Mercedes GP have decided to walk away from appealing against the draconian 20 second penalty handed out to Michael Schumacher in the wake of last Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix.
For anyone who has been on another planet for the last couple of days, a collision between Jarno Trulli and Karun Chandhok brought the safety car out with two laps to go.
While everyone assumed that the race would end under the safety car—marshals were still clearing the track—race controller, Charlie Whiting, posted the “Safety Car in this Lap” and “Track Clear” messages out via the official timing system. This was backed up by marshals showing green flags and lights after the cars had passed the safety car line.
In the scramble to restart on cold tyres, Fernando Alonso slid wide and Schumacher—ever the opportunist—snuck up the inside to pinch sixth place. It was an audacious move, but one that ultimately attracted the attention of the stewards.
Mercedes GP were not alone in thinking that they were going back racing, with the majority of teams in the top ten—excluding Ferrari, of course—reportedly also interpreting the rules in the same way as Mercedes. As did the fans, with a recent (very unscientific) online poll revealing that a staggering 95 percent thought that Schumacher had been harshly dealt with.
For a full discussion on the rules and issues in this incident, have a look at this article.
It doesn’t seem to make much sense, therefore, to walk away from what would appear to be a pretty solid case for an appeal. The full text of Mercedes' statement is included below but sheds little light on what benefit Mercedes receives from withdrawing the appeal.
Mercedes quite clearly state that the 20 second penalty is “disproportionate in the circumstances.” Why, then, would they not proceed with the appeal?
The FIA has agreed to review the rule (40.13) at the heart of Sunday’s misunderstanding but offers little else to appease either Schumacher or the team. It is difficult to see how not challenging this particular ruling is in the best interest of the sport, as Mercedes have claimed.
The FIA is always quick to hold the teams and the drivers to account when transgressions occur, so it is only proper that the FIA are held to the same standards.
Then again, if it ended up in court every time the FIA made a boo-boo, there wouldn’t be any time for racing.
Mercedes GP’s statement in full: (from Formula1.com)
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.