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Raikkonen’s polemic victory and how he escaped penalty


By BMWF1Talk
September 2 2009

It is now clear that no one can “steal” Kimi’s well deserved victory at Spa. However there was an incident during the race that may have well put his victory in jeopardy…

We are talking about something every viewer could see on the first lap, right after the start. Going into the first corner Nick Heidfeld went to the inside of Trulli and outbraking him but sacrificing the corner exit. This not only made them both have a slow way out, but also forced Raikkonen to got to the run off area. Till this point everything is completely normal and usual. It was, however, what happened afterwards what wasn’t so usual.

While Kubica overtook the pair on the inside, Kimi went through the asphalt run off area, first struggling to control the car, but then he managed to gather more momentum and overtook both Heidfeld and Trulli. We suspect that he did even use KERS. Just after Eau Rouge he overtook Kubica as well, by doing some slipstream, and helped by KERS too.

To put it simple, before running off Raikkonen was 4th (behind Fisichella, Heidfeld and Trulli) and on par with Kubica; after rejoining the track he was 3rd (behind Fisichella and Kubica). Now what strikes us is that according to the written rules of the FIA, this should not happen. Judge by yourself:

Appendix L. CHAPTER IV - CODE OF DRIVING CONDUCT ON CIRCUITS

c) The race track alone shall be used by the drivers during the race. Drivers must use the track at all times. For the avoidance of doubt:
- the white lines defining the track edges are considered to be part of the track but the kerbs are not, and ;
- a driver will be judged to have left the track if no part of the car remains in contact with the track.
Should a car leave the track for any reason, and without prejudice to 2(d) below, the driver may rejoin. However, this may only be done when it is safe to do so and without gaining any advantage.

d) The Repetition of serious mistakes or the appearance of a lack of control over the car (such as leaving the track) will be reported to the stewards of the meeting and may entail the imposition of penalties up to and including the exclusion of the any drivers concerned.

So, shouldn't he have let Heidfeld and Trulli go by again?

There are a couple of precedents:

2007 Alonso vs Hamilton: while going side by side in La Source Alonso pushes Hamilton off track, but as Hamilton takes a line with a higher radius and still has grip is able to rejoin ahead, though Alonso is able to quickly regain the position. Both were of the same team –no way Mclaren would lodge a complaint…against one of their drivers!- and the hampered driver had quickly recovered the position.

2008 Hamilton vs Raikkonen: different situation, but still one driver gaining advantage by going off track –cutting chicane instead of gaining momentum on the outside-. Hamilton was penalized.

The rest of the precedents, from even earlier years, aren’t similar enough, either, to make a proper comparison.

We won’t analyze furthermore if he deserves a penalty, as that’s a controversial, yet clear, subject that has been widely discussed in the fans circles.

Instead we will wonder why no team lodged a protest. Yes, effectively none of them did, at least we can confirm that BMW Sauber did not. And no teams commented on why it wasn’t lodged, so we can only speculate. Here are some questions -some of them rhetorical- that may help understanding the matter a bit better:

Is there an unwritten rule between the GPDA, teams and stewards that this kind of maneuvers, in the event of the first corners of the race, are permitted?

Did it influence the fact that the surviving Hinwil-based team is most likely set to use Ferrari engines in 2010?

Is BMW Sauber such a gentleman team because they firmly believe in sportsmanship?

Does the fact of having a strong FOTA “invite” teams not to complain so much about other teams? Or that Sauber will need the help of FOTA to secure the team’s future and its Championship entry, as well as the commercial revenues?

Each one can think what they want…

We have never liked post-race penalties, but it is a pity, however, that BMW Sauber missed a podium in such a though season due to this kind of situation...

To get further impression on the fans opinion regarding this matter, we have started a poll. Feel free to vote there or have a say: POLL or at the one at the botom of the left menu.

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