Stewards uphold Alfa Romeo’s request for Raikkonen’s Imola penalty to be reviewed

2021 Portuguese Grand Prix

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Alfa Romeo’s request for a review of the penalty Kimi Raikkonen received in the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix has been upheld by the stewards.

Raikkonen was given a 10-second stop-go penalty after the race, which in accordance with the regulations was converted into a 30-second time penalty, after it was found he was not in the correct position during the race’s final restart.

The Alfa Romeo driver had gone off the track prior to the restart and been overtaken by Lewis Hamilton and Yuki Tsunoda. Following a discussion with his team, Raikkonen was told to hold position behind the pair. Under the regulations, he should have either regained his original position or entered the pits.

However Alfa Romeo challenged the stewards’ claim that Raikkonen’s penalty was consistent with those handed down for previous incidents, arguing his Imola case was unprecedented. They therefore requested that his penalty be reconsidered.

In order for a review to be granted, a team must prove there is a new and compelling element which the stewards should consider. The stewards agreed one detail in the case merits re-examination. This relates to whether a precedent existed for Raikkonen’s penalty.

Kimi Raikkonen, Alfa Romeo, Imola, 2021
Radio transcript: “Can you not overtake before the Safety Car Line?”
In their original verdict, the stewards stated “the penalty is a mandatory penalty, and therefore the stewards consider that they have no alternative than to apply this penalty for reasons of consistency.” Following Alfa Romeo’s request for a review, they clarified that “by the term ‘consistently applied’, in the decision, the stewards were referring to Formula 2 and Formula 3 cases, which in the absence of a Formula 1 case, the stewards used as a data point.”

However on closer inspection the stewards discovered these cases differed to Raikkonen’s, which occured during a restart following a race suspension. “Subsequent to the decision and as part of this present hearing, the stewards have discovered that the specific cases that they referred to were not following a red flag,” they explained.

The stewards considered this detail “significant and relevant” and therefore upheld Alfa Romeo’s request for a review.

Raikkonen’s penalty cost him his first points finish of the season, and promoted Alpine duo Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso to ninth and 10th places respectively. The review will take place at 11am local time at the Autodromo do Algarve ahead of today’s Portuguese Grand Prix.

The stewards’ response to Alfa Romeo’s request for a review of Raikkonen’s penalty

The Competitor provided the stewards with extensive documentation, including three main documents and sixteen annexes. This documentation fell into three main categories:

i) Documents from the F1 Sporting Working Group, the Formula 1 Commission, and related documents, including Race Director notes, (the nomenclature of these bodies has changed over time.) These documents were specifically intended to show the intent of these bodies in the writing of the relevant regulations, which were instituted in 2018 and 2019.

ii) The Case of the International Court of Appeal ICA-2018-10, which the Competitor suggests concludes that when there is confusion or ambiguity in a regulation, it should be interpreted to the benefit of the Competitor, and further that it should be “interpreted according to the common intention of the parties”, these principles being derived from the French Civil Code quoted in this ICA case.

iii) Documents demonstrating that there was no previous case matching this in Formula 1. The relevance of this being that in the steward’s original decision it was declared that the regulations had been consistently applied.

Art. 14 requires that for the stewards to grant a review, there must be “A significant and relevant new element” … ”which was unavailable to the parties seeking the review at the time of the decision concerned.”

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Using these criteria, the stewards determined:

a) That it is difficult to infer the true intent of all the participants in a meeting from the working papers of that meeting. The only conclusive proof is the regulations that resulted. Further, the stewards are concerned that some of the papers presented are not relevant as they refer to other sections of the regulations, and while the contradictions mentioned in the original Steward’s document certainly revolved around the differences between a Safety Car re-start and a Rolling Restart behind the safety car, these papers do not seem to be significant to the steward’s decision. It is also questionable whether or not these papers should be admitted, as the Competitor was a participant in the meetings referred to, and therefore presumably they would have been aware of their content at the time of the original hearing – although the stewards concede that referring to such documents in the hour before a hearing is practically difficult.

b) That with respect to the ICA Case, the stewards believe that it is axiomatic to modern stewarding practice that the benefit of the doubt should accrue to the Competitor. So, while this point is relevant, it is not new.

Further, the French Civil code cited in this ICA case, states: “A contract is to be interpreted according to the common intention of the parties rather than stopping at the literal meaning of its terms. Where this intention cannot be discerned, a contract is to be interpreted in the sense which a reasonable person placed in the same situation would give to it.” [The Regulations being regarded as a form of contract]

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the stewards find this second sentence to be compelling. Where ambiguity exists in the regulations, the stewards are empowered to resolve these matters under the ISC. Unless there is overwhelmingly clear evidence that all the parties that have the right to create the regulations have the same intentions, Stewards attempt to use common sense to make these resolutions. the stewards do no believe that this is new and unavailable information, nor do the stewards believe there is overwhelming evidence to show that the intention of all parties is clear. Both the original decision and any subsequent decision will therefore have to take this into account.

c) The Competitor provided the stewards with documentation to show that the situation in this case had never happened before in Formula 1. This was known to the stewards at the time of the original decision and was briefly discussed in the original hearing.

In the original decision, the stewards referred to the regulation as “consistent amongst several championships, has been in the Formula 1 Sporting Regulations for several years and has been consistently applied.”

While the fact that the regulations between Formula 1, Formula 2 and Formula 3 are the same was mentioned in the original hearing, it was not discussed. What was not known to the Competitor at the time of the original hearing, and was raised in this hearing, was that was that by the term “consistently applied”, in the decision, the stewards were referring to Formula 2 and Formula 3 cases, which in the absence of a Formula 1 case, the stewards used as a data point. In addition, subsequent to the decision and as part of this present hearing, the stewards have discovered that the specific cases that they referred to were not following a Red Flag.

While this was only one element among many considered by the stewards, this information was unavailable to the Competitor at the time of the original decision and was a part of the discussion by the stewards and is therefore deemed significant and relevant.

For this reason, the stewards grant the review.

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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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15 comments on “Stewards uphold Alfa Romeo’s request for Raikkonen’s Imola penalty to be reviewed”

  1. Given the improvement of Alpine & the position of Alfa this race, this is might be the only chance of points for them for a while.

    Reply moderated
    1. So far he hasn’t got the points back, just got a review of the penalty.

      Do I think he’ll get the point back? No. While the F2 and F3 cases were not following a Red Flag, the wording in articles 36 (race start) and 42 (race restart) are identical (I think), so for reasons of consistency I doubt he’ll get the points back.

    2. YEah, given how the stewards at Imola seemed somewhat flustered by the obvious inconsistency between the penalty for Perez and for Kimi i think it is good that the FIA/Stewards review this ruling.

  2. Didnt they ask Control during the race what to do and were met with silence?

    1. That certainly seems to be the case @Themike
      Therefore, the points to give back to Kimi should be doubled, at the very least.

    2. You right, Themike. If race control didn’t know what to do, then leave Kimi alone!
      Control should have immediately told Sauber….sorry….Alfa team how to instruct Kimi,but they didn’t. Give the points back.

    3. I don’t think they were met with silence. they probably didn’t get a response within the first 5 seconds, and then it was too late.

    4. Themike, the indication is that, although the team did ask race control, they left it so late that race control didn’t have enough time to issue a reply before the race restarted.

      1. someone or something
        2nd May 2021, 14:15

        Also, compliance with the rules is the competitors’ obligation. The Stewards can provide a clarification in case of doubt. But there’s nothing in the rules forcing them to do so, and they’re definitely not required to offer advice (much less in a timely manner) before they can apply a penalty.
        The rule was clear, the infraction unambiguous. They still don’t have a case. The review will deal with a technicality, but seeing as neither the fact of the penalty nor its severity constitute a breach of the rules, the only thing that can come of this is a revised justification for the Stewards’ decision.

  3. It does seem like an odd penalty as for me if you make a mistake in that situation you shouldn’t be allowed to regain your original position on the restart.

    I get it for a standing start as trying to shuffle the order & instruct drivers they need to be in a different grid spot could get confusing (Especially if its a very late call) but on a rolling start if goes off & loses positions then it’s easy enough for them to just slot into the line where they rejoin & restart from there.

    It’s also silly to me that you have the situation where Perez spun under the SC, Regained the positions he lost & got a penalty for it while Raikkonen spun on the way to the restart didn’t regain the positions he lost & yet also got a penalty for it.

    1. someone or something
      2nd May 2021, 14:39

      @stefmeister

      It does seem like an odd penalty

      I feel you’re conflating “penalty” with “rule”.
      The rule is silly, as the rather unusual conditions in Imola have shown. It clearly needs some reworking to be more intuitive and consistent with other situations. Treating rolling restarts similarly to standing restarts (where there are good reasons to forbid cars from taking a different grid slot than the one from which they started the formation lap) was probably the fundamental mistake, which resulted in subarticles being more or less copy-pasted from one section of the Sporting Regulations to another.

      The penalty, however, is not odd. There was a clear breach of the letter of the rules (the only aspect of the rules that matters when push comes to shove), and a penalty was applied accordingly.

  4. The time penalty should be replaced by a fine payable by the team not the driver, or completely scrapped.
    The stewards should drop the attitude of vindictive policing and instead seek only to penalise where the offence is a clear breach of the rules, minus any mitigating circumstances.
    Where the evidence shows that the team tried to solicit the stewards advice and did not receive a reply in time, then leniency is the way forward. I would further suggest that, where and when possible, the stewards should be in the business of being helpful with advice that may prevent an offence taking place [although that can not be a statutory duty obviously]. The last thing they want to be is a vindictive police force whose first interest is to penalise.

    1. someone or something
      2nd May 2021, 16:44

      The stewards should […] seek only to penalise where the offence is a clear breach of the rules, minus any mitigating circumstances.

      Which is exactly the case here. Dislike the penalty as much as you want, you’re not wrong about that, but there was a clear breach of the rules, end of story.

  5. It’s not about whether a rule was broken…it was. It is about whether or not the penalty Kimi was given was too harsh or not. The stewards believed that it was mandatory penalty that they handed out when it turns out it isnt mandatory and their is some level of discretion involved. Alpha R have asked the stewards to review the penalty with this in mind and the stewards have agreed. There will still be a penalty. Whether it will move him back up the race result order will be incidental to the level of penalty.

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