Saturday, 3 August 2013

Further thoughts on the Hungarian Grand Prix

Gaining an advantage
As mentioned, the Hungarian race was an entertaining one, particularly by the not always high standards of the Hungaroring venue. Especially as more than most races there ample examples of overtaking, much of it impressive, could be witnessed up and down the field. This however also gave opportunity for the killjoy tendencies of the stewards to put themselves on show, in response to arguably the best pass of the lot: Romain Grosjean seizing the scalp of Felipe Massa around the outside of turn four.

Romain Grosjean - unlucky with the stewards
Photo: Octane Photography
I, like just about everyone else you witnessed it so far as I could tell, reacted to the move with utter exhilaration, displaying as it did extreme bravery and aggression. It was the sort of move that made you catch your breath, perhaps even shut your eyes as the two sets of exposed wheels flashed alongside each other. Exactly what we want to see in F1. 'Respect for the that one' said the watching Martin Brundle, reflecting the sentiments of most of us.

But that wasn't good enough for F1's referees, who'd got out their microscope and spotted that Grosjean had left the track, as defined by the white lines, in completing his pass. By millimetres. Down came the gavel; a drive though penalty for Grosjean.

For all of the protestations of driver steward Allan McNish that there was nothing they could do, that the stewards were only applying the rules, I find it hard to believe that they had no choice. So far as I could tell there was no agitation for any penalty, and I therefore find it hard to believe that much bad would have come to the stewards by letting this one go. It said something that even the 'victim' Massa thought there was nothing to penalise here. And we've seen even in the recent past that the apparently rigid rule book can become as fluid as water when it suits. Nico Rosberg only getting a reprimand for setting a purple sector time going through double-waved yellows on his way to winning the British Grand Prix springs to mind immediately.

And while the penalty might, just might, have been technically correct, it also seemed extremely harsh and pedantic to the point of parody. The only purpose you suspect it will serve is to discourage similarly exciting moves in the future.

Further, it is the latest demonstration of muddled thinking on the track's limits, and in applying sanction for exceeding them. Let's be clear, contrary to many claims it is not passing off the track that's against the rules, it is 'leaving the track and gaining an advantage' (those were the precise words used by the stewards last Sunday, the italics are mine). And Grosjean left the track in completing his pass at a point where we saw cars routinely leave the track in their normal racing line used, both in qualifying and in the race. We also saw similar at other corners, such as turn 11, as well as equally routinely see it practiced at other circuits. Presumably this is done to get quicker laptimes - and if that's not gaining an advantage then what is?

I'm put in mind of the quote from the legendary Liverpool football manager Bill Shankly, upon being told that offside didn't apply if the player wasn't seeking to gain an advantage: 'If a player is not seeking to gain an advantage, then he should be!'


  1. Amen! How many times did Seb do the same thing, at the same corner, while chasing down Button. Yet nothing said.
    Hats off to Massa for his sportsmanship too.
    I am a Ferrari fan, but love watching how Romain and Kimmi are getting involved in the fight. If Romain can get his spacial awareness sorted out, he could be champ potential.

    1. Thanks very much, I agree with what you say. Also on Grosjean, yes there is a very quick driver in there, and because of this I've always tried to stick by him even with his mistakes. I suppose it's much easier to make a quick driver safe than it is to make a safe driver quick!