Monday, August 07, 2006

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

This weekend's Hungarian Formula 1 Grand Prix has rekindled my faith in the sport. Jenson Button capturing an emotional first GP win, a successful return for Honda after so many years, and the well-deserved podium finishes for Pedro de la Rosa and Nick Heidfeld. It was, in so many ways, the best race I've seen for years. Yet for all the silver linings from this weekend, it seems they're still attached to a very dark cloud.

Today, I read with dismay that Robert Kubica, finishing a very impressive seventh in his first ever race, had been disqualified. Now, initially I thought "well, he raced light, so that's fair enough punishment." But then I realised the true nature of the situation:
  • Kubica had not raced in a car any lighter than what the regulations stated when he started his race. This is clear, and backed up by BMW data. The problem arose from, quoting the findings, "excessive and unexpected tyre wear (and therefore weight loss) through continued use of wet-weather tyres in comparison to the accustomed and anticipated rate of wear of dry tyres."
  • Kubica's disqualification leaves Michael Schumacher to reap the one point for 8th place. Putting aside my dislike for the man, this would be fair- except for one problem. Schumacher DID NOT FINISH THE RACE.
  • Earlier in the weekend, Jenson Button was given a penalty for an engine change on his Honda. This results in him starting 10 places back on the grid. Jenson couldn't help this of course- just one of those things, a mechanical failure.
  • Schumacher and Fernando Alonso were also given penalties- for dangerous driving and unsportsmanlike behaviour. Their punishments? 2-second penalties. This also put them back on the grid, but with one key advantage over Button- they could fuel up, he was stuck with his qualifying fuel load.
So here we have a few interesting situations. From what I can see:
  1. You may be as unsportsmanlike as you can, swerve in front of people, stop in the middle of corners, etc... but you'll be punished less severely than the poor chap who's engine blows up while racing well within the rules.
  2. Farcically, the way the rules are shaped, you may exit the race through retirements three laps from the finish, yet you will still finish ahead of someone who is three laps behind the leader. Now yes, I realise that technically you may be "ahead" of this person on the road when the race ends... but just think logically about this for a moment. One car is not running- the other still is. Surely the fact that you're ahead on the road doesn't matter when your car can't move to cross an imaginary finish line?
  3. You can drive the race of your life, shred your tyres, and be disqualified on a pure technicality. Come on FIA, who the heck are you kidding. What impression does this give the world when you say "sorry mate, good race and all, but you pushed a little to hard, shredded your tyres a bit, and as a result are too light when you finish". For cryin' out loud, take the weight measures before the race or something. It's ridiculous.
  4. In addition to the above point, while we're on technicalities- Michael Schumacher flouted the rules and blatantly broke them at one point on Sunday night, whereby he went off track whilst battling Heidfeld, cut a corner and rejoined ahead of him... it seemed he was going to actually follow the rules for once as he moved over to let Nick pass- but no, he then swerved back into his path, cutting him off. I mean, COME ON. If you're going to give Robert a disqualification on technical grounds, fine. But don't give 8th place to someone who blantantly disobeyed F1 rules. I hope they grill the arrogant Ferrari man at the next driver's meeting.
So, F1 is back. But as always, the political merry-go-round remains. Congratulations to Jenson, Pedro and Nick, and my deepest empathy to Robert. As for Michael Schumacher, and the stewards involved should they not punish him, well they know where they can stick it as far as I'm concerned.

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