Charlie Whiting has admitted Michael Schumacher should not have been given a drive-through penalty in Hungary recently.
After the Mercedes driver stopped his engine after lining up in the wrong grid spot, he then sped in the pitlane to await the re-start. Stewards gave Schumacher, 43, a drive-through penalty for the speeding, but FIA race director Whiting has now admitted the punishment was wrong, according to Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport. Because the race had not officially started, Schumacher’s penalty should in fact have been only a monetary fine, the report explained.
The story illustrates how the sporting regulations define a race start. It means that, in actual fact, Schumacher should be celebrating only his 299th race start this weekend at Spa-Francorchamps, not his landmark 300th. That is because at Magny Cours in 1996, the then Ferrari driver did not actually start the race, because his engine failed on the formation lap.
Charlie Whiting has pointed a finger of criticism at Michael Schumacher and Mercedes in the wake of the recent Hungarian grand prix.
The Hungaroring race start was delayed when Schumacher, who at 43 is F1’s oldest active driver, lined up on the wrong grid slot. Marshals then had to push the great German’s Mercedes off the grid after he deliberately stopped the engine, forgetting that the race re-start procedure had been changed way back in 2005.
Whiting, who is the official race starter and the highest ranking FIA official at grands prix, confirmed to German newspaper Bild am Sonntag that Schumacher caused the start chaos.
“Michael should know the rules,” the Briton added.
Bild asked Whiting if drivers are required to pass a rules test prior to being awarded their coveted F1 super license.
“Not by the FIA,” he answered. “We assume that a team competing in Formula One knows the rules. It is the responsibility of the teams to ensure that its drivers – its employees – know the rules,” said Whiting.
Flanked by Rubens Barrichello (326 grands prix) and Riccardo Patrese (257), Michael Schumacher (299) is the second most experienced driver in F1 history.
Former F1 driver Christian Danner has scolded Michael Schumacher for making rookie errors in Hungary last weekend.
Germany’s Bild claims the 43-year-old is very close to announcing a new deal to keep racing at Mercedes beyond 2012, but at the same time the newspaper wondered if the seven time world champion might “need glasses?”
“It had nothing to do with poor vision,” the German’s manager Sabine Kehm insisted. “Don’t worry, Michael is more than fit.”
She had been asked about Schumacher’s strange pre-race mistakes at the Hungaroring: first lining up in the wrong grid spot, and then turning off his engine when the start was aborted.
“We’re all only human and can make mistakes,” Danner told the German news agency SID, “but really they shouldn’t happen to a Formula One driver. If it had happened to a young driver, we’d all say he’s not ready for F1.”
Fernando Alonso was happy and yet concerned after Sunday’s Hungarian grand prix.
A week after winning at Hockenheim, the Spaniard actually extended his 34 point lead in the championship to 40 points in Hungary, despite finishing just fifth. But the Ferrari driver confided to Spain’s AS newspaper: “Actually we should have finished seventh.”
He was obviously referring to McLaren’s Jenson Button – sixth in Hungary a week after finishing second in Germany – and also his closest points rival Mark Webber, who had a bad weekend and finished a poor eighth on Sunday.
“We know that Red Bull, McLaren and Lotus have faster cars,” Alonso is quoted by the Italian agency AGI. “We have changes to make ahead of the next races. I think we have to stay focused, not worried. We must go on holiday knowing that our lead is not enough to win the championship.”
Joan Villadelprat is full of praise for Lotus, a team he says still has the blood of Benetton and Renault flowing in its veins.
Spaniard Villadelprat, who was team manager at the Enstone based team when Michael Schumacher won his first titles in 1994 and 1995, was speaking the day after Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean finished second and third in Hungary in the black and gold-liveried Lotuses.
“What counts is that the team has always maintained its competitive structure and the only changes in personnel were the ones that were needed,” he wrote in his El Pais column. “This has given them a stability that most don’t have. It’s a solid and flawless team.
“They have demonstrated in the past that they can make a winning car: we did it with Schumacher and they did it again must more recently with Fernando Alonso. Although the owners have changed, the structure has survived.
“Eric Boullier, the team boss, and James Allison, the technical head, are doing an outstanding job, having restored a winning feeling again.”
The team’s last win was Alonso’s at Fuji in 2008.
A feud is brewing at the back of the grid. Germany’s SID news agency said Marussia’s driver duo Timo Glock and Charles Pic are not getting along. The report said rookie Frenchman Pic, who outqualified and outraced his team leader in Hungary, held up German Glock in qualifying.
“Maybe he doesn’t understand the English on the radio,” an angry Glock was quoted as telling reporters after alleging he was blocked by Pic.
Glock, 30, said he has no intention of sitting down to discuss the issue with Pic.
“It’s pointless,” he insisted. “It is happening for the second or third time and so it’s up to the team to solve it.”
Reuters news agency described Michael Schumacher’s Hungarian grand prix as a “comedy of errors”. And two of the errors were committed by the 43-year-old even before the race started.
It has emerged in Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport that, after the formation lap, Schumacher parked his silver Mercedes in the wrong grid slot, which is what caused Charlie Whiting to abort the start.
“I radioed the pits to say that he was in my place,” Caterham’s Heikki Kovalainen, who qualified 19th – two places behind Schumacher – said.
HRT’s Pedro de la Rosa, second-to-last on the grid, also sensed something was wrong.
“I didn’t know who was to blame, I just knew that I was in the wrong position,” the Spaniard said.
Then, when Schumacher saw that Whiting had aborted the start, the great German – whose contract runs out later this year – killed the engine. The rest of the field simply geared up for another formation lap, which left Schumacher stranded on the grid and needing a push from the marshals to the pitlane.
Asked why he turned off the engine, Schumacher said: “It used to always be like that.”
Not exactly: even by 2006 – the last season of Schumacher’s ultra-successful first career – the old five-minute delayed restart had been scrapped. He then sped out of the pits too fast, incurring a drive-through penalty.
“Today was obviously one of those races that you will not look back at for very long,” said the seven time world champion.
Bruno Senna was feeling confident about the future after Sunday’s Hungarian grand prix.
Surrounded by burgeoning paddock rumours the Williams shareholder Toto Wolff-managed Valtteri Bottas will surely get a race seat in 2013, Brazilian Senna has struggled during his first half-season with the British team. But in Hungary, Senna made the ‘Q3’ segment for the first time in 2012, going on to outrace Barcelona winner Pastor Maldonado to seventh at the finish.
“The team was very happy with my race,” he is quoted by O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper. “Frank Williams came to tell me that he is happy with my progress.”
The newspaper said Senna will begin the August break by visiting his family in Brazil, before returning to his home in Monaco.
Charlie Whiting has briefed the stewards, including former American F1 driver Danny Sullivan, to be on alert during the Hungarian grand prix, as the FIA clamps down on drivers sneaking an off-track advantage.
Last weekend at Hockenheim, world champion Sebastian Vettel was demoted from second at the flag to fifth in the classification, for passing Jenson Button late in the race whilst off the track.
Whiting, the highest-ranking FIA official at grands prix, has reportedly warned he will be just as tough about drivers taking all four wheels outside the limits of the circuit in Hungary.
“We’ll see how it applies here at the Hungaroring,” McLaren’s sporting director Sam Michael is quoted by Spain’s El Mundo Deportivo. “There are at least four places where you can cut the corner,” added the Australian.
GP2 driver Sergio Canamasas tested the theory on Saturday and was handed a drive-through penalty for exceeding the limits of the circuit for advantage. Indeed, Whiting is understood to have insisted that not only maintained or gained positions will be penalised, but also off-track moves for lap time or ‘DRS’ activation benefit.
Mundo Deportivo correspondent Raymond Blancafort said the problem has arisen recently because of the modern trend for asphalted run-off zones and verges, where previously there was either gravel or slippery ‘grasscrete’.
A trio of F1 drivers have criticised the performance of Pirelli’s rain tyres.
Seven time world champion Michael Schumacher on Friday suffered his second crash in wet conditions in the space of seven days, explaining at the Hungaroring that he aquaplaned into the tyre barrier. But the great German, who has been openly critical of F1’s Italian tyre supplier, held his disapproving fire on Friday.
Others were more vocal.
“In my view, these (Pirelli wet) tyres are extremely bad in terms of (water) displacement,” Marussia driver Timo Glock is quoted by Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport. “The (tyre) behaviour is just very, very funny, in terms of aquaplaning.”
Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg, who made his F1 debut in 2010, added: “The Bridgestones were able to cope with more water.”
And a third – unnamed – driver told the publication: “In the past we lost 12 seconds in the rain, now we’re losing twenty.”