Jun 30, 2010

Why the Valencia fiasco was the FIA’s fault

Ok, everyone has an opinion on the safety car pass by Lewis Hamilton in Valencia on Sunday and whether the fact that he still finished second despite breaking the rules while those who played fair were essentially penalized.

It does seem that the British media — unsurprisingly of course — are finding ways to defend their boy Hamilton. Not out of the ordinary, as Lewis is the greatest driver to ever strap himself into a car if you go by them.

Meanwhile the Alonso Ferrari camp is equally adamant that their man was given the short end of the stick, going from third to ninth because he didn’t pass the safety car illegally and instead pulled behind the car as required under the regulations.

This meant he was stuck behind the safety car as Hamilton streaked away. In the end, Hamilton pitted for tires and a new nose cone without losing a place — only because he illegally passed the safety car — while Alonso and teammate Felipe Massa paid the price for getting held up by the safety car.

Now, we can argue about the luck of the draw forever, but there are two salient points here that have escaped many arguments surrouning the incident. and both point to a massive failure on the part of the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA).

First, the illegal pass of the safety car has to be considered as one of the most egregious transgressions a driver can make. The safety car on track assumes that there is a serious situation on track where there may be an injury, track workers on the scene in a dangerous position, or huge amounts of debris on the tarmac. People’s lives are likely in danger in same way, something that is magnified by a driver ignoring the rules and driving past the safety car to speed around the track for his own gain. And yet, the proscribed punishment for such a transgression is a driver though penalty? So, fail the FIA on that account.

Second, when you get down to the nitty-gritty, the sport’s governing body failed to change the safety car rules once refuelling was banned. The rule was lifted after it was thought that a driver may run out of fuel under the safety car when they would had refuelling, but the new rules for 2010 made that point moot. But the FIA didn’t change the regulations. If it had, the pitlane would have been closed once the
safety car emerged and no one would gain or lose places because of where the safety car picked up the field. So, fail the FIA on that account too.

The FIA will now look into the regulations concerning the safety car in a meeting of the Sporting Working Group that will happen sometime before the British Grand Prix on July 11.

My guess is that the rules will change to have the pitlane closed when the safety car emerges and the penalty for passing it illegally will no longer be a drive through.

And when that happens, it will be clear evidence the FIA is guilty for the mess in Valencia.

But don't expect any apologies or regrets for a giant screw up that made the sport look like a Mickey Mouse show — again.

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