The action on the track at Interlagos was fierce and exciting for most of the race on Sunday, which made for one of the better races of the season. The stewards were kept busy all day though, due to the early safety car period, a hot headed Jarno Trulli, a grand battle of Japanese drivers, and a fireball on pitlane. Unfortunatley though, it became clear as the race played out that the Stewards were once again incapable of rendering decisions on incidents.
On the first lap there were two separate incidents which lead to the deployment of a safety car. Fishichella and Kovaleinin got together early, but both were able to continue after pitting. But later in the first lap Jarno Trulli aggressively tried to pass Adrian Sutil on the outside but was forced wide onto the curbing and grass. Jarno lost control and took out Adrian who also collected Fernando Alonso in the aftermath. All three cars retired from the race and Jarno disregarded direction from track workers so that he could accost Adrian Sutil about his driving.
On the ensuing safety car, Kovaleinen was released from his pit before the fuel hose was detached. This resulted in him carrying the fuel hose down pit lane spraying fuel in his wake. Kimi Raikonnen followed Heikki down pit lane and his hot exhaust caught flame and he got fuel in his eyes. Both nearly forced him to retire, but he kept on going.
On lap 30, the impressive rookie performance of Kamui Kobayashi was tarnished when he aggressively blocked the inside line against Kazuki Nakajima which removed Kazuki’s front wing and sent him skipping into a tirewall.
Also, in the closing stages of the race, Rubens Barrichello’s title hopes were firmly put to bed when Lewis Hamilton passed him going into turn 1. Rubens held his line, but Hamilton waited until too late to pull out of Rubens’ slipstream and grazed the Brazilians left rear tire with his front wing. Hamilton suffered front wing damage but was able to continue, but Rubens rear tire developed a flat and he had to come in for an unscheduled pitstop which moved him back from 4th to 8th.
The Stewards’ Findings
All of this action on the first lap clearly was too much for the stewards to handle. They immediately went to work and by lap 15 (!?) announced that the pitlane incident between Heikki and Kimi was under review, however no penalty was given out until after the race.
The stewards looked into the first lap incident between Heikki and Giancarlo and decided that this was a racing incident. This of course was after they spoke with team officials and the drivers in question….. which means they were still deliberating this incident after the race. Let me be clear on this, the video should have been more than sufficient to declare this a racing incident.
Next up, they looked at the Sutil/Tulli/Alonso conflagration. They found that the event was a racing incident as well, but fined Trulli $10,000 for confronting Adrian and disregarding the instruction of the marshals, siting the ambiguous article 151c of the 2009 FIA International Sporting Code. They again spoke with the teams and the drivers and reviewed the telemetry and video evidence. Again, I wonder why anything other than the video evidence was necessary. Jarno deserved the fine, not for disregarding the direction of the marshals, but for being a moron. He caused the incident by trying an overly optimistic pass on the curbs. Nevermind his claim that Adrian was driving poorly, Jarno was the one who carried way too much speed into that corner and left himself nowhere to go other than into the kitty litter. Clearly, Jarno is feeling the pressure of not having a race seat next year and is trying to put a brave face on this fiasco he caused.
For the fireball incident on pitlane, Heikki was given a post race 25s “drive thru” penalty which took him from 9th to 12th in the final standings, and was also fined $50,000 for “unsafe release”. If the stewards bothered to watch the race, or even a replay of the incident, they would have been able to come up with that conclusion in a matter of seconds, but yet it took them 15 laps to announce that they were investigating it and didn’t assess any penalties until after the race. Several drivers in the field who were held up by Heikki would probably like to disagree with the FIA’s delayed action in this incident when the evidence was so clear in the first place.
The stewards allowed a rookie to get away with murder when Kobayashi was not penalized for taking the front wing off of Nakajima’s car in an overtly dangerous blocking maneuver. Want to know why it is so hard to pass in F1? Just look how much the leading car is allowed to get away with.
Hamilton was also not penalized for puncturing Rubens’ rear tire taking him out of any hope for contending for the driver’s title. This was clearly an overly aggresive mistake on Hamilton’s part, and normally could be left as is. But there has to be some repercussions for removing one of the potential title contenders from the race.
All race stewards need to be permanent for the entire season, not some honorary position doled out by the FIA.
The race stewards should work as part of Charlie Whiting’s race control group.
All stewards involved in this race should be given 151c penalties for spending far too much time interviewing the teams and drivers and far too little time reviewing race footage.
If the current number of stewards are too few to be able to render judgements during the race in a timely fashion, then they need more stewards.