Video reveals Schumacher’s start-line blunder

2012 Hungarian Grand PrixPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

The Hungarian Grand Prix got off to a false start after a blunder by Michael Schumacher on the grid.

The Mercedes driver pulled up in Heikki Kovalainen’s grid position ahead of the original start of the race, mistakenly lining up 19th instead of 17th.

This video shot by a fan shows Schumacher’s Mercedes on its correct starting position before the formation lap.

But when the field return to the grid for the start Schumacher, partly obscured by an advertising hoarding, pulled up behind the vacant space his car should have occupied.

This caused some confusion behind Schumacher, with other drivers not taking the correct positions on the grid as a result. Race director Charlie Whiting aborted the start of the race and sent the drivers around to form up again.

At this point Schumacher compounded his error by switching his engine off, meaning he had to start from the pit lane. “Our engine temperatures were very high before the start, and when the yellow lights came on, I switched the engine off,” he said.

Thanks to Girts for the tip.

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92 comments on “Video reveals Schumacher’s start-line blunder”

  1. Nick.UK (@)
    30th July 2012, 11:02

    I guess even the most experienced on the grid can make a pretty shocking mistake quite easily at times.

    1. Indeed. In recent times Hamilton (Canada), Button (China), Montoya (Canada), Coulthard (Australia), or even Mansell (Estoril)… had face-palm moments.

      1. @alexde I still have a chuckle when I think of DC sliding into the pit wall entry at Adelaide :P

    2. Tom (@newdecade)
      31st July 2012, 0:42

      Given how bizarre the whole sequence was… Did anyone see it was actually the schum in that car? For that matter when and where was Ralf last seen..?

      1. @Tom

        Reminds me of an old story of Eddie Ervine back in the Jordan days. Eddie Jordan asks Ervine to go out for some promotional photographs and Eddie being Eddie couldn’t be bothered with it. He moans to Jordan something along these lines “do I have to? can’t you just send out some ***** in my helmet and they won’t know the difference”

        Schumacher heard the story and how it worked so come race day Shumi moans to Ross “do I have to race today, the cars crap and I’m stuck at the back, can’t you just send out some ***** in my helmet and they won’t know the difference”

      2. Nah, surely not. Ralf knows exactly where 17th on the grid is.

    3. Holy Crap!

  2. So *that* was the reason for the second warm-up lap! Nice scoop Keith..

  3. I have to say, the most I took away from this – as bizarre as it was, and confusing for some time until a while after the race when it finally came out what actually caused this – was a reminder of the importance of Charlie Whiting’s job. He’s always there, but I don’t think most watching tend to give him much thought. It’s his job as much as many others to make sure the drivers have a safe and proper start, and he’s obviously got a good eye up there. (After all, the guy at the back did wave the green flag to give him the go ahead! Despite that, he still spotted that something was amiss and the start needed to be aborted.)

    1. It’s his job as much as many others to make sure the drivers have a safe and proper start, and he’s obviously got a good eye up there.

      He probably saw and/or heard Vitaly Petrov’s reaction as he lined up on the grid. Kovalainen was expecting to see Schumacher directly in front of him, but Petrov pulled up in the correct position and was ahead of Kovalainen when he should have been behind. He hesitated in the middle of the circuit for a moment, then cut across to his grid position. He was probably telling Whiting that Schumacher was out of sequence.

      1. Petrov waving frantically was the thing caught my eye too – I’d assumed he’d stalled but I couldn’t fathom why the yellow flag marshal wasn’t responding.

        Definitely a senior moment for Schuey. With almost five weeks off somebody will have to make sure he remembers to show up in Belgium…

      2. He was probably telling Whiting that Schumacher was out of sequence.

        I’d be surprised if he’s able to communicate much other than “problem” from where he is :D

      3. Eleanore (@leucocrystal)
        31st July 2012, 5:35

        Yeah, watching again I can see Petrov signalling, which is good, but still, the whole incident did highlight for me what potential problems Whiting needs to look out for at every race start!

    2. As a race starter, you go through a process of checklists in your head making sure everything is ready for the start. Like are all the marshals clear, all the cars in grid spots (before they go on warm up lap, take note of all empty spots) and yellow flags on the pit wall. amonsgt other things. Charlie has done this heaps of times so would have his own routine, thus able to spot it quickly. It does look strange when theres an empty grid spot for no apparent reason!

      The guy with the green is usually just looking at the last 2-4 cars and waving the flag as soon as they stop. The adrenalin is running high and therefore may not have seen Schumacher stop in the wrong spot. The two HRT’s are right so they wouldnt have had the perspective to see Michael go wrong.

      Whats Hungarian for ‘Oh ****’? ;)

      1. Actually, now i watch it again, the HRT’s are wrong… so who knows what was happening? Hmm

  4. How on earth did a seven-time World Champion make such a rookie mistake? This is the kind of thing that I would expect from a Formula Ford driver. It’s not like the organisers in Hungary changed the grid around so that pole position was on the other side.

    I could maybe believe that Schumacher did it deliberately to force an aborted start and begin in pit lane, which – as was pointed out in the commentary – is considerably further down the main straight than the grid, but there are far easier ways to go about doing it, and if it was intentional, then shutting the engine off was excessive. Not to mention the way Schumacher got a drive-through penalty for speeding in pit lane, thereby negating any intended gain.

    Schumacher’s gaffe was probably one of the more bizarre – and let’s be honest, embarrassing – incidents I’ve seen in a long time. You have to wonder what was going on in his head at the time. It suggests a complete and uncharacteristic lack of focus.

    1. Turns out the drive through penalty was a mistake, it should actually have just been a fine IF I read the rules correctly. I just don’t see any advantage from starting from the pitlane in any way however.

      1. I just don’t see any advantage from starting from the pitlane in any way however.

        Schumacher would have avoided the potential carnage on the first lap, given that overtaking at the Hungaroring is notoriously difficult, so track position goes a long way. Aside from one hairy moment at the first corner, it didn’t happen, but the theory is sound.

        1. The theory isn’t that sound. Starting from the pit lane means you have to let the field pass. He may have avoided said potential carnage but then he’d be 7 places further back (24th instead of 17th) on a circuit that you rightly say is very difficult to pass on.

      2. There is no advantage unless ur a top 10 runner that qualified on a set of tyres then destroyed them in an incident after setting ur fastest time on that set then its not advantage its damage limitation.He is too old and 5 of his championships were gifts with no competition on track and a superior ferrari that on they bridgestones was so rappid, if senna had not passed he would have been in the ferrari,then micky shoe fixer would have been the average borderline cheat he is now. He seems to be getting more and more desperate(like wen he parked it at monico in the ferrari to stop anybody beating his time) retire again sir,Rosberg is putting you into shame indeedy.

        1. He seems to be getting more and more desperate

          @eefay1 Why the attack on Schumacher? He made an embarrassing mistake and suffered the consequences. I hardly think this is any sort of indication that 5 of his championships were gifts.

          If you knew anything of F1 history you’d probably know that Senna would probably not have touched a 1990s Ferrari with a barge-pole as they were pretty much a midfield team. He was desperate to, and finally managed to, get a Williams drive and reportedly offered to drive the Williams for free. I’d be surprised if Ferrari didn’t try to get Senna at some point but as he was later on in his career it’s unlikely he would have benefited from their subsequent revival (even assuming there was such a revival without Schumacher).

          1. @jerseyf1…while I agree that events as they unfolded for MS on the weekend were embarassing and he suffered the consequences, and it had nothing to do with 5 WDC’s being gifted to him, I think the point is F1 for him now is nothing like he had it in the past.

            I cannot agree with your comments about F1 history as it pertains to Senna, MS, and Ferrari. I personally believe it was Senna’s death that caused Max and Bernie to orchestrate a new chapter in F1 post-Senna by moving MS to Ferrari with an unprecedented deal, to end their WDC drought. MS didn’t want to go the ‘those red cars I keep passing in my Benetton.’

            MS had two ‘awful’ WDC’s at Benetton, in that the cars were highly illegal on several fronts, he whacked DH for the ‘win’ in 94, and in 95 there were still accusations that they had illegal traction control and the FIA admitted they could not police for it. The media was hounding the FIA as to how they could allow MS to have his (particularly 94) WDC. With Senna gone, and Max and Bernie feeling the need to get MS, their new icon, away from the ugly Benetton years of 94 and 95, they moved him to Ferrari with all his main crew from Benetton, with a salary unprecedented, with a contracted subservient teammate, also unprecedented, and the rest is history…with a contracted subservient on board you have the green flag to build the car with one driver in mind and eventually the tires too. And thus a new chapter in F1 was created…it didn’t evolve that way naturally…it evolved because Max and Bernie wanted it so.

            That’s why Ferrari was not on Senna’s or MS’s radar, nor Max and Bernie’s. Because while Senna was alive and MS was at Benetton Max and Bernie thought the transition from the past ‘era’ of Senna, Prost, Mansell, Berger, etc. would happen naturally with MS as the new guy to duke it out with Senna and take over the reigns eventually. But Senna died, and MS was in a mess at Benetton at least from a PR standpoint.

            Wind the clock forward to today, and without even discussing what happened to him last weekend, the bottom line is that upon MS’s return we have seen the results of him no longer having a top car, built for only him, as were the tires, without a contracted subservient to shield him from that physical battle on the track as well as the psychological one off the track, without the will and the actions of Max and Bernie to have him end a WDC drought and create a new chapter.

            Even if you think MS earned and deserved everything he got, the fact remains he achieved the numbers he did with a ton of unique ingredients helping him get there, hand over fist moreso than any other driver in the history of F1, and those ingredients are simply not in place now.

        2. SubSailorFl
          31st July 2012, 2:50

          Well said

      3. TV commentators explained the drive through was not for his start, but he re-entered on lap 2 to switch tyres and THEN he was a little faster-

      4. PJ (@pjtierney)
        30th July 2012, 16:04

        If I remember correctly:

        Pit-Lane Speeding in pre-race sessions = Fine
        Pit-Lane Speeding in the race = Drive-Through

      5. Regarding whether Schumacher’s penalty should have been a fine or a drive-through, fines are given if a driver speeds in any session other than the race (sporting regulations article 30.12).

        Stewards’ document 32 describes Schumacher’s penalty as follows:

        Time: 14:05
        Session: Race
        Fact: Pit Lane Speeding – 111.4 km/h.
        Offence: Breach of Article 30.12 of the FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations

        So that all seems to be in order and the drive-through penalty was correct.

        1. If only people had read ur post mate,they could have saved time and effort,the aborted lap was still lap 1 of the race,no fine cs he done it at 14.05 so drive through.simples.
          If it wasn’t for bad luck that oap German would have no luck at all,pressure never really used to bother him,let’s face it he is mercs pr stunt and its worked,he has some extra cash and that is that,I strongly believe if they had put the effort into sorting nico out instead of changing a car that nico was qualifying and winning races in they would be doing better.Its like do anything to keep msc happy&stop him crying.his tallent is gone,along with his thought train and ability to still drive fast and process information and or tasks in the cockpit. He is a spoilt 40’odd year old child that won’t give up in the face of scrutiny.stubborn to a fault&belief he is uber important. Dilusional,at what age do they take ur superlicense off you for oap reasons? Lol the banter.

    2. @prisoner-monkeys no he definitely did not do it on purpose because if you start from the pit lane you are not allowed to leave the pit lane until all of the other cars have gone around the first corner

    3. thatscienceguy
      30th July 2012, 11:27

      There is no advantage i can see from starting in the pitlane deliberately. The exit may be further down than the grid, but you can’t leave until EVERY car has gone past. So no matter where the exit as, you’re always starting 24 and some distance behind.

      If he wanted to start from pitlane he would have just driven in after the formation lap.

    4. If it was a mistake, ridiculous. He could see the empty grid spot ahead of him.

      1. Yes, the fact he made three mistakes in succession is very strange (wrong grid spot, switched off engine, sped in the pit lane) but how he didn’t realize something was wrong with that empty spot has me completely baffled. Plus if he saw the grid wasn’t properly formed – which surely he saw, even if he didn’t realize he was the one out of position – why did he switch the engine off? Surely he knew what the start problem was and it would just mean reforming the grid with another lap??!

        1. He shouldn’t have been given the penalty apparently as it was before the race so it should’ve been a fine. He turned the engine off because it was overheating, better to start in the pitlane with a car still going than not start the race at all with an engine blowout.

          1. True, but I’d read that he’d switched off the engine thinking the start was being aborted, not because he had an imminent problem with the engine.

          2. The cynic in me would say that perhaps the Merc was under-fuelled for the race, so he took extreme measures to reduce fuel requirements (switch off engine, do one less lap etc.). Obviously, Schumacher could never be that cold or calculating, so it’s far more likely that he just had a ‘senior’ moment.

    5. We should not be that hard on him, just was one of those face-palm moment like Button did China last year.
      Just for gag, I was simultaneously chatting with my girl friend and client and with one of those Alt-Tab bloopers, I typed something to my client which I should not.

    6. @prisoner-monkeys He isn’t God to be perfect! He must have been engrossed in something else. Or he must have turned off the engine before reaching his box by mistake, which led him to stall on the wrong grid spot.

    7. @prisoner-monkeys Only recently we saw him make mistakes when it came to multi-tasking inside the cockpit and slide off in the wet. Perhaps his reflexes are not what they were?

    8. Could have happened to anyone. You’re reading too much into it.

      1. SubSailorFl
        31st July 2012, 4:21

        Appears to be some 7 time World Champ Armchair Quarterbacks excercising 20/20 hindsight and years of F1 watching experience telling someone who actually has done it how he did wrong.

  5. Would Schumacher have got a penalty for lining up on the wrong spot had he not turned his engine off?

    1. Yup. He would’ve had to start from the back anyway for causing the second formation lap.

  6. Is Michael’s mind still on the job? In Germany he spun off while fiddling with the radio, in Friday’s FP2 he forgets to turn into the corner, and on Sunday he is unable to park his car or turn on the pit lane speed limiter. A shocking performance from Der Michael.

    1. @adrianmorse Do you really think he would have made the corner in FP2? There was so much water on track, and he was on inters. He was being super cautious, just listen to his engine note. There’s no way he would have got around, he slid off because he aquaplaned on the standing water.

      1. @pielighter, I was being a little unkind, perhaps, but it still looked clumsy from the outside. First, he clearly misjudged the situation, and second he completely lost control of the car hundreds of yards from the corner. I realize driving an F1 car in the wet is difficult, but I expect more from a 7-time world champion and ‘Regenmeister’ to boot.

        1. @adrianmorse Of course wet driving is difficult. But driving in what was basically a lake with intermediates? Impossible. He may be der Regenmeister but even he couldn’t do that.

          1. Schumacher: Aquaplaning didn’t cause the crash.
            “I just ran out of road…I locked up and couldn’t stop it, but I don’t think aquaplaning was the problem,” Schumacher explained afterwards. “It was a bit of a strange one, but you’ve just got to forget about these things and move on.”

  7. So what happens if the guy starting on pole lines up on the wrong grid slot 70 times in a row? Does he win the race :D :D

    1. I had exactly the same cynical thought process! I suspect they’d get black-flagged if they took it to that kind of extreme.

    2. Normally the car gets moved to pit lane for causing a restart.

      Lining up the car in the wrong sport is a break of the sporting rules though. So the stewards could technically hand out any penalty they deem fit.

      1. You’d hope they would get disqualified if they turned up to a GP2 race in an F1 car. :)

  8. Schumacher, he’s oldie but a rookie.

  9. That’s so bizarre that it almost looks on purpose. You always know who’s in front of you cause you race with these guys. For instance, you know Vettel is gonna try to chop you off, so you plan for it.

    You mean he didn’t think nothing of the empty slot in front of him, and didn’t remember that the same car he started the formation lap was now 2 slots ahead? In a way it reminded me of him blocking the track at Monaco qual, except with no clear method to this madness. All the cars were getting hot, but not enough for anybody to shut down just yet (not even his teammate). Kinda looked like he was up to something and it backfired.

    1. The way I interpreted it, he started the formation lap in the wrong spot.

      1. He was in the right spot before the formation lap.

      2. Pardon me if I was presumptuous. I wasn’t positive about it, but I was also under the impression he lined up correctly before the formation lap too.

        When I said it looked like he was up to something, what I meant there was that he knew he screwed up and was hoping for some kind of concession by shutting the motor off and blocking the track.

        1. Meh, I didn’t watch the video before posting that, I just read the article. :L
          Schumacher is always the malevolent one, isn’t he? If it were another driver then you wouldn’t be making those accusations. Do you honestly think he would screw over his entire race just to cause a blockage of the grid? He may have caused a lot of controversial incidents in the past but he’s not an idiot.

    2. Bear in mind that the seats in these cars are literally on the ground so maybe his front platypuss nose was abstructing his view of the next grid slot. Also how would he know if the others are out of order behind him if he was the one unknowingly causing it. Plus also why would a driver look behind at the start of the race as wouldnt they more likely be starting adjusting the steering wheel. And who in there right mind would want to start last in the pitlane without being forced to ? Sometimes these conspiracy theories make me laugh.

  10. I heard that Kobayashi initially pulled up in the wrong grid slot and Michael then slotted in behind him and then KK moved forward but Michael did not. You cannot see that in the video.

  11. If my memory serves me right I think Fisichella have done a similar mistake in the past.

    Anyway, that’s extremely embarrassing for Schumacher. Despite getting his first podium finish with Mercedes, I still don’t believe he’d continue his F1-career next year.

    1. If my memory serves me right I think Fisichella have done a similar mistake in the past.

      Fisichella did it twice, Malaysia 2001 & then again at Malaysia in 2003.

      In 2001 it caused an aborted start as he stopped in the middle of the track, IN 2003 he simply reversed into the correct spot although then stalled the car.

    2. And I also remember Button going to the wrong pit, with a different TEAM

  12. I thought I saw Schumacher out of position on TV, and I thought it was a little odd. But a very strange incident, I would love to know what his thought process was at the time, but this isn’t something that’s normally seen, especially not from a man as experienced as Michael. Have we had a line from him about starting from the wrong grid slot? Or just about the turning off of the engine due to a misunderstanding of the lights?

  13. sounds like he had engine overheating issues and was forced to turn his engine off to avoid a failiure.

  14. matthewf1 (@)
    30th July 2012, 13:39

    Surely this will confirm to MSC that he should retire at the end of this year. I felt embarrassed for him for that start performance. He might still be capable of the odd reasonable performance, but he has been woefully inconsistent since he came back. If he thinks he can win the title he is kidding himself, even if Mercedes built him a rocket-ship, he’d still wouldn’t beat his team-mate, and he wouldn’t be capable of making the most of a good car.

    I was really glad when he came back, and I have loved seeing him race for the last 2.5 years, but he is tarnishing his legacy further the longer he goes on. Raikkonen has proved that rustiness is not a factor, MSC just doesn’t have it any more.

    1. Raikkonen himself said, that the reason behind his good and Schumi’s not-so-good performance is the quality of the cars they’re given!
      About beating the teammate – Schumi has finished 6 races this season and in 5 of them he finished before his teammate (the exception was in Bahrain – his broken DRS in Q1 and the gearbox change after that made him start 22nd).
      In quallifying Schumacher beat him in 5 out of 11 cases, having in mind his DRS problem in Bahrain, him not making a lap in Q3 in Spain (the team divided the strategies), his team failure in Canada…
      Nico is lucky to have seemingly unbreakalbe (i.e. Normal) car to drive this year.

  15. The most interesting thing about the video was awesome start from the HRT’s! reminded me of the Benetton/Renault days

    1. I noticed it too! Those HRTs looked mighty quick off the line, too bad they were back at the last spots by the end of the first lap.

      1. PJ (@pjtierney)
        30th July 2012, 16:08

        I think it’s been said before that the HRTs are actually quite decent in a straight line, when it comes to acceleration and top speed, but their aero in the corners is woeful compared to the others.

  16. SubSailorFl
    30th July 2012, 14:43

    According to him there were issues with telemetry from the car and overheating during the warmup and race start and that was why he shutdown when the start was aborted. It was obviously distracting enough that he didn’t line up correctly. Just one of those days. Keep racing Michael.

  17. So the error of switching off the engine caused Schumacher to start from the pit lane? Why not just switch it back on and get going?

    1. You can’t.

      F1 cars have external starter motors, if you stall during the race (which starts with the beginning of a formation lap) and you’re not in the pit lane or it’s vincinity in the situations that your car CAN be escorted to the pits (i.e. black flag/formation lap), you’re pretty much done and dusted.

      Someone correct me if i’m wrong, i could be.

      1. SubSailorFl
        30th July 2012, 16:13

        You are right.
        I believe in 2014 the new rules with the new engine formula will require onboard starters.

        1. You’re quite right. I don’t really like the thought of that. I’ve always liked that it’s part of a driver’s skills to keep the engine running if they spin off the track for example and it’s another thing that sets a race car apart from a road car.

          Here’s the article from the 2014 rules:

          Starting the engine :
          It must be possible for the driver to start the engine at any time when seated normally at the
          wheel and without any external assistance.

          By the way, how is it in other top racing categories, do any use internal starter motors?

          1. I think the cars have to be able to run on ERS alone in the pit-lane and therefore they have to be capable of re-starting the engine in order to successfully complete a pit-stop.

            I actually think that the change is good anyway, if nothing else it makes things safer and could potentially mean that a safety car is not needed meaning a greater likelihood of the race being unfettered. Also ,@metallion , it’s no longer much of the driver’s skill-set as in most near-stall situations it’s the electronic anti-stall doing the job, not the driver.

          2. Some good points that I didn’t think of @jerseyf1 :)
            Running on ERS only in the pit lane is another thing that I don’t like though. I don’t see any real good reason for that change.

            You’re right that it does make things slightly safer, but I’m a bit old-fashioned sometimes. I don’t think it’s a big safety risk and I like seeing drivers punished for their mistakes, it’s a bit like with the tarmac run off areas, they make things safer too but I don’t think they always make things better. As you mentioned though, they have electronic anti-stall so maybe it won’t actually make much of a difference anyway and they won’t need it much apart from during pit stops.

            Also, I like the occasional safety car and the SC rules from the good old days:)

          3. @jerseyf1 I think the ERS power only in the pit-lanes was a bit of a myth. It raised a lot of concerns regarding reliability and a lack of noise on what is ultimately the busiest part of the circuit which is full of people.

  18. Yeah that was very strange …  i think it was simply a mistake followed by an over-reaction.  Thanks Keith.

    When MSC went to start from the pits that could be where he got the puncture.

    I have to say that grand stand in the video must be a nice place to watch.. as you can see the incoming cars from way back.

  19. He must have spead in the pit lane on his tyre change or it would be a fine,unless there is a rule for approaching the pit exit line after causing an aborted start or stalling. It was a rookie mistake and all the other drivers are in contact with the pit wall so was he,he made a gut call and his age popped its head out and bit him in the ass,look how he aqua-planed off at turn one,he no were near as sharp as he once was.

    1. Keith already posted this

      Stewards’ document 32 describes Schumacher’s penalty as follows:

      Time: 14:05
      Session: Race
      Fact: Pit Lane Speeding – 111.4 km/h.
      Offence: Breach of Article 30.12 of the FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations

      The offence happened at 14:05 which means it was at the start, not the tyre change stop (5 minutes isn’t enough time for two parade laps). The aborted start and stalling are nothing to do with it, the penalty is for speeding in the pit lane during the race and nothing else.

    2. SubSailorFl
      30th July 2012, 17:10

      Plenty of drivers have managed to speed in pit lane, not all of them rookies. I don’t read any more into it than trying to get back into the battle and making a mistake. Vettel got the same penalty here last year didn’t he?

  20. I’m interested in this slightly arcane point.
    After he switched the engine off (and the field was waved through onto another formation lap), SCH was pushed across the grid into the pit lan. Is that outside assistance? Should he have been allowed to start the race after receiving outside assistance?

    1. Drop Valencia!
      31st July 2012, 2:08

      More to the point did he start a lap down?

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