F1: DC seeks chicane rule clarification before Monza

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarThursday, September 11th, 2008

 
 

David Coulthard has said that he and his colleagues will be looking for a clarification of the rules before the Italian Grand Prix after stewards stripped Lewis Hamilton of victory in Belgium last weekend for cutting a chicane.

Speaking in the run-up to the Monza event, the Red Bull driver said: “In the drivers’ briefing tomorrow we will try and get clarification about the conditions we’re racing under and we will move forward.”

His statement follows a week of controversy about the Belgium stewards’ decision:

  • Autosport’s Mark Hughes has given his verdict on the Spa debacle for the ITV-F1 website – and it’s fairly uncompromising.

    He says: “It’s actually a ‘what if’ question to which there can be no answer. To compare the two scenarios — what happened, with what would have happened had Hamilton not missed the chicane — is impossible.

    “At this stage of the race the McLaren had vastly more grip than the Ferrari because of the way the red car loses dry tyre temperature far more quickly and totally than the McLaren in wet conditions.

    “So, had Lewis tucked in behind the Ferrari through the chicane, he’d have accelerated out of there far faster because of his vastly superior traction.

    “He would have crossed the start/finish line going faster than the Ferrari and therefore have been perfectly placed to have made full use of his vastly superior braking grip to make an outbraking move into La Source.

    “As it was, he crossed the start/finish line alongside the Ferrari but travelling 6km/h slower, as he was in the process of allowing Kimi by.

    “Which of those two scenarios would have made for a more advantageous situation for Lewis — alongside but going slower or partly behind but going faster — is impossible to judge.

    “Exactly how much more tyre grip did he have? Which way would it have led Kimi to move? Impossible to determine.

    “Which leaves us with the question: If it’s impossible to judge (which it was) then why the hell make a judgement?” You can read his full piece, which also examines the politics of the row, here.

  • Two other pieces caught our eye – because they express the sheer outrage that so many of the sport’s fans, including us should we forget to take our pills, are feeling.

    First up is Giles Richards, writing in The Guardian: “My reaction to the news on Sunday night was disbelief, which quickly turned to anger.

    “Frankly I feel like F1 owes me: I sat through the endless, processional races of the Schumacher era, I spent a fortune on tickets (and it is a fortune — there’s little change out of £300 for the average weekend), I watched as everything that had made the sport exciting was slowly bled out of it, as cars became incapable of overtaking one another (anyone else remember David Coulthard doing an entire stint behind Enrique Bernoldi’s Arrows at Monaco for 43 interminable laps in 2001?) and the racing more and more conservative.

    “Then, finally, a driver arrives with the skill and balls-out guts not seen since Ayrton Senna to re-invigorate the sport and how do they reward us? He is punished for inexplicable reasons, while doing exactly what the fans have been crying out for. And it is inexplicable. The stewards involved don’t have to explain themselves to anyone who wants to question their decision, which ranges from us — the miserable, mug punters – to Niki Lauda.

    “Not any more. As Niki continued: ‘But the decision yesterday makes me believe that everyone is watching Ferrari in a positive way and McLaren in a very negative way.” He’s right of course, and the word ‘bullshit’ sums up the current situation perfectly.’ Read his full piece here.

  • Also writing in The Guardian, Richard Williams is even more outraged: “The stewards’ decision that deprived Hamilton of victory in Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix was an offence against just about everything that makes sport worthwhile.

    “What we had seen, for once, was motor racing in hot blood, the physical expression of the emotions at play in the cockpit of a formula one car. Thanks to a shower of rain, all the usual polished precision was abandoned in favour of gloves-off combat. It was enough to get television spectators leaping to their feet.

    “But no, the men in blazers decided that it had all meant nothing. Applying the strictest possible interpretation and totally ignoring the human dimension of a race that had no need of their interference, they ripped out the joy of the moment and threw it on the scrapheap…

    “Raikkonen had no complaint. Nor, it is said, did his team lodge an objection, but the three stewards did their job for them by deciding that Hamilton had infringed the regulations. They added 25 seconds to his overall time, enough to push him down to third place, to give Felipe Massa the win and to ensure that the gap between them at the top of the championship table is reduced from six points to two, rather than expanded to eight.

    “The cynical view – and Formula One seldom invites any other kind – would be to point out that there are five races left in this season’s championship and that a battle to the wire is of greater value to those who hold the sport’s commercial rights. Since the closing of the gap will boost interest in Ferrari’s home grand prix at Monza this coming Sunday, the decision will also do nothing to dispel the widespread belief that the sport’s rulebook is written not just in Italian but in the Modenese dialect…

    “It is not necessary to be a fan of Hamilton or the McLaren team, or to harbour a dislike of Ferrari, to see that here is a miscarriage of justice entirely consistent with formula one’s current code of practice, in which the rules mean whatever the men in charge want them to mean.” Read his full piece here.

  • And finally, just how cynical are you feeling? Because bookmaker William Hill has opened an account on whether Hamilton will find himself staring down another penalty in Monza.

    Spokesman Rupert Adams said: “Punters are ignoring the fact that the Italian GP is home soil for the Ferrari team and are backing Lewis Hamilton for victory.

    “William Hill rate Lewis at 11/8 to come out top in qualifying and 7/4 second favourite to win. Hills are also offering 14/1 that Lewis has another run-in with the stewards at the weekend.

    “Our customers are keeping faith with Lewis, despite the fact that his rivals seem to have all the aces up their sleeves. Once again we are going to be hoping for anyone but Lewis.”

    You can visit the bookmaker’s Formula One page here, but it doesn’t list that particular bet – to place it, you may have to go and see them in person.

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