Mercedes motor sport boss Norbert Haug says that the team is convinced that its interpretation of the safety car rules is the correct one.
Ross Brawn has therefore appealed against the decision that led to Michael Schumacher losing his sixth place finish in Monaco after he passed Fernando Alonso on the last corner.
The rule says that if the race finishes when the safety car is deployed it will come into the pits and the cars will cross the line without overtaking.
However there is in essence a dispute over the wording. The Mercedes view is that the safety car was not deployed as its lights were out, it came into the pits, and the green flag was waved.
While it’s clear what the FIA’s intent was when the rules were written, there is obviously a conflict. The problem is a new one because from this year drivers can overtake after the first safety car line – in other words before the start line – after a ‘normal’ safety car withdrawal.
This was the first time we have had a situation where the race finished under a safety car that left open the possible interpretation that overtaking might be possible between the last corner and the flag. However, the FIA has made it clear that passing should not be allowed.
The key consideration is that the safety car can go into the pits on the last lap when the track is not yet clear (it was in this case), and thus in theory drivers could be racing past an accident scene on the pit straight. That clearly cannot happen.
Haug told this writer that Schumacher was convinced he was in the right: “He thought it’s green, safety car in, the race is on, I can overtake after the safety car line. Which looked smart and was our interpretation, and obviously it was not the FIA interpretation.
“We have a different one, and that’s why Ross wants to appeal. He spoke with the specialists. Certainly I know the rules, but I am not a rules specialist.”
The team has in effect bought time, and on reflection could yet withdraw the appeal. In addition the FIA has to decide whether the appeal is admissible, as in theory drive throughs, even those applied as retropective time penalties, cannot be appealed. One exception involved Jarno Trulli in Australia last year.
“You have to cover and support the decisions, that’s for sure,” Haug told me. “Whether it will be withdrawn or not, is a different matter.”