Officials are re-examining what happened when Trulli and Hamilton swapped places under the safety car in Malaysia. They’re meeting later today to make a decision which could see Trulli reinstated to 3rd and Hamilton penalised.
Under the safety car, Trulli slid off onto the grass and Hamilton went past; that’s legal. Trulli recovered and re-passed Hamilton; that’s illegal. Trulli was penalised with a 25 seconds penalty which demoted him to 12th (or thereabouts) and Hamilton took 3rd.
However, Trulli says that he passed Hamilton because Hamilton slowed suddenly and veered off the racing line, and Trulli thought he had a mechanical problem and was letting cars pass. Hamilton said that he was distracted by a message on his steering wheel. However, Stewards are reviewing radio transmissions which may show that Hamilton thought he had to let Trulli pass again; something he didn’t disclose to Stewards in the initial investigation.
Unfortunately, the BBC TV coverage didn’t show the incident.
I’m no expert, but here’s how I see it:
- Hamilton can’t be penalised for slowing and moving off-line, but can be penalised if he was more than two seconds behind the cat in front. If he mislead the Officials, then he should be punished severely.
- Trulli should not have passed Hamilton unless Hamilton had slowed so much that Trulli had to stop (it’s against the rules to stop on the track unless you have a car failure). If Trulli had been forced to pass Hamilton because Hamilton slowed, he could have allowed Hamilton to re-pass and the Stewards would take no action.
I’m a Hamilton fan, but misleading Officials is a serious offense, and disqualification from that race is not enough of a punishment.
The FIA must publish their findings, and the evidence, so the public can be fully confident that the regulations have been correctly applied. I have long held the view that all punishments should be clearly defined. In other words, for example, “Continuing to drive for more than three turns when the car is damaged to the point that it cannot realistically be repaired during the race (for example, broken suspension): penalty is disqualification from that race, and 10 points penalty for both driver and constructor.”
Yet again, we’re faced with uncertainty over a race result. This has got to be solved, it’s bad for the sport, and bad for its commercial interests.