Inside Line: Race stewards could have avoided embarrassing F1


Embarrassing is all I can say as I watch the dust settle on the Canadian Grand Prix, a race which Lewis Hamilton should not have won but did and also a race that Sebastian Vettel should have won but didn’t – same old story.

This tale is one of those that will split fans forever as a talking point that is at fever pitch while the two camps lob grenades at one another and us bystanders watch. That passion that so divides us all weekend in and weekend out, more this past Sunday, is what unites us in making F1 one of the most talked about sport on the planet.

How do I know this? When my wife and mother-in-law have opinions about the incident in a sport that they seldom follow then it’s big. This one made headlines. I live in Germany. The TV images so perfectly captured and replayed in slo-mo from various angles and was fodder for the TV news channels and thus transcended our F1 world into the broader masses.

For me the real spoilers on a day in which I think we were in for one humdinger of a final 20 laps was spoilt by the referees, make that the FIA appointed race stewards – who normally should be inconspicuous – were summoned to make a big call and did so correctly but in retrospect the execution thereof was regrettable, in the light of the circumstances of the championship and our sport in general.

A different colour at the front was a welcome change, for the neutrals among us.

With a spotlight on the incident I will try and put down some facts from where I sit amid the noise of too many opinions:

  • Seb and Lewis make good starts, with the Ferrari up ahead and the Merc in tow;
  • Until the pitstops it was a stalemate with little action after a surprisingly subdued and incident free start;
  • After the pitstops Seb’s lead is around four-point-something seconds ahead of #44;
  • Hammertime starts to happen;
  • Seb also gets on the gas but Lewis fills his mirrors, pressure mounting on the leader;
  • On lap 47 with Lewis in DRS constant range, Seb goes too deep into the hairpin but no harm done;
  • A lap later the #5 Ferrari gets it wrong into Turn 2, skirts over the grass before Seb gets it in check, with a substantial loss of speed he flicks it to the right as he spears across the track forcing the Merc driver to step on the anchors and moan over the radio.

Not long after the stewards delivered their verdict: “Car 5 left the track, re-joined unsafely and forced another car off track” and the consequences: “5 second time penalty (2 point awarded, 7 points in total for the 12 month period).”

From that perspective, you cannot argue with the verdict Messrs. Gerd Ennser, Mathieu Remmerie, Emanuele Pirro and Mike Kaerne.

Seb did rejoin the track unsafely, although carrying much less speed in that split second he twitched it to the right – an instinctive move to slow down the stalker behind.

Coming off the gas or swerving out of the path of the driver in pursuit is not a modern racer’s instinct simply because they don’t get killed as often as their ilk did not too long ago. In days when you did not survive crashes often, you would be crazy to try any shenanigans at high speed.

These days the opposite applies actually, you can crash hard and survive thus why not take out your annoying rival in the process of you fucking up. It’s the way it works and starts at karting level.

Back to sports where one ball is required… in these, referee sometimes gives the benefit of the doubt when it comes to fouls or penalties in the interest of allowing the game to flow. Indeed they are even coached to see the bigger picture. Sport has evolved, policing it should also.

And from this our F1 race stewards could learn something and on Sunday they might have been heroes instead of villains.

Before they decided to give the penalty, in the interests of the race why did stewards not radio Ferrari to tell their man to cede the position to Lewis within two or three laps? If Seb refused then slap him with the five seconds.

The penalty was correct but they could have kept the race alive, if not fire it up even more, but instead they immediately killed it as a contest. No wonder they were boo-ed in the aftermath. It was an avoidable embarrassment.

If warning or option such as this is not a rule in F1, then it should be. And they might’ve written it into the book this weekend in Montreal.

I cannot see Mercedes objecting with a position swap at that stage of the race, afterall Lewis tells us all the time how he relishes a good battle and often wishes there were some butt kicking rivals in his playground, winning easy ain’t cool for our champ. And we get it.

Ferrari, on the other hand, would have been foolish not to instruct their driver to cede the position. And should that have happened, with 20 laps or so to go, we would have had a riveting finale to the race.

Angry VET chasing down on form HAM would’ve been a killer battle that might have happened had smart thinking prevailed when the heat was turned up in the stewards’ room.

The mandate to “Let Them Race” went out the window with this latest display of flat-footedness.

Instead, we were denied, so you can hardly blame fans on the Ile who were robbed of a great race, while Ferrari and their army will be wondering what they need to do to catch a break and when their star driver will stop making costly errors under pressure.

In closing, was it only me or did you get the impression that even Lewis was rooting for Seb and Ferrari? The guy really wants them to step up to the plate at some point…

Ferrari intend to appeal against five-second penalty

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