There is a rule in Formula One that the drivers are very afraid of. They really should never break this. Just so they know exactly what this rule is, there is another (unwritten) rule for the officials that insists they repeatedly demonstrate to the drivers exactly what it is the drivers should not do.
It’s called “Bringing the sport into disrepute” and while drivers are not allowed ever to break this rule, the officials can and do do this on a regular basis. From sex scandals at the very top of the governing body, to questionable actions and repeated favouritism on the behalf of the FIA Stewards when it comes to applying the laws that are written down.
At Monaco, Kimi Raikkonnen skidded on a damp track at the chicane just after exiting the tunnel, and ploughed into fourth placed Adrian Sutil in the Force India, knocking the talented young driver out of a points scoring position. Did the FIA stewards penalise Raikkonen? No. At the time, Mike Gascoyne, the Force India Technical Director, said that if it were the other way around Sutil would probably have received a two race ban.
The FIA officials explanation? They said that because Sutil overtook three cars under yellow flags he would have got a drive through penalty worth 25 seconds so he wouldn’t have finished in the points anyway. Pardon? That’s a bit like saying you’re allowed to rob the bank if the bank made an accounting error on someone else’s account! Surely they should both have been given penalties – Sutil’s infringement should not mean Raikonnen’s need no penalty. That’s crazy.
At Valencia, right on camera, Felipe Massa broke a law in the pits which at the least should have given him a drive through penalty – GP2 drivers breaking the same law the same weekend at the same track were actually disqualified. But Felipe drives a Ferrari, the FIA’s favourite car. They didn’t disqualify him, they didn’t give him a Stop and Go, they didn’t even give him a drive through. For the first time ever, they decided to “investigate the matter at the end of the race”.
Well, at the end of the race Felipe won by 5.6 seconds from Lewis Hamilton. The FIA Stewards decided Massa had done something wrong, but did not apply a post facto drive through penalty by adding 20 to 30 seconds to his race time. No, they said he should pay a fine so small in comparison to his salary (and one probably picked up by his team anyway) that it in reality is not a penalty at all.
Move on to the next race, the Belgian Grand Prix at the famous Spa-Francorchamps circuit in the hills and forest of the Ardennes and a day of mixed weather. Ferraris are renowned for not being able to get heat into their tyres as quickly as the McLarens which also perform better on cold rubber, so when the race started with half the track damp and half dry an interesting prospect for all was in sight.
The last five to ten laps or so were the most interesting, because that’s when it rained. Up until this point Kimi Raikkonnen had done a great job in holding Lewis Hamilton off and had a pretty stable 5.8 seconds advantage. Felipe Massa was nowhere to be seen in third. There had only been one incident involving the stewards when they gave a drive through penalty to Heikki Kovalainen when he was hesitant about overtaking Mark Webber and then slid into him on the greasy track at the chicane on the run up to Les Combes.
So, down came the rain. The race woke up. So did the audience.
In the space of about 4 laps, Lewis Hamilton closed the 5.8 lap gap between him and Kimi until he was right behind him, breaking later for every corner, travelling faster at every apex. There was no way that in the 2 laps of the race that remained Kimi was going to be able to resist being overtaken with such a differential between the cars.
At what used to be known as the “bus stop chicane” Lewis went past Kimi on the outside. Kimi kept it tight on entry, then squeezed Lewis on the exit on the greasy track so there were only two possibilities for the British driver: hit Raikkonnen, or go off the track and cut the corner. Not wishing to be accused of “causing an avoidable accident” (as Raikonnen had not been at Monaco) Hamilton opted to cut the corner, then allowed Raikkonnen to move back into first place.
Raikkonnen started weaving to prevent the man from Stevenage from getting past. In the space of less than a La Source second, Raikkonnen weaved, Hamilton dodged, Hamilton passed. This was racing, one of the best passing moves in racing history, taking me back to that superb move of Mansell on Senna when he passed the great Brazilian at the Hungaroring in in the flash of an eye in 1987 or the move of Hakkinnen on Schumacher at Les Combes in 1999. Yes, it was that good.
Apparently the FIA Stewards (Frances’s Nicholas Deschaux, Surinder Thatthi of Kenya and Belgian Yves Bacquelaine) believe that remaining in second after cutting a corner at a chicane to avoid an accident gave Lewis an advantage he wouldn’t otherwise have had. Therefore they gave him a penalty. Not a fine, a 25 second penalty – not enough to let Alonso finish on the podium of course, but not so much that would mean Hamilton only lost one place. So, the odd 25 second penalty was applied. McLaren have announced they will appeal. So they should.
So now we have yet another means by which the FIA bring their own sport into disrepute. Man, have they got a thing against McLaren! And do they looooove Ferrari… but they certainly don’t apply justice.
Why is that? Answers on a post card please not including bent stewards, bribery, gambling scandals, institutional corruption, or blackmail. Pettiness of individuals I can accept. Incompetence I can certainly accept. Jealousy, meanness, and racism too. What do you think?
Incidentally, the BBC website hit a record for the number of people posting complaints about this injustice. Next year, the BBC take over the contract for F1 TV coverage. Will they have any audience left? At this rate, the FIA will have killed off interest in their own Championship.