Now the FIA decides F1 teams can talk to race control after all. Maybe.

2009 European Grand Prix

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We all remember how last year’s Belgian Grand Prix ended: Lewis Hamilton lost his win after the stewards deemed he had illegally overtaken Kimi Raikkonen.

At the time FIA president Max Mosley insisted McLaren were in the wrong for trying to clear up the matter with race control after the incident had happened.

But the FIA has now contradicted this stance after it emerged that race control instructed Jenson Button to yield position to Mark Webber during the European Grand Prix.

Writing in Autosport (reg. req.), Adam Cooper says:

Brawn team manager Ron Meadows was quick to react and ask the FIA if Button should concede the place – better to get it sorted now than face a penalty later. The answer took a while, and it was a yes, so Jenson moved over.

It was previously thought the team had instructed Button to move aside on their on initiative. The fact that it came on race control’s instruction after the team had asked them contradicts Mosley’s explanation of events after Spa last year:

McLaren should not have asked Charlie [Whiting, race control director].

Charlie is in one of the most high-pressured situations and in that situation the teams should not answer him and he should not answer them because he is not in a position to give even the beginnings of a considered opinion.
Max Mosley

McLaren, it will be remembered, sought race director Charlie Whiting’s view of the Raikkonen incident and were told Hamilton could keep his position. This was later overruled by the steward and McLaren’s subsequent appeal was thrown out on a technicality.

If McLaren last year had been allowed to do what Brawn did at Valencia last week, Hamilton could have let Raikkonen by once again and the race could have ended with an exciting battle instead of the kind of petty stewards’ call that brings the sport into disrepute.

Teams should be allowed to get race control’s interpretation of decisions like this during the race. It is standard procedure in other championships, such as Indy Cars, because it avoids needless controversy. The dispute between McLaren and Toyota at Melbourne could have been cleared up in a matter of minutes instead of months.

So what’s the situation now? Are F1 teams allowed to ask the advice of race control during a Grand Prix? Is that advice bund to be reliable and consistent? It is completely unclear, and the FIA owes us an explanation why Brawn were allowed to do what McLaren weren’t.

Update: Brawn have confirmed it was Charlie Whiting who instructed them to yield position to Mark Webber during the race.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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46 comments on “Now the FIA decides F1 teams can talk to race control after all. Maybe.”

  1. penalties will be harsh and penalties will be fair, but for goodness sake, lets have some consistency.

  2. Yet more evidence why the FIA is the most useless governing body on the planet. Even the Zimbabwen government seems competent when compared to the FIA. Does anyone in charge of F1 right now even know the meaning of the word consistency, let alone how to apply it to their decision making?

  3. The FIA won’t clarify what the situation is so they can keep the rules unclear and have plenty of room to manoeuvre when it comes to steward’s decisions and any subsequent appeals.

    1. Thats the impression I get. The FIA doesnt want to be bound by consistency, because otherwise it leaves them too little room for political wrangling when they feel they need to muddy the waters…

      1. Agree 100%!

    2. Its very sad but I too think that is the case. No consistency at all.

  4. I think that teams shouldn’t ask CHarlie. They only should obey to marshalls decision given within three or four laps. After four laps no decision should be taken and the race should continue with no modification.
    I think there are too many investigation and penalties in formula 1. Drivers should be free to battle without all these penalties for failed overtake attempt.

    1. There’s a difference between a failed overtaking attempt and deliberately running off the road to gain a position. The stewards can and should be allowed to make that distinction.

      1. Last year, Lewis didn’t run off the road deliberately to gain a position. He ran off the road to avoid a collision. Then he ceded the place back on Charlie Whiting’s advice. Then he was told of a “next corner rule” before overtaking again that was never in the rule book and was obviously made up on the hoof, but which a shamefully large proportion of drivers seemed to know about despite them having to hold a drivers meeting at the next race to explain the “new rule”, even calling it the “new rule”. Thus resulting in one of the most disgracefully unfair incidents in F1 history to quote quite a few experts. Despite all their efforts, Lewis still became WDC.

        I hate it when people rewrite history. It is all there on the net and F1 magazines if you care to do some research, or just one’s own memory will do.

        1. Well, let’s get one thing clear. I believe that Hamilton did gain an unfair advantage from cutting the chicane at Spa, and was rightfully punished. I also believe that the resulting outcry was handled abysmally by all involved.

          The FIA should have ignored the bleating of a number of McLaren fans and gone about their usual business. Instead we had Surinder Thatti coming out and giving a half-hearted explanation which was inevitably poorly received, a “clarification” of the rules which made no sense whatsoever, a fuelling of the fires of conspiracy that just made the FIA and the stewards look silly. And now we have a group of F1 fans who really, honestly believe that there is an anti-McLaren conspiracy within the FIA, that every decision ever taken is made to penalise McLaren. I’ve even heard it alleged that the reason the Malaysian GP results were taken from lap 31 instead of lap 32 was to drop Hamilton from fifth to seventh (rather than because that’s the rule and has been for years). Even as McLaren do their level best to erode any credibility they may have once had – still it’s all a conspiracy, they’re the good guys really, the FIA is up to no good.

          So now every story to do with F1 has this thread of an “anti-McLaren conspiracy” running through it. Why is taking something at face value “rewriting history?” Hamilton cheated, got punished, end of story. Or not….

          1. Andy you seem bitter for some reason, maybe it’s because you like to go around trying to justify a widely accepted in-justice.

            The ‘group of f1 fans’ you mention are just that – a group of f1 fans. F1 fans who don’t appreciate inconsistent, off the hoof rule implementation. Hamilton won that race on the track and played by the rules (there was no ‘give the place back and wait until the next corner’ rule until after the punishment was handed out) and if their had been he would happily have done so – again as mentioned clarification was sought but later criticised by Mosely.

            Hamilton was quicker than Kimi as the rain started falling and several turns later Kimi dropped it and hit the wall, he didn’t even finish the race. Believe what you like but don’t spurt nonsense such as ‘deliberately running off the road to gain a position’, that’s just pathetic.

          2. I was at that chicane, and the general spectator area there is qiute steep, so I got a fairly good aerial view, and it appeared to me that the move was definately to avoid Raikkonen who was cutting back across. also, on the next lap Kimi went wide and maintained a wider line instead of going back to the track, which allowed him to build more speed as he turned less sharply, and he was able to catch Hamilton as a result at the following corner.

            Anyway, good article, displaying exactly the kind of inconsistency we’ve come to expect.

          3. I always get bugged of ‘the world’s out to get McLaran/LH’ conspiracy theorists!!
            They are just liars who have to get punished, like robbing Ferrari’s documents, openly making false statements in Aus, getting advantage to build up speed to take on Kimi in SPA and many many more.
            They deserve this and even more!!

        2. It was beyond clear that Lewis did not fully concede the position back to Kimi. He just swiped his car behind Kimi and had still given himself an advantage by out braking himself and cutting the chicane. After watching it 50 times, I had to agree with what the end result was, he made a mistake. However, the controversy was that he was told to maintain his position and then it was taken away.

          Charlie Whiting did NOT tell him to concede the position, he did it on his own and it was about 3 seconds after he cut the chicane, making it very unlikely that Charlie had time to ring him up and discuss it. Read the article a little closer, Kieth describes it well. You are the one re-writing history.

          I hate it when people are so blinded by the liking or disliking of a team or driver that they can make rational decisions or arguments. The world is not out to get Lewis.

          Also, this is another case of inconsistent (though similar) incidents that everyone wants the FIA to be consistent on (what Red Andy said).

      2. The stewards can and should be allowed to make that distinction.

        But surely you don’t agree that, having made that distinction, they should keep it to themselves and leave it to the team to guess whether they’re in the wrong or not? And then punish them after the race by stripping them of a win with no right to appeal? This is no kind of justice and no way to run a sport.

        1. Okay, but remember that the incident happened with two-and-a-bit laps left. It seems to me that we all want the stewards’ decisions to be three things:

          a) Quick;
          b) Consistent;
          c) Right.

          But are those mutually exclusive? The stewards could have given their *instant* judgement on the situation, but then what if that was shown to be incorrect on closer analysis? There was simply not enough time, in that instance, for the call to be made accurately. Remember it took several laps for Button to yield to Webber. At Spa last year there wasn’t that long left in the race.

          1. this is what makes penalties and reviews so difficult in motor sports. There is no time outs and I can imagine that quick decisions are difficult. However, in watching other motor sports, F1, “the pinnacle” seems to be pretty far behind.

          2. I don’t think it’s any less possible to make these calls on the spur of the moment in F1 than it is in football or tennis. In fact, as F1’s ‘referee’ has access to video replays (which, inexplicably, football referees are denied the use of), they have even less excuse for getting it wrong.

            I have some sympathy for them – it would be a hell of a lot easier for them if the rules were written down properly. Had their deeply spurious ‘clarification’ of the rules at Spa come before the fact instead of after it there would have been no controversy.

            I’m not saying you don’t have a point. There may be some scenarios where, with the best will in the world, stewards cannot unravel and make a fair judgement in a short amount of time.

            But Spa wasn’t one of them. Spa was a case of “has he done enough to cede advantage back to Raikkonen? No? Then make him let Raikkonen by again.”

  5. It depends on WHO in race control told Button he was obliged to move over. As was stressed at the time of Hamilton’s infraction, Charlie Whiting’s opinion as race director was not binding, and the decision to punish was taken by the stewards.

    If it was the stewards themselves, not Whiting, who told Brawn to make Button yield, then that’s perfectly sensible and fair. You’ll notice that Mosley’s post-Spa judgement said that McLaren should not have asked Whiting – it said nothing about whether or not they could/should have contacted the stewards directly.

    What it boils down to is that Charlie Whiting is not a race steward and his opinion on a situation is not infallible. He told Hamilton to hold position, but the stewards disagreed, as they are entitled to do. But who was involved in the communication to Brawn last weekend? We don’t know, and it’s incorrect to jump to paranoid conclusions about it without knowing the full story.

    1. Race control’s director is Charlie Whiting. Aren’t the stewards all part of the same set up, because if not, that is one of the problems because the advice set up is so confusing?

      I wouldn’t call the questioning of the totally contrasting ways decision making and advice is given paranoid. I would call it trying to find out why there is such a disparity in a multimillion dollar sport that is watched by millions around the world. That decision at Spa last year angered and confused loads of F1 fans, not just McLaren fans. They had just seen one of the most exciting races ever, and skilled fighting driving by Lewis and Kimi, for it to be destroyed by a ridiculous and wrong decision.

    2. It depends on WHO in race control told Button he was obliged to move over. As was stressed at the time of Hamilton’s infraction, Charlie Whiting’s opinion as race director was not binding, and the decision to punish was taken by the stewards.

      I’ve just had confirmation from Brawn that is was Charlie Whiting they talked to, same as McLaren.

  6. Typical inconsistancy from the FIA, but we are no longer suprised. This kind of in-race guidance should be allowed and is absolutly essential to maintaining a spectacle for the fans.
    However it should have legislation guiding it, it should be clear to the teams what they can ask, when they can ask it and the extent and depth of appeals which teams may choose to may against their infringements.
    But these questions must be public, when questioned the stewards should announce the enquiry and the decision as to help avoid any inconsistencies. In the same way we have any investigation announced we should have any enquiries announced. The question is should the stewards offer advise if there is no enquirie from the teams? Should they volunteer advise and try to reslove a situation before a penalty is issued? I think that communication is essential to the smooth running and conclusion of a race but it should remain a response to an event not instead of a penalty. If Brawn had not questioned the situation then a penalty should have been given.

  7. Race control SHOULD be the last word, after all, they are present at every GP and are professional arbiters. The same cannot be said of race stewards, who change from race to race, thus cannot be providing the consistant judgements we all expect from the pinnacle of motorsport.

    If race control can been seen to be making these calls during the race, we all get the satisfaction of seeing the result on the podium being the final word.

    If tennis, cricket and american football can make on the spot judgements with the benefit of replay technology, I can’t believe that race control in the most tech savvy sport in the world, are ‘too busy’ to make these calls. Indeed, if race control arn’t making these calls, what the hell are they doing?

    For clarity and consistancy, make race control the arbiter.

  8. If the next incident involved McLaren, depending on the outcome, the rule will simply be “changed” back or subject to an exception, and the subsequent appeal thrown out on some inscrutable procedural detail Let’s not forget, there was no don’t-bug-Charlie rule before last year. That was invented post-hoc, to suit the outcome.

    1. Exactly!

    2. Let’s not forget, there was no don’t-bug-Charlie rule before last year.

      Indeed: Renault consulted Whiting during the 2005 Japanese Grand Prix where – to put the icing on the cake – he (eventually) gave them contradictory advice to what the stewards said Hamilton should have done at Spa last year…

  9. Well, it’s pretty obvious that the difference is that one team IS NOT Lewis/McLaren, and the other team IS. Thus different rules apply.

    Incidentally, I’ll post this comment again because I think it is so apt.

    I just saw this interview with Lewis on the F1 site re. the Belgain GP, and thought this bit was brilliant:

    Q: Is your aim to win here?
    LH: For sure I want to win. I won last year.

    Ha ha, good for you Lewis! And he puts in a “for sure” for good measure.

  10. I absolutely agree with DMW’s point of view. Double standards!

    1. Yes, it’s called making the rules up as you go along.

      1. That’s quite unfair. They don’t really make up the rules.

        The rules are pretty clear.

        Rule #1. McLaren’s interpretation of the rules is always wrong.
        Rule #2. If McLaren is involved in an incident that could decide the championship, a farcial court of appeals must be held.

        1. :) That had me in stitches.

  11. * It is completely unclear, and the FIA owes us an explanation why Brawn were allowed to do what McLaren weren’t.

    Good observations Keith.
    The fast and easy explanation, of course, is that at the time of Belgium last year Ron Dennis was still team principal. And we all know that from the FIA,(Mosley), point of view everything possible must be done to penalize Ron Dennis’ team.
    This is a new year, new team with a likeable chap as team principal. The team is creating lots of positive spin for the sport. The FIA, (Max again), will go easy on them.
    Perhaps when Vattinen becomes FIA pres. this S%#t will stop.

  12. Welcome to the 21st Century.
    Here in the States, even at some of the small 1/4 mile dirt tracks, the drivers are listening to Race Control on scanner radios before, during and after heat races for instruction.

  13. I don’t get, in both instances the teams radioed race control and did what race control said. So why are people posting things like “why Brawn were allowed to do what McLaren weren’t”???

    They did the same thing.

    the only difference is that Lewis’s ruiling was overturned after further review.

    I’m starting to feel sorry for all the McLaren conspiracy theorists. My question is, did you think there was a conspiracy before Lewis was at the team? Was this an issue with Kimi/Mika/DC and so on? Is this whole FIA hates McLaren thing new, because I don’t remember it being an issue until 2007. Well, I guess I’ve been watching F1 since 1987, but only reading about it on blogs since 2007…..

  14. Two words:

    Ari Vatanen.

  15. Next year FIA will steal tecnical information from McLaren and hand it to Ferrari so that they can win…

    oh, wait a minute…

  16. The rules should require Race Control to control the race and leave the rest of the rules enforcement before and after the race to the stewards.
    It was clear last year Hamilton gave the spot back. What was he to do? Wait until the half the field went by him so the stupid stewards could establish he really did give it back.
    The non-participants who are not putting up their money, skills and indeed their lives should not be able to interfere with the race at all. The teams trust Charlie so let him make the decisions during the race.

  17. Jonesracing82
    29th August 2009, 1:54

    it’s pretty simple really, if the stewards decisions r at least consistant, they will also be considered fair

  18. …and skilled fighting driving by Lewis and Kimi, for it to be destroyed by a ridiculous and wrong decision.

    I was supporting Hamilton’s run for the championship last year, and luckily he won otherwise this would have been a problem, but Hamilton did gain an unfair advantage by cutting the corner. They both drove skillfully and Hamilton was much better in the closing stages, but Kimi had the highground thoughout the entire chicane. Being slightly in front of a car beyond the breaking zone on the outside of a corner doesn’t constitute being in front and there is no way Hamilton would have been nearly as close had he taken the corner legally.

    Had he given the position back in a fair way, Hamilton most likely would have won easily and he should have, but you can’t have drivers overtake by cutting chicanes and slipstreaming past into the next corner.

    I initially missed the race and heard about the result and subsequent penatly before I saw the actual race. I was bummed out, but after seeing the race a lot more objectively I have to say the stewards were right, just very clumsy and slow.

    I don’t get, in both instances the teams radioed race control and did what race control said. So why are people posting things like “why Brawn were allowed to do what McLaren weren’t”???

    McLaren (Ron Dennis in the post race ITV coverage) only asked for confirmation after Hamilton had overtaken Kimi for the second time, not before any position was given back. Also, in that interview he said to be aware that Charlie Whiting’s view was no more than an opinion.

    But I do agree, this is exactly the same situation. McLaren was aware that Charlie’s point of view was not necessarily the ruling of the Stewards and went with his opinion. Brawn contacted race control, got an opinion (which if it was ‘no’ might have just as well been overruled by the stewards) and went with it. Of course Button came out worse, unlike Hamilton, so no further action would have been required.

    It’s pretty surprising to see how almost everybody disagrees with the penalty given to Hamilton last year, but it seems I’m the only Hamilton supporter agreeing with that decision no matter how unbelievably poorly the situation was handled. Hopefully Brawn contacting Race Control will be the long overdue first step towards improvement. All that is necessary is a clear set of rules on communication between teams and race control about incidents involving cars fighting for position and a limited time for a penalty. It sounds simple and to be honest, for the juggernaut that is F1 it really should be.

  19. Lets not dig up old bones now. That Spa incident has been beaten to death at F1Fanatic and every other F1 forum.

    Mclaren have time and again shown themselves to be inept at handling issues at the pitwall. Spa incident, the Spygate penalty, the lying incident in Australia. They were unable to keep the Alonso situation under control. Even at Valencia 2009, you can see that the pit-lane incident which cost Hamilton 4 seconds, was the result of a miscommunication from the Mclaren pitwall

    The question posed by Keith, “why Brawn were allowed to do what McLaren weren’t”. I think it speaks not about FIA’s consistency, but the difference in the 2 teams’ thinking strategy on the pitwall.

    It is unfair to say that Mclaren are being made into a scapegoat by the FIA. Part of the blame lies with the officials of the Mclaren team as well, who are either too tentative or on the totally wrong path.

  20. get over it 4 goodness sake.

    Yes now u can ask RC’s for instruction, is that bad…maybe in the past it wasnt the done thing but now it is, why make a fuss.

    Congratulations to someone who allowed logic to take over ride history.

  21. I don’t see this as Brawn being “allowed” to do something McLaren wasn’t. Apparently, the practice of the teams getting feedback from race control / the race director with the intention of preventing a potentially controversial scene from being investigated by the stewards is an informal practice. That would mean whatever advice or opinion is given in such a communication isn’t neccesarily binding, accurate or final. It’s the clear responsibility of the stewards of the meeting to assess incidents and impose a penalty if they deem that to be necessary.

    Logically, the teams could try to establish an official channel with the stewards directly, but that would go in the direction of ad-hoc decisions, i.e. football referee territory, which would be worth debating, but is not how it’s currently organized in motor racing.

  22. The teams should not only able to talk to race control, but also FIA should make those talks available to viewers during the race like team radio. I understand there is quite a lot gray area in F1’s regulation, but F1 should do what other sports did, make race control’s calls public and clear immediately, at lease as fast as possible. No more investigations after the race.

  23. This inconsistency has just got worse. Autosport are reporting Webber has only been reprimanded for impeding in Q1. Something that usually has a penalty.

    Why aren’t FOTA pushing like mad for this to be sorted?

  24. Guys, It was obvious that the FIA were picking on Mclaren, last year. Perhaps Max Mosley. I hate to see races like that to end outside the circuit. It was an amazing fight between Hamilton and Kimi at Spa last year. Very rare to see 2 strong drive with strong cars fighting for position, there is nothing better to watch that that! Isn’t that the whole point of Formula one?

    There should always be prompt communication between teams and the race control. Any incident like such, shouldn’t take more than 3-4 laps before they call for an instruction to the team.

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