Ferrari faced another difficult weekend with Alonso and Mass finishing 14th and 15th respectively. Alonso’s good qualifying was hampered by a poor start and a drive-through penalty assessed for passing Renault’s Robert Kubica via cutting a corner. Massa’s race was scuttled by a tire puncture on the first lap after touching Alonso on the first corner.
Critical of the Valencia SC period and efficacy of the penalty management, Alonso has chosen to remain reserved in his assessment of today’s penalty and resulting affect on his race.
â€œItâ€™s not my job; I drive the car,â€ he shrugged.
â€œWhat the stewards say is always rightâ€¦â€
Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali was more vocal on the position Ferrari took regarding the pass of Kubica:
â€œWhen we received the [instruction] that Fernando should give back the position to Robert, Robert was already very far behind and really slowing down because he had a problem â€“ that was the situation,â€ said Domenicali.
â€œYou can have a situation where immediately there is a possibility to give back a position to a driver if you feel that there was really [an unfair] advantage gained.
â€œBut on our side we felt that was not the case, otherwise we would have done it.â€
â€œTo be honest I think today we had a situation that was possible to debate â€“ Iâ€™m not saying it was easy,â€ he said.
â€œBut I think either you need to know immediately, straight away; or the other approach is to say that in any case the [overtaking] driver has to give back the position, but that has not been the case up to now.â€
The regulations certainly provide for the incident today but what complicates matters is that Kubica’s Renault suddenly experienced a mechanical problem after the pass making it difficult to concede the position back. The letter of the law was obeyed and since there was no Renault to concede to, a drive-through penalty was assessed. The issue was compounded as a Safety Car period came at the time of the penalty announcement which did not allow Alonso to complete his drive-through until the track went green again after the safety car period.
Two weeks on the run and Alonso and Ferrari have suffered under the safety car period and a penalty from Race Control. Perhaps the most salient point to come from these two issues are the timeliness of Race Control’s ability to review and assess a penalty. This was certainly argued two weeks ago in Valencia and even today it played a hand in the Kubica pass penalty. Hindsight is always 20/20 and perhaps Ferrari should have self-corrected the pass to be sure they had complied but there is no doubt that the timeliness of a penalty is creating some difficulty on track.
With respect to Race Control and the FIA’s Charlie Whiting, making an immediate call must surely be difficult as making the wrong call could be catastrophic. A year ago, many complained about assessing a penalty that was postponed until he next race, i.e. a grid position penalty et. al. Now that Race Control is attempting to assess penalties and see them complied with during the race itself, many are looking for even quicker reactions. Is this realistic? Can Race Control be thorough and effective if teams expect an incident sussed and penalty assessed within a lap or two? I would imagine that is asking a lot of Whiting and his crew.
Ferrari have had a spate of bad luck with both Safety Car and penalties but fate can play that hand for you and as much as I hate to see the fortunes of Ferrari falter, it is the regulations and a pass was made. The fanboi side of me can argue at length that Kubica forced him off the circuit and he had no choice as he had the line but that would just be a Ferrari fan ranting.
What do you think about incident review and penalty/resolution assessment? Can we expect a more immediate reaction? Can Charlie Whiting and the race stewards be expected to thoroughly review an incident and render a judgment within a lap or two?