Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Gravel Trap

Two races have gone since the last edition of Gravel Trap but the biggest news so far has been Michael Schumacher and though he may have been overshadowed by Mark Webber’s success on track but Schumacher who has been questioned on his comeback has answered critics in an emphatic manner by back to back solid performances over his teammate Rosberg.

The big story was in Monaco during the last corner of the race when the safety car went in while Schumacher overtook Alonso to pip him for a post. Though initially Schumacher was classified ahead of Alonso, the race steward gave him a 20 sec penalty which made him drop from the points table. Interesting thing is that Schumacher’s former rival Hill was one of the stewards and this leads to loads of controversy. Though Schumacher and controversy are not far behind but this time he has done everything under the book but yet penalized.

There are many examinations of the rules and their implications in this case, but it seems quite simple. The stewards point to the fact that section 40.13 applies and that “If the race ends whilst the safety car is deployed it will enter the pit lane at the end of the last lap and the cars will take the chequered flag as normal without overtaking.”

In reality, however, section 40.11 applies: “When the clerk of the course decides it is safe to call in the safety car the message 'SAFETY CAR IN THIS LAP' will be displayed on the timing monitors and the car's orange lights will be extinguished.” This is exactly what happened in Monaco.

From this point on, the following applies: “As the safety car is approaching the pit entry the yellow flags and SC boards will be withdrawn and replaced by waved green flags with green lights at the Line. These will be displayed until the last car crosses the Line.” The cars were racing; the race did not end under safety car conditions.

If we are to believe Ferrari’s Stefano Domenicali, the Ferrari drivers were told that the race was finishing under safety car conditions and they couldn’t be overtaken. Why then, did Fernando Alonso accelerate so hard that he lost control of his car? Surely, if he was cruising to the flag, there was no need for such acceleration.

Everything at the track pointed to the race having restarted. The SC boards were in, green flags were being waved, and all of the drivers were looking for that final opportunity to pass. Schumacher alone was successful. Well the FIA has got this thing wrong and it is absurd to penalize Schumacher while racing in the pit lanes and throwing a steering wheel is no offence!

The big news is Mark Webber. A few weeks back there was talk of Webber retiring at the end of the season with Kimi replacing him but now there are even talks of Webber replacing Massa in Ferrari. Don’t remember since when a driver’s fortune has changed so dramatically in 2 weeks time!

Webber has always been a solid journeyman driver who was fast but then he was never talked as being a F1 World Champion material but though last season he was in a position where he was running for the title but this time he has a realistic chance and if he manages to continue this form then there is no stopping him. Red Bull will most likely retain him but then if they fail to do so Ferrari will definitely keep him in till they can get Vettel. Webber holds the key to the 2011 line-up and if he moves to Ferrari the world of driver market will once again head towards chaos.

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