1. Webber wins, Michael Schumacher gets robbed in Monaco
2. Kyle Busch wins Dover, NASCAR likes Smith’s ‘double’ idea (for post, click here)
3. Castroneves throws down the gauntlet at Indy (for post, click here)
If the safety car is off the track and race control changes a flashing yellow caution light to a flashing green light, as happened in Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix that was won by Mark Webber in a Red Bull-Renault (results here), then the drivers should be able to go racing.
When the yellow turned to green at the last second in Monaco, seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher of Mercedes caught two-time world champion Fernando Alonso of Ferrari napping and slipped past to snatch sixth place from him at the checkers.
But the stewards, being advised by driver rep Damon Hill, determined that Schumacher had broken the rules by racing. Apparently, in Formula One, it’s against the rules to race. One must follow the leader in single file – or else.
So the stewards threw the book at Schumacher for daring to pass somebody. They penalized him 20 seconds, which dropped him out of the points.
I know I’m being extreme here – and I’m no big fan of the way Michael Schumacher often went about racing over the years – but I believe in fair play and he got screwed by that ruling.
In case anybody reading this didn't see this injustice, here’s what happened.
With three laps remaining in the Grand Prix, Jarno Trulli and Karun Chandhock collided and the safety car was sent out to control the field while corner workers got the damaged cars out of the way.
Several times, as the cars trundled around the circuit, TV commentators Jonathan Legard and Martin Brundle noted that if the wreckage was cleared away in time, and the pace car got off the circuit, the drivers could possibly go racing again.
And that’s what happened: on the very last corner of the very last lap, the safety car left the racing surface, the green lights came on and Schumacher, who was running seventh, squeezed past Alonso and stole sixth place from him. (Watch the replay – you can see that the green’s flashing in the upper right corner of the screen with the safety car nowhere to be seen. That is from Speed TV, by the way. The commentators there seem to think Schumacher was in the wrong but they don't appear to have seen the green light because they don't mention it.)
The stewards apparently based their decision on this rule: "If the race ends whilst the safety car is deployed, it will enter the pit lane at the end of the last lap and the cars will take the chequered flag as normal without overtaking."
I interpret that rule to mean if the race is declared over (as the result of something like a torrential downpour), then the pace car will get out of the way and let the race cars cross the start/finish line to make the finish official.
But the race in Monaco Sunday hadn’t ended. The cars hadn’t yet completed 78 laps, which is the distance of the Grand Prix de Monaco and when the Grand Prix would end. Nobody had declared anything over and, in fact, race control changed the yellow to green. If the race was over, why didn’t the light stay yellow?
You can bet Webber understood this because when the safety car went off and the green lights came on he floored it and literally flew past the checkered flag with his Red Bull teammate, Sebastien Vettel, who finished second, in hot pursuit.
If the race was over, why were they racing?
Ditto the third, fourth and fifth-place finishers - Robert Kubica in a Renault, Felipe Massa in his Ferrari and Lewis Hamilton in a McLaren-Mercedes. They were all hard on it also. Only Alonso, it seemed, expected to dawdle to the start/finish line.
For being a racing driver, Schumacher wasn’t just put back to seventh place but penalized severely. Mercedes has announced it will appeal the decision.
This is reminsicent of something that happened about 35 years ago. ABC’s Wide World of Sports televised – live – some sprint car races from Terre Haute, Ind., that were held on the same day as the Indy 500 time trials.
On a restart late in the sprint car feature, George Snider appeared to jump the start. He finished in first place and was awarded the win, even though the fans in the grandstand were beside themselves. There was an unholy uproar over this all the next week. The ABC switchboard was flooded by phone calls from angry fans who were sure Snider had cheated.
The following Saturday, when Wide World went on the air (the show always started at 4 or 4:30 EDT), ABC revisited the controversy to explain that what Snider had done was perfectly legal. They went so far as to show a tape of the finish, with a split screen that showed the starter on the left and the field of sprint cars on the right. Although it was as close as paper on a wall, Snider made his move just as the starter waved the green.
Green means go in racing; yellow means hold position, or slow down. They understood that in Terre Haute 35 years ago but not, apparently, in Monaco on Sunday.
Michael Schumacher saw green in Monte Carlo and I say what he did was perfectly legal. Let’s hope the FIA appeals court sees it that way, too.
Meantime, the Grand Prix itself was an interesting race, primarily because it was in Monaco. But it was not exactly edge-of-the-seat stuff. The race started with Webber leading Vettel up the hill to Casino Square, with Kubica third. That’s how it ended nearly two hours later.
In between, you had Vettel passing Kubica at the start to make it into second at the first corner, several crashes that resulted in the safety car being deployed a total of four times, and great racing at the back of the pack as Alonso carved his way through the backmarkers (he'd crashed his Ferrari in the last practice, missed qualifying and had to start last and from pit lane) .
And it’s always nice to watch the post-race pageantry when Prince Albert (with the assistance Sunday of Sir Jackie Stewart) and other members of the Royal Family present the trophies.
It’s a great race to get up early on a Sunday morning to watch.
Grand Prix de Monaco Notebook Jottings:
– Regardless of the stewards’ decision, it served Alonso right when Schumacher slipped past him at the final corner. Alonso passed his startled teammate, Massa, going into the pits at China a few weeks ago and now somebody has caught him not paying full attention.
Oh, Schumacher said he didn’t expect to be penalized and that stewards advisor Hill "is a good guy, so I’m sure he’ll understand the situation." Oh, a "good guy?" Michael and Damon weren’t exactly buddy buddy when they raced each other in F1. Perhaps Damon, in making his recommendations to the stewards in Monaco, was thinking of 1994 when Schumacher wrecked him in order to win the world championship . . .
- Hey, where were the stewards when Rubens Barrichello throw his steering wheel out of the cockpit after he crashed? He threw it in such a way that a car following actually ran over it. That could have caused a big accident - but nothing. It's like officiating in the NHL: if you're going to call 'em, call 'em. Otherwise, stay home. (P.S. on this observation: I betcha Sir Frank Williams wasn't pleased to see that. The F1 steering wheel controls everything on the car - almost - and costs a fortune. Maybe Rubens will have to pay for his petulance.)
– The anti-tobacco lobby forced Ferrari to remove the bar code from the sides of the car and the rear wing because they said it promoted cigarette smoking. One of the famous turns on the Monaco track is called "Tabac," because of a tobacco shop that used to be there. Are those folks going to demand a name-change?
– Most apartment balconies are jammed during the Monaco race, as are the hillsides. But what’s with all those empty grandstand seats?
If you have money, lots of it, price is no object and you can afford to pay 10,000 euros or more for a three-day premium seat or place to stand and watch, where the never-ending buffet is to die for and the champagne tap is always turned on.
On the other side of the coin, the hillsides are jam-packed on race day with people who buy their way in pretty much for a pittance but you have to stand for hours and once you have a spot you don’t dare leave it (which can get pretty uncomfortable sometimes).
The grandstand seats are mostly all bought up by tour operators who sell packages (flights, hotels, transfers, tickets, receptions, seats, etc.) to people like you and me. Frankly, the prices for those packages are out of reach in this economy (a mimimum of $12-$15,000 per person and your meals are extra).
Now, get this: it’s illegal to scalp seats in Monaco for the Grand Prix. They take a very dim view and if you’re caught scalping you can bet you will never get to buy a seat again. So when they don’t sell all their packages, the tour people have to eat the seats and that’s why they’re empty.
– They have all those cranes around the Monte Carlo circuit to yank wrecked cars up, up and away but they ran into a problem with Nico Hulkenberg’s demolished Williams that came to rest just at the exit from the tunnel. About a dozen course workers had to balance it atop a hydraulic jack and then gingerly roll it down the hill to the chicane where they were able to get it off the course. The TV picture of them doing this was priceless.
– Quote of the race: Told he had to start saving his brakes about halfway through the 78 laps, Lewis Hamilton replied: "What the hell, do you want me to race these guys or save the car?"
– I noted earlier that the race was somewhat ho-hum past the halfway mark but that we all watched to the end because it was Monaco. Exactly! Why can’t F1 seek out more "Monacos" rather than insisting on all the new, colourless, computer-designed, boring circuits like Abu Dhabi and Malaysia.
Those new places are for the racers; the Monacos of the world are for the fans and maybe – maybe – one day it will dawn on the people who run F1 that places like Monaco will be their salvation, not places like Bahrain.
– I like the roll cages you see on midgets, sprint cars and supermodifieds. They are still open cockpit racing cars because you can see the driver at work but the cages have saved many lives.
So I got thinking about this after watching the replay of the Trulli-Chandhock accident in which Trulli’s car rode up and over Chanhock’s. The tires and bottom of Trulli’s car very near landed atop the Indian driver. The wreck was reminiscent of the first turn accident at this year’s IZOD IndyCar Series opener in Brazil in which Mario Moraes’s car went over Marco Andretti’s and very nearly hit him in the head. Andretti had a close escape in that one, as did Chandhock on Sunday.
I think cages would help. They wouldn’t take anything away from the F1 car and it would make it much safer for the drivers.
Disagree? Think Jeff Krosnoff.
– Webber said it was the greatest day of his life. I believe him.
– What? No green-white-checkered?
– Everybody made such a big deal about the first part of the qualifying session on Saturday being potentially disastrous. There would be 24 cars on track, all going for it. The drivers tried to get the field split in half but to no avail.
I don’t know about you, but I didn’t think it turned out to be any more dangerous or crowded than the first segment of any other qualifying session.
Then, on the race telecast, Martin Brundle let the cat out of the bag. It seems the drivers of the six new (slow) cars were warned to stay out of the way – which they apparently did. And they were the first to be eliminated, as usual.
– Whenever a coach in professional football, basketball or hockey or a manager in baseball is about to be fired, he usually gets a vote of confidence from his boss, as in: "I think Curly/Larry/Mo is doing a terrific job and I see no reason why he shouldn’t continue to lead this team."
So what to think of Richard Branson coming out at Monaco and saying that he was very satisifed with the way Virgin Racing is going and he didn’t see any reason why he wouldn’t continue to sponsor the team?
Why would he say that? Is he getting ready to bail?