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FIA admits "lack of clarity' in Monaco GP last lap

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FIA admits
May 20, 2010, 10:10 AM

The fallout from Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix continues.

The fallout from Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix continues. This morning the FIA has accepted that the way the Safety Car was handled on the last lap and the information given to teams was not clear and has said that new rules will be drafted to make sure there is no repeat.

According to a statement the incident, "Showed a lack of clarity in the application of the rule prohibiting overtaking behind the Safety Car.

"Adjustments to the regulations are necessary to clarify the procedure that cars must meet when the last lap is controlled by the Safety Car whilst also ensuring that the signaling for teams and drivers is made more clear."

Given that there was an acceptance that the withdrawal of the Safety Car had not been handled correctly, it is surprising that Michael Schumacher should have been penalised so severely.

More research shows that the stewards may have had some options after all to apply a more common sense penalty to Michael Schumacher, rather than the one which dropped him out of the points.

A poll with a sample of over 4,000 on JA on F1 shows that 60% of fans think that the stewards got it wrong in the case of Schumacher.

Despite the intention being for the race to end behind the safety car, the procedure was not quite right, with green flags being shown instead of yellow as the cars ended the final lap.

It seems that when considering their options for penalties, the stewards were focussed on Article 16.3 of the Sporting Regulations which say,

"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). "

But later on in the same Sporting Regulations, in article 18.1, it says,

"The stewards may inflict the penalties specifically set out in these Sporting Regulations in addition to or instead of any other penalties available to them under the Code. "

"The Code" is nothing to do with Pirates of the Caribbean but is instead the FIA's Sporting Code, which applies across all FIA championships. This gives the stewards far more options.

Article 153 of the Sporting Code says:

"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. "

The Monaco stewards decided to impose a very tough penalty, but under the circumstances perhaps switching the cars back again to the original order might have been fairer. There were some indications on Sunday night that this was what might happen. So why didn't it?

As the Code says, the Stewards are free to add a time penalty, it is not prescriptive of how long that should be, unlike the Sporting Regs. The problem is that the cars were all very close as they crossed the line.

To add a one second penalty would have dropped Schumacher back to 8th place, behind both Alonso and Rosberg. It doesn't say that they can apply penalties in fractions of a second which is what they would have needed to do to replace Schumacher in P7.

I wonder whether the stewards were aware of their options under the Sporting Code. One would have hoped so.

Instead they applied the one penalty which cannot be appealed - the drive through.

This matter is now to be the subject of a meeting of the Sporting Working Group which will report to the F1 Commission and it is likely to lead to a change in the sporting regulations.

Meanwhile I can tell you that the teams involved have been monitoring your comments on this story and have remarked to me about the very high level of debate about this subject here on the site.

Thanks to all for your contributions.

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