Mercedes GP has dropped its appeal against the decision that dropped Michael Schumacher from sixth to 12th at the Monaco GP.
While the team (and some of its rivals) believe it has a good case, it has accepted that is is unlikely to win a legal battle, despite the obvious anomalies in the rules. This was the first time that a safety car had been withdrawn on the last lap of the race under the new rules that allow drivers to race from the safety car line at the pit entry.
What the FIA should have done to avoid any confusion was to use the message “The race will be completed under the safety car” on the timing screens, instead of saying that it would be “in this lap.”
Had the stewards not acted on Sunday, rivals teams would have protested – and Toro Rosso, who stood to gain 10th place, were literally first in the queue. However two teams, not surprisingly those with nothing to gain from Michael’s penalty, told this writer that Ross Brawn’s interpretation was perfectly valid.
Mercedes has also questioned the scale of the penalty. Logic suggests that swapping of Schumacher and Alonso in the results would have been fair, which could have been achieved by a 1sec penalty. However the only weapon the stewards had was a drive through. Mercedes says the FIA has agreed to look into both that and the safety car rules at the next meeting of the Sporting Working Group.
The team’s statement reads as follows: “On the final lap of the 2010 Monaco Grand Prix, MERCEDES GP PETRONAS instructed our drivers, Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg, to race from safety car line one until the finish line as permitted under articles 40.7 and 40.11.
“MERCEDES GP PETRONAS were fully aware of article 40.13 which states that no overtaking is permitted if the race finishes under safety car conditions. However we believed that the combination of the race control messages ‘Safety Car in this lap’ and ‘Track Clear’ and the green flags and lights shown by the marshals after safety car line one indicated that the race was not finishing under the safety car and all drivers were free to race.
“This opinion appears to have been shared by the majority of the teams with cars in the top ten positions who also gave their drivers instructions to race to the finish line.
“It was clear from our discussions with the stewards after the race that they understood the reasons for our interpretation and acknowledged that this was a new and previously untested situation but ultimately disagreed with our interpretation.
“MERCEDES GP PETRONAS would like to emphasise that we fully support the inclusion of past drivers on the stewards panel and are completely satisfied that the Monaco Grand Prix stewards acted professionally, impartially and properly in this matter.
“The FIA has agreed to include article 40.13 on the agenda of the next Sporting Working Group for discussion and to consider the scale of post race penalties. We believe that the 20 second penalty imposed on Michael to be disproportionate in the circumstances.
“Whilst we cannot be happy with the outcome, we are pleased that the FIA has recognised the reasons for our interpretation. Therefore in the best interests of the sport, MERCEDES GP PETRONAS will not be submitting an appeal.”