconds.
FIA International Sporting Code

It seems likely the stewards decided to give the drivers a lenient penalty because their infractions were only minor. Jenson Button, one of the drivers penalised, said after the race that he had no opportunity to slow down any more and avoid a penalty:

There was no room to lift off or hit the brakes, so to be honest I can?t really see why I was called to the stewards.
Jenson Button

However if stewards are able to give post-race time penalties of less than 20 seconds, it’s a pity they didn’t use that to give Michael Schumacher a less severe penalty for breaking a rule the FIA admitted was unclear.

Hamilton’s penalty

The highly unusual circumstances surrounding Hamilton’s penalty have been explained in detail in these earlier articles:

Comparing Hamilton’s drive-through penalty on Sunday with Alonso’s at Shanghai for jumping the start highlights the inconsistencies in using drive-through penalties. Because of the varying lengths of the pit lanes Hamilton’s penalty cost him 12.7s at Valencia, Alonso’s in Shanghai cost him 21s.

Add in the difference in the delay in handing out the penalties – Alonso got his much earlier because he happened to commit his infraction before the eyes of the race director – and the reasons for the perceived difference in severity of the penalties become clear.

None of this justifies Ferrari’s claim the race was “manipulated”. But it’s clear the rules could be improved.

There is a simple and fair solution to the drive-through penalties problem: Replace them with stop-go penalties, and vary the duration a driver is stopped from race to race to even out the differences in pit lane length.

Should Hamilton have received a more severe penalty? As Will Buxton points out when he overtook the safety car in a GP2 race four years ago (albeit in rather different circumstances) he was disqualified.

But GP2 rarely sets a precedent for F1. In 2008 Bruno Senna was handed a penalty for an unsafe release in the pits two weeks after Ferrari’s Felipe Massa escaped a penalty for exactly the same thing.

According to Mark Hughes, “the precedent for [overtaking the safety car] is a drive-through.” I’ve been racking my brains trying to recall when that precedent was set but with no joy. If anyone knows, please post it in the comments.

It could be argued that, by the time race control came to give Hamilton his penalty they should have realised how limited the effect of a drive-through would be and given him a harsher penalty accordingly – such as a stop-go penalty.

But I fear that altering penalties to suit the circumstances would only leave the stewards open to even more damaging claims of inconsistency – and increase the burden on them even further. What is needed is clear and consistent penalties delivered in a timely fashion.

A shambles, not a scandal

This is the latest in a series of F1 races spoiled by a controversy over penalties. While some people have been quick to claim that certain rulings always favour one driver or team, it’s clear this isn’t the case.

To Valencia ’10 we can add Alonso’s penalty at Monza in ’06, Hamilton’s a Spa in ’08, Schumacher’s at Monaco earlier this year and others.

FIA president Jean Todt has shown a commitment to improving the standards of stewarding in F1. Bringing in former drivers as advisers appears to have helped tone down some of the excessively severe penalties we saw in previous years.

And only last week the Sporting Regulations were clarified to remove the grey areas highlighted by Schumacher at Monaco and Hamilton in Canada. But further progress needs to be made.

The connection between what infringement gets what penalty is too often unclear. And far too little information explaining penalties is published, despite earlier promises to supply more detailed explanations.

Although the stewards show a commendable commitment to using all the information at their disposal to get decisions right, little heed is paid to delivering decisions in a timely fashion.

If the FIA fails to learn from these lessons we will continue to see race results being altered after the chequered flag – something the governing body should take every reasonable step to avoid.

2010 European Grand Prix

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203 comments on “FIA must learn from Valencia shambles”

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  1. good article – agree

    1. IMHO no driver should be advantaged or disadvantaged by the Safety Car.

      BUT, how do you implement this? With a safety car and closed pit-lane, the drivers bunch up in running order so that 30 second advantage you worked to build is lost – is that fair?

      The only fair way is to stop the race and restart with sequential release of the cars so that the gaps between drivers maintained. Is that too much of a circus?

    2. Can someone explain what exactly happened with the Safety Car .. How did Vettel and Lewis get back behind the SC as 1-2.

      SC missed Vettel and Lewis and caught Alonso as leader and made a slow train around the lap..

      Now as soon as the SC was deployed – some drivers would have pitted and would have rejoined SC behind Alonso as would Kamui Kobayashi (without pitting).

      Meanwhile – Vettel and Lewis come round – do their pit stop and will only join behind this train .

      Alonso and the drivers who missed pitting earlier would pit allolwing SV and LH to go further up.

      But Koba never made a stop – so how did he not end up as the leader of the race behind SC?

      Effectively he would be a lap down – so do they use blue flag to let SV and LH pass KK

      1. VET and HAM passed the safety car, came around, pitted, and got back out in front of the safety car, which overtook them. I think :)

        1. Safety car came out behind Vettel, Hamilton passed the safety car, both pitted and got back out in front of the safety car (and Kobayashi), which waited on the start/finish line (waving all the cars through) until they came around again.

  2. If the race wasn’t ‘manipulated’, how about a penalty (race ban?) for Alonso bringing the sport into disrepute? This is standard procedure in any sport.

    I also think his comments regarding the ‘justified anger’ of the fans at Valencia and his allegation that the bottle was thrown onto the track as part of this rage a very close to incitement. His outbursts may be amusing, but they’ve stirred up a lot of anger and vitriol when to most external analysis this anger results from his own frustration at bad luck and the failure of his team to produce a car as good as he wants.

    1. I find his and Ferrari’s unbridled comments worrying. Especially when ‘fans’ spill on to websites and start spouting racist abuse soon afterwards.

      No one needs that kinda thing, it’s a sport not politics or war. We could all do well to remember that.

    2. I think in keeping with the season so far Ferrari and Alonso should be reprimanded and reminded that they would do well to not throw allegations of misconduct around unless they have some evidence; and that in future anyone who suggests (or says something that could be interpreted as suggesting) that the FIA, Race Control, the stewards or anyone else not directly involved in the race has influenced the race in an unsporting manner will get racing penalties.

      1. …in addition to tightening the regulations to prevent something like this from happening again, of course.

      2. I don’t agree with that. Simply because the penalties of 2008 were often ridiculous, and that needed to be voiced instead of being glossed over. I agree that Ferrari have been far too vocal and perhaps should be reprimanded for so publicly hurting F1’s image, but if they are actually prevented from giving their opinions then the sport becomes even more political, and one which is a dictatorship.

        1. “I agree that Ferrari have been far too vocal and perhaps should be reprimanded for so publicly hurting F1’s image, but if they are actually prevented from giving their opinions then the sport becomes even more political, and one which is a dictatorship.”

          Agreed, that was immediately my thought, too.

          1. As if Ferrari would ever be silenced! Come on, this is over-reacting just in the same way they’re doing over this issue. They can complain in numerous ways, and undoubtedly do. Calling the race manipulated and a scandal is a serious issue for the sport’s image and in ANY other sport would meet with a firm redress from the governing body. It doesn’t happen in Formula 1 because it’s part-owned by Ferrari and the other teams, to varying degrees, simple as that. But a semblance of decorum would be cool.

          2. @david lol it seems that they have been silenced! I wonder if the FIA had a word first. If they did then this was the correct response by both parties. Understated, not too critical of the sport anymore, and a heeding of the governing body’s words.

    3. Punishing people for speaking out against the governing body is a pretty slippery slope to be on. The FIA’s not a police state, after all.

      1. There’s a world of difference between speaking out – being vehemently critical – and accusing others of malpractice and the sport of being manipulated or rigged without evidence and probably with no intention of backing up your claim. That’s a basis for slander and libel. And incitement is a serious public order issue. It’s the opposite of a police state – it’s about avoiding mob violence, virtual or real. Alonso is an enormously powerful public figure in Spain, for good reason giving his talent and success as a driver, but with that comes responsibility – which he really didn’t show this weekend. I think a heavy reprimand is in order for his comments about the fans and the bottle, and a one race ban for brining Formula 1 into disrepute. Remember Alex Ferguson over refereeing in premiership football? Doesn’t matter how successful you are in the sport, you can’t have the freedom to say whatever you want about its integrity jusy because things didn’t go your way.

        1. But the problem is in deciding, as a sporting authority, when it crosses the line to slander and libel; that is a slippery slope. We have regular courts for that for a reason.

          A race ban would be outrageous, a reminder to Alonso/Ferrari that they have a responsibility to the sport and should maybe take a breath before spouting off frustrations to the media might be appropriate. And assure them that their concerns, and those of Mercedes, are noted and will be looked at by the FIA as soon as possible.

          And perhaps a well meant reiteration by Alonso that he does not resent Hamilton, but respects him as a person and competitor would be good for the sport and Alonso himself.

          1. I agree a race ban would be severe. But I think he needs checking. In part because this year has been fantastic for competitive racing, and we seemed to have left behind this kind of corrosive vitriol between teams and involving FIA. Alonso and Ferrari – who I think over-reacted to accomodate their star driver and are absorbing his style of comments too much – have introduced all that bad feeling we had to live through under Mosely and his hideous politicking. I really hope Todt sees this and does whatever necessary to get them back in line so we can get on and enjoy the racing without allegations of it all being fixed.

            That’s all! Alonso the driver, I love watching.

          2. “Too Severe” doesn’t come close to describing a one race ban.

            A public statement from the FIA explaining that it’s stewards decisions are final and only with overwhelming evidence may they be overturned.

            Which is how it should be. Even if the stewards get it wrong, like the delay in Hamilton’s Penalty, The players can’t tell the referee how to do his job. It just doesn’t work that way.

        2. Well, there’s nowhere in the sporting regs regarding libellous or slanderous comments. Bringing the sport into disrepute is hard to prove in this case – how does one make a distinction between a comment being “outspoken” or otherwise?

          Hence, the FIA have no remit to punish Alonso (not that he should he punished imo).

          1. Saying the sport is manipulated (or fixed) is bringing it into disrepute. Any real doubt about that?

            Alonso knows full well they’ll do nothing as penalizing him will ‘reinforce’ the supposed basis of the allegation he made, supposedly while ‘angry,’ that he and Ferrari are being disfavoured by manipulation of the results. Slightly incredulous this comes from a man who had a whole race manipulated in his favour in 2008, but there you have it…

      2. Just saying that you are unhappy with something is perfectly acceptable – using the term ‘manipulated’ means that something was consciously done with an aim to influence something. If Ferrari honestly believe this then they are accusing someone (it isn’t really clear who) of intentionally benefitting Hamilton unsportingly.

        1. But that might be a the language thing, just like the “scandal” of Ferrari is possibly an adaptation of the tone of sporting news in Italy (just look at the headlines in UK on world cup loss to get a look at how full of hyperbole those can be). Still means they should know better, but maybe we can also stop harping on how it sounds.

          Personally, when people use such language, I tend to lower my expectation of the message, hoping they calm down and then we can have a conversation.

      3. To be fair Alonso has said worse aobut F1 in the past. Have you forgotten his emotional “F1 is no longer a sport” press conference at Monza 2006 after having gotten a penalty that made this weekend look like a model of justice.

        1. Well because both of them were ridiculously stupid decisions. In Monza, he was a mile ahead of Felipe and had absolutely no impact on his qualifying lap. In Valencia, giving a drive through penalty to Hamilton nearly 20 laps after the incident was just stupid. Its almost like the stewards analysed the lap times and the handed to penalty to Hamilton as the most suitable time for him.

          I agree that Alonso exaggerates his point of view and statements, but there are times where he has had the right to be mad and say whatever he feels like.

          1. In private, maybe. In public, you’re publicly accountable for the consequences of your actions and words. That’s adult life, baby. But whatever – I think these words will come home to roost with Alonso. Bad karma and so on. If he continues to be rattled like this, watch for Felipe starting to out-race him.

          2. I do agree that he has a right to be angry, I also suspect that more of this “controversy” has been caused by us fans, the Media, and Luca.

            Alonso got angry, but it was wrong for Ferrari to repeat his words.

        2. Yes, Alonso has a long history of “outburst” against the FIA just like that pointed out by you in 2006. like the one last week in Valencia, if there was ever a case of bringing the sport into disrepute it is those comments and I can bet the FIA would probably never get worse accusation labelled against it by “any” driver than those from Alonso. The question now is, what are they going to do about it?

          1. also, also, his comment that the fans have justified anger in throwing “bottles” on the track because of the perceived injustice to him is nothing short of “incitement” which the FIA should curb IMMENDIATELY unless they want a major incident on its hands like a particular bottle hitting a particular drivers car or an Alonso fan attacking a particular driver after which everyone would say it was a deranged fan and nothing to do with Alonso despite inciting them with such vitriolic comments! FIA are you listening?

    4. miguelF1O (@)
      29th June 2010, 15:26

      i have to say that fia shooted them selves on the foot cause they looked bad and they will from now on be always disrespected they ve made a big mistake and didnt had the decency of admiting their mistakes and annuling the race. they shouldnt give points from this race and everyone would be happy it would be a damage control decision cause it would probably cost some money but it wouldnt damage the image as it did fia is now pretty mutch linked to mclaren by everyone everyone is thinking that mclaren has something to do with it and now everyone is remebering old cases and calling all sorts of things yesterday i read that an german fan said “This race was a smack in the face of all Formula 1 fans, not just those who support Ferrari”.”The FIA at Valencia showed it’s not entirely in charge of the events that it’s organising.” “But where’s the FIA? Is this the latest version of Jean Todt? Those who order and manipulate are always the same.” “Federation of clowns! What help is a five-second penalty? Useless and the usual English mafia!Shame. Yesterday we witnessed one of the darkest chapters of modern Formula One,” writes Lorenzo.Cloud. “The decision of the race officials on Hamilton is SHAMEFUL! ‘McLadren’ (McLaren thieves) up to their usual dirty tricks.”

      most mclaren fans are trying to reply these type of coments from any f1 fan but its not mclaren fans fault just like that lampard goal it was the referees fault (fia) and germanys players who saw the ball in (mclaren)

      1. Look, I agree the race was totally unfair to Alonso. But he and Ferrari were wrong to make this a personal issue over Hamilton – it amounts to persecution of one driver. Vettel benefitted totally. Let’s remember the basic error was the SC not coming out before Vettel passed. If it had, then all the front runners would have had their race ruined equally! By failing to catch Vettel, it always meant there was going to be an abritrary cut off point where some race leaders passed and others didn’t. Had Hamilton not dithered, the cut off point would have been Alonso – he would have been the one passing (or not) the SC last. And it would have been marginal.

        Alonso caused this stir by demanding a penalty for Hamilton, complaining about its failure to ruin Hamilton’s race sufficiently, and then calling the whole thing manipulated. Why so acrimonious? Only because of a series of external circumstances: the race being in Spain, Ferrari’s upgrades not enough, personal issues with Hamilton and McLaren, Ferrari backing him to distract from the testing ban agreement they ripped up, etc.

        1. miguelF1O (@)
          29th June 2010, 18:13

          yes agreed i was just giving some opinions of other f1 fans that i have read but you are making this personal as well by saying thus “Only because of a series of external circumstances: the race being in Spain, Ferrari’s upgrades not enough, personal issues with Hamilton and McLaren, Ferrari backing him to distract from the testing ban agreement they ripped up, etc.” if you research a bit you will see that mclaren was involved in too many “shambles” and the testing agreement every team has broken tha agreement for exemple the goodwood festival is an opportunity to sneek upgrades on the cars and all comercials made by teams since starting the year

          1. miguelF1O (@)
            29th June 2010, 18:23

            the most logical thing to do was anulling the race although not fair for those who respected the rules vettel(lucky to pit before mayhem surely he wasnt predicting that his team mate was flying so high) kobayashi alonso massa it would be the best way of penalising so many drivers and it wasnt going to look so bad for fia and mclaren who was completly trashed by world press and fans because fia didnt void the race im satrting to believe what european press said about the race and thats sad cause i wanted to forget football and focus on f1 but in the end its all the same

      2. I’m sorry, you think the race should be annulled? On what precedent? Singapore 08?

        1. lol I agree. These events were unfortunate, but there are very few situations where a race should be annulled- in the event of a scandal of Indy 05 scale perhaps or a fatality or very serious incident where the race is impacted. Otherwise, Alonso was just unfortunate to get caught where he was and that the stewards weren’t quick enough to penalise Hamilton. Alonso was unlucky to finish where he did but would have done so regardless of the stewards, and Hamilton was lucky to finish where did as the penalty should have been quicker but was unlucky for being caught for such a minor error anyway. I think this is being blown well out of proportion and is nowhere near the scandal that some commenters and Ferrari and Alonso are making it out to be. If I hear the word Valencia-gate because of this I will have to assume that the -gate suffix is only ever referring to a bit of a pickle.

          1. anyone that even consider this incident in valencia on the same sentence or breath as the clear “race fixing” by Alonso’s team in Singapore 2008 to gift him the win needs their heads checked.

            If you research very well and if you’ve been an F1 follower not from yesterday then you’d know that the lenght of time it took to investage the incident was fairly standard in F1 unless of course its an incident that is clear for all to see with the naked eye like jumping a race start.

            The worst part of this episode is the fact that Alonso REPORTED Hamilton then DEMANDED a penalty for him and when he felt the penalty wasnt sufficient essentially went BESERK!

  3. Charlie Watts
    29th June 2010, 12:54

    Excellent article Keith. Although i think the FIA eventually made the right decision i agree that the rules could’ve been deployed in a better way. I don’t know about banning pitting during a SC as this i feel this adds an extra strategic element though. However, if the 9 drivers exceeded a the lap time they should’ve been penalised immediately. It takes a few seconds to look at a timeing screen and see that a driver has gone too fast. So why penalise them 3 hours later!? With Hamilton, it seems the FIA did all it could with the data available but Hamilton just got lucky!

    1. Thank you Charlie :-)

    2. I think the only thing you could say is that race control was busy with making the SC work to bother with penalties for what seems to be rather blameless infractions if those drivers were indeed only 6 seconds behind Massa. Maybe they were busy with Hamilton first, then argued for too long about what to do with official infractions that the drivers were largely blameless about to serve drive-through penalties.

      It seems that drivers get a target time for each sector, but if they are almost through that sector, that is not reachable. If so, they need to start using those GPSes to determine target times. So, by all means: do look at what to improve, there are at least several points of clarification and improvement to gain here.

      1. The race control was busy????? maybe Charlie is too old. Poor grand father.

        It’s ridiculous to have so much technology and put it in hands of just one person that hasn`t got time to atend it. The race continues while an accident!!!!

        Explanatios of FIA these days maybe say that it wasn’t willfully, but what it says is that it’s very incompetent.

        I also have to say that people and press in Spain blame to Hamilton. But Alonso only spoke about bad luck for him and FIA decissions. Yes, he was angry but he ask forgiveness in a declaration (forced by team and circumstances, I think). FIA wil never ask forgiveness and that’s what people, in Spain and all the world, is used to see: F1 doesn’t work good, and without Alonso and his whinning it looks as if everybody don’t matter.

    3. As both Kubica and Button have indicated they were so close to the end of the third sector that they couldn’t meet the delta time. I am worried that the FIA in this case set standards that were impossible to meet and therefore some or all of the 9 drivers received unjustly penalised.

    4. because there was no way to punish them without it being too harsh for the minor infraction some of them committed (due to it being impossible to actually slow in time, according to Button at least).

      a drive-thru for all of them would have caused chaos, and been way to over the top

    5. Looks like Hamilton always gets lucky when he needs to change a flat or a front wing. Remember Monaco some time back when he crashed into the guard rail only to have a SC solve all his misdemeanor?

      1. how lucky did he get in 2008? perhaps you have a short memory

    6. I agree about Hamilton getting lucky.

      Short pit lane and gaps in the field combined to allowed him to retain his position. If this had been another track with longer pit land and a closer field and Hamilton had lost a couple positions, I don’t think anyone would be saying much about it.

      1. How’s this for a method of stopping people from dashing to the pits – keep the red light at the end of the pitlane switched on until the Safety Car has stopped at the end of the pitlane and collected the race leader?

  4. I’d forgotten the bottle on the track incident. Why was the race not under safety car as soon as it was discovered. Race control had no way of knowing how the bottle would move as cars passed it and it was only ggod luck that it was pushed off the racing line. The bottle was retrieved by a brave or fool hardy marshall. Did he have permission to sprint onto the track to remove? What if the guy had tripped & fallen? The consequences of this incident could have been horrendous. The US racing series often throw frivolous safety cars for debris but it seems F1 have a lot to learn.

    1. @ Micheal
      no, the FIA are no fools! the bottle on the track was thrown by an Alonso fan to “MANIPULATE” the race result, i.e. to bring out the Safety car again to bunch up the field and help Alonso closer to the front. This was thrown after Alonso’s rant which the fans must have heard. Now talk about incitement.

      1. Lesly, the bottle wasn’t thrown by fans, because in that place there weren’t terraces and so there weren’t public. Its easy to understand that a crystal bottle would broke if it were thrown from outside the circuit. There are somo explanations about the bottle.

        Anyway, in that moment Alonso hadn’t spoken, so maybe if Spanish people were angry it was just because they all have eyes to see, and watch F1 since before yesterday.

        If I was there after paying 400 euro for seeing that race I wouldn’t have tried to manipulate the race making the SC gout out again. I would have tried to hit someone with the bottle. Probalby Hamilton’s helmet.

        But well, I’m just an angry spanish fan, and well, we’re allways complaining. You know. ;)

        But, please, think about paying 400 euro for watching that.

  5. The GPS tracks would have indicated that it was very close – but we know that it is not accurate to better than a metre plus we do not know how frequently it samples and makes data available … so it might simply have shown that it was very close.
    Given the importance of the Safety Car lines on the track then maybe they should install camera at each side of the track.

    However, why did they bring out the safety car at that point? Couldn’t they have held in the pit lane until closer to the leader coming around?
    Getting the medical car to the crash is important – but was Webber already out of his car before the SC appeared?

    1. Couldn’t they have held in the pit lane until closer to the leader coming around?

      Yes, but they would have had to wait an entire lap (Vettel having only just gone past the pits) and they wanted the Safety Car to escort the Medical Car to the scene of the accident as quickly possible. And you don’t take chances with things like that.

      1. Then the procedure should be fore the SC to let drivers pass it until the leader catches up to it.

        1. Charlie Whiting didn’t want the medical car to be on the track with F1 cars whizzing past by it at their maximum speeds, so med car went first, then the SC, then the rest of the field who don’t have permission to pass the SC.

          1. I’m sure it’s within F1 drivers to slow to a crawl when approaching the scene of an accident and passing the medical car, and that a rule for it can be drawn up…I know where you’re coming from but it’s a weak argument from Charlie (if you’re paraphrasing him).

          2. You can’t rely on a competitor not to try and gain advantage even if it could cause danger.

          3. Over on page 4 … Patrickl says that the Safety Car was in front of the Medical Car as they left the pits.

        2. Passing the safety car defeats the object of safety!! The safety car should be able to pass the already slowed race cars to reach the leader, particularly as it is driven by a very competant professional! Whether the pits are opened or not is a seperate argument. Lets not forget the consequences if Weber had been unlucky! When I saw the accident my immeadiate thoughts went to Greg Moore’s horrific accident!

          1. That’s what I was thinking as well. Since the safety car failed to pick up Vettel, an order should be issued to Vettel to slow to a crawl and wait to let the safety car pass and take the lead. As it was, I don’t understand how Vettel and Hamilton weren’t a lap ahead of everyone else…

      2. If we had a full course speed limit instead of a safety car this wouldn’t be a problem, everyone would have had to slow to a mandated safe speed at the very first flag point they reached.

        1. that’s a bad idea, if say, the speed is 100km/h, should drivers stick at 100km/h the whole time for a time advantage or stop and start and weave to keep the tyres and brakes warm.

          But what if 100 if to fast? what if they need them going slower, for example if there is a crash at Monaco. So they set the speed lower? 60? the cars will overheat!

          You need the safety car because it can react to the conditions, It can vary the speed based on the current need.

          1. Unless of course, the car doesn’t fall in behind the SC in the first place, which is causing all the kerfuffle.

          2. I may have got confused. Some people were talking about scrapping the safety car… Maybe that is not what was said here.

          3. In the actual corner where there is an incident you could post a different limit if necessary. i.e. 60 Km/h in one corner 160 km/h on the rest of the circuit. We have big flashing boards at the marshalling points now, that wouldn’t be hard to implement, or obey – teams can program limited speed programs into ECUs easy enough. Typically, though, double-waved yellows would be enough to indicate extra caution is needed on one corner.

            I would think driver’s would stick to the speed limit without weaving so as not to lose time on the driver ahead.

            Bernd Maylander says he is “on the limit” most of the time in the safety car. That doesn’t seem like the safest option to me.

    2. It is reported that the SC was called when Webber was in the air, as Keith says, to escort the medical car to site – we just didn’t see the images of the leaders and SC at the time because we were looking at the incident.

      1. Correct. On the TV world feed, the “SC” logo appeared on the screen about four seconds after Webber’s car came to rest. About four seconds later, the lap number changed from 9 to 10, i.e. Vettel crossed the S/F line.

        The safety car couldn’t have got out any faster, and it would have been wrong to make it wait at all, let alone for a full lap.

    3. MacademiaNut
      29th June 2010, 19:08

      Given that there’s no more refueling, the only sane way to do this is to close the pit and open it after a lap or so – having picked up all the cars in order.

      1. Well that’s a constructive opinion. Better than complain, better than defend actual rules, what we have to do is improve the rules to avoid these problems and avoid ways to give rise to suspicion.

        And I repeat, for me it’s not valid that marshalls were very busy. Maybe someone has to delegate work in order to use all the technology deployed.

  6. Very good article on the situation. I agree that the stewards should get quicker procedures for determining how to react to incidents, maybe shorten procedures but find a way to be able to overturn obvious wrong rulings. And penalties should be clear up front, justified and fitting the crime as well as consistent.

    It seems the FOTA teams and the FIA are planning to meet and discuss how to handle the SC ( ) so let’s just hope this matter will not disrupt F1 but will be another turning point for improving from mistakes.

    And let’s hope Ferrari will tone down the comments and be part of the discussions.

    1. Agreed. I think Ferrari have perhaps been a bit too public and vociferous in their outrage, but they have some valid points. When the penalties make no difference to the outcome, then drivers in similar situations in the future will have to ask themselves if the benefits of cheating outweigh the penalty. Hopefully this meeting will sort out some of the confusion. Ultimately though I think the FIA needs to implement more transparency in their decision making process and provide more clarification to ambiguous terms like “reprimand.”

  7. I agree that alonso’s move at Shanghai did before the eyes of the race director..But hamilton’s move did before the eyes of Bernd Mayländer…So this is not an excuse for why hamilton’s penalty was to late…

    1. Surely Maylander would have been concentrating on driving – it isn’t his job to watch for Hamilton, especially as he was still (mostly) within the pit exit and not on the track. This is presumably why he did not report to Charlie that it had happened: because he would not necessarily see the safety car two line at the relevant point.

      1. Exactly, I imagine he was looking forwards rather than sideways just in case someone overtook him just past the safety car.

        1. NO he wasn’t looking forward if you see this video You can see that the SC starts to move left and across the line from the pits exit and when he saw hamilton passing move again right! So he saw him pass…

      2. Maylander almost caused an accident of his own with Hamilton and might be the reason why Hamilton seemed to stall. If you watch the replay, Maylander’s care was almost swerving towards Hamilton aka and illegal pit exit, Hamilton then had to slow down to avoid a potential crash with the SC, but when Maylander corrected, Hamilton went looking for the Safety car line and sped off.

    2. aha, very good point. surely he must have seen it.

    3. Hadn’t thought about that, yet another reason why it was a discrace it took them 50 minutes to give him a penalty it could have taken 2 looks at the replay and a quick chat with Maylander to work out.

      Also I read somewhere, don’t know if anyone can confirm it but the FIA stewards have discression to delay a penalty to influence its severity. Eg Webber in Germany ’09 where it took them ages to give a penalty for the first lap incident and Singapore 08 where they took far too long to give a penalty to Rosberg which could have happened instantaniously.

      Even if this isn’t true the incosistancy of time taken for simple penalty decisions still leave the door open for conspiracy theorists who want to believe the powers that be work against their team and driver.

      1. It probably only did take them 2 looks at the replay, but it took them 45 mins to find the replay to look at.

    4. Remember that who is sat next to Mayländer is not a co-pilot. He is a MARSHALL. It’s very incomprehensible. And I have to say that marshalls in Valencia are most of them Spanish. So that, I don’t think is manipulation, I say again that the problem is that marshalls are very incompetent.

  8. Totally agree with you Keith. I wont just say good article … but a great article as nobody else came with a comparison of the times for decision making by the stewards … Great job again …!

  9. Accidental Mick
    29th June 2010, 13:27

    I have thought about this posting (not my idea)more and cannot see a downside.
    Do away with the safety car. An extra warning light in the cockpit to tell the driver that in 10 seconds the pit lane limiter is going to engage then, after the 10 secs, remotely switch on the limiter. Everyone will keep their place.

    Should the pit lane be closed? Discuss.

    1. The downside I can think of is that the safety car driver has a better view of the track, while the drivers we have heard many times are so low that many corners which would present no problem to even a GT car are blind to a F1 driver. In this case any objects on the track at the exit of a corner would be undetectable and could cause an accident. The safety car can lead the cars along a specific line to avoid debris or oil.

    2. I agree with Rob’s reply – but also, the pit lane limit would be too slow for the cars (especially at Valencia: only 60 km/h). They would lose tyre and brake temperature, and tyre pressure – in fact, one theory says that a loss of tyre pressure was at least partly responsible for Senna’s crash at Imola.

      Don’t forget that the Mercedes safety car is a 571 bhp supercar being driven quite hard (other than down the straights).

      Simply putting in a second, higher speed limiter for these situations would mean the drivers would still be nearly flat out around some of the tighter corners.

      1. Exactly. The safety car has the ability to slow the drivers to a crawl around the site of an accident, or even stop them if need be. A full course speed limit wouldn’t do the same thing at all. There’s clearly a need for the SC. I think Keith is right that pitting should be disallowed under SC conditions.

    3. A Safety Car enables the grid to be bunched, guaranteeing the marshals X number of seconds when they can be on track and remove stuff, safe in the knowledge that nothing can hit them (because everything that could is behind the car). It can be annoying from a sporting perspective, but Safety Cars are a considerable asset in terms of safety.

  10. Who runs all the other types of motorsport in the world ? Do we really need the FIA “running” this sport ? They write a massive rulebook, but at almost every race something happens or several things happen that proves the rulebook is just badly thought out rubbish. I love this sport but the people running it just keep on making a mess of it.

    1. You clearly missed the complaining about the organizers of Le Mans, the ACO (L’Automobile Club de l’Ouest) during the race and with respect to rule changes this year and for next year. It is not FIA only – just look at FIFA, for another recent example – also trouble about rulings gone awry.

    2. Shaun Field
      29th June 2010, 14:01

      Nearly every sport has a single international body that polices the sport, and will normally control the highest-ranking competition directly

  11. Ha ha … the so called 9 speeding drives are less than 6 secs behind Massa in the race when they dived into pits under SC. I dont understand how they managed to speed in less than three corners before the pit lane entry! And how this would be a breach of rules, if they havn’t done a full lap speeding! This is a disgrace to even give them penalties for that.

  12. I think you’ve pretty much hit the nail on the head Keith. At least with Jean Todt at the helm there is the possibility of a review and corrective action being taken.

  13. I thought they used to have a stop-go penalty available, which was between the drive-through and the ten second penalty.

    Any governing body should always be looking at how it can improve the rules especially in a sport which changes as much as F1 does.

    I agree that now the main reason not to close the pit lane, if a car was needed refuelling, they can just start closing it again when the safety car is deployed.

    Also I think the stewards should have released data showing by how much each driver missed the target lap time, and under which rule they decided to only give 5 second penalties.

    Something like this should have been the penalty for Schumacher at Monaco, as that situation arose because of a grey area in the rules and the best thing would have been to reverse the places.

    1. Prisoner Monkeys
      29th June 2010, 13:40

      The stop-go is the ten second penalty. When given a drive-through, the driver pits and drives the length of pit lane under pit conditions, ie limited to one hundred kilometres an hour.

      But when issued with a stop-go penalty, the driver pits, pulls into his pit box and must sit stationary for ten seconds (the team cannot approach the car the way they would in a normal pit stop) and then leave the lane.

      1. The stop go penalty was popular when there was no pit lane speed limit.

  14. Great article. Here’s one case where NASCAR rules could actually help F1! Keep the pit lane closed until the safety car picks up the leader and the cars have all queued behind it. It doesnt make any sense that certain cars have to slow down behind the safety car while others are allowed past (other than for safety). If Hamilton had stayed behind the safety car, there would be similar uproar because his race would have been ruined as well and he’d let us all know.

  15. Shaun Field
    29th June 2010, 13:57

    I believe that the current situation with stewarding comes down to having 4 stewards for a race. I belive this is not nessicary. They need ONE steward, just one, with assistants who are there purely to assist in bringing evidence to the main steward. This one steward, preferably the same one for the season, should be making all the decisions! This would be the easist way to make things as consistant as possible within the current rules.

    On the pits closing rule, I agree it needs to come back. However for cars needing to urgently pit for whatever reason, they should pit as required, then should be given a 10-second stop and go, which can be served once the pit lane is opened. This way, they make the nessicary fixes, then aren’t advantaged by track position. Allowing them to serve it with the rest of the pitting field means they won’t be unfairly punished once the race goes green as well.

  16. Thanks for the analysis Keith

    Whatever your view on this

    Mine is that the punishment is the punishment which lewis hurt it is unlucky that Ferrari lost out but that is bad just bad luck.

    Do people remember last year in Germany when Webber was given a Drive Through after an unsafe release but he still won the race? Is that fair probably not but he served the punishment and we just move on.

    And when we offer over the course of the years there are plenty of times when diffrent teams have been harsly punished and got away with things and it tends to balance out.

    If you belive in Karma you could say Lewis getting away with this is in return for his rediculous penality in Spa 08.

    On another point has anyone seen this;

    He can talk!!!!

  17. I was under the impression that the International Sporting Code laid down the form that penalties could take in the Sporting Regulations.

    The Sporting Code itself isn’t supposed to be used as a guide for issuing penalties, but for setting them in the Sporting Regulations. Using the Code in this way is highly irregular.

  18. Excellent points made here and far less emotional supporter nonsense.

    1. Alonso hates Hamilton there is not question about that.
    2. As the video shows Hamilton passed the SC, yet at the moment it happened, who actually saw it? We had to REPLAY and go slow motion to ACTUALLY SEE how close it was.
    3. The action was on Mark Webber at the time of his horific crash, and we all thank the lucky stars for him being alright, just HOW would the SC have been deployed whilst he was still flying?? Must have been a super dispatch unit in a matter of split seconds, because that was how long (or short) it took for the RBR to come to a halt against the tyre barrier. THe action followed MW undoing and throwing his steering wheel one side (seems all drivers like to do that) and then promptly getting OUT of the RBR wreck. All this in less than a minute. mmmmm WHo deployed the safety car and when ????

    Alonso’s whinning and crying over spilt milk is not going to hand him any championships, so perhaps Massa should shake off his Hungaroring accident and really give the Spaniard some stick …. Race Alonso, race !!!

    1. Don’t worry. Alonso will race and I’m sure he’ll also win. But today, the thing is the rules, the cheat, and complain. Nobody will complain about english no-goal next year. Today is the time to speak about it and try not to repeat.

  19. Superb post, Keith. Congrats!

  20. What a shambles. And all because Alonso is acting like a spoilt child.

    They should close the pit lane and allow all cars to pass the safety car until the leader is behind it.

    As for penalties, ridiculous how even today the stewards can ruin the races, especially with no right of appeal and with no explanation behind them.

    We can’t change the length of pit lanes and having a different length stop/go would only add to the time in pit lane – why don’t they just adjuist the pit lane speeds for drive throughs in each race so the same time is spent in the pit lane at each circuit?

    1. The problem with allowing them to go passed until the leader reaches the sc is that the cars are still going at speed for longer. Maybe get them to line up as they are supposed to now but then sort it out once the mess has been sorted?

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