Formula 1 fans have been left fuming by the fall-out of Fernando Alonso picking Mark Webber up and giving him a ride back to the pits in the Singapore GP.
But despite even stars like Jenson Button joining the chorus of disapproval for Webber and Fernando Alonso being given reprimands, a deeper look at the facts of the case show that stewards had to act.
TAXI RIDE ITSELF WAS NOT PUNISHED
Button was one of many people to complain that Webber and Alonso had been punished for the eye-catching taxi ride – reminiscent of Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell at the 1991 British Grand Prix.
On Monday morning Button, a director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, tweeted: “Disappointed to see the penalties for @AussieGrit [Webber] and @alo_oficial [Alonso], act of sportsmanship should not really be punished.”
However, the reality is that the penalty had nothing to do with the actual ‘sportsman’ aspect of a driver giving a lift to his rival – it was down to safety.
There is in fact no regulation that strictly outlaws drivers from giving such rides.
Article 43.3 of F1’s sporting regulations states only that: “After receiving the end-of-race signal all cars must proceed on the circuit directly to the post race parc ferme without any unnecessary delay, without receiving any object whatsoever and without any assistance (except that of the marshals if necessary).”
High-level sources have confirmed to AUTOSPORT that the FIA would almost certainly not have taken any action had the pick-up been conducted in a safe way.
That means Webber would have had to wait for permission from the marshals to enter the confines of the circuit, and Alonso would have had to pull completely off the track to collect him.
SAFETY ISSUES KEY TO MATTER
Webber and Alonso were punished because of the dangerous manner of their actions.
Although the race had finished, article 30.9 of F1’s sporting regulations is still in force, which means drivers cannot run on to the track without permission from marshals.
Sources have revealed that not only did Webber not have permission from the marshals to enter the track at Turn 7, but he was in fact explicitly told by track officials not to do so.
CCTV footage of the incident shows Webber hailing Alonso as he runs towards the track, ignoring the marshals, before he sprints around to the left hand side of the Ferrari.
At that moment, Nico Rosberg has to swerve to the left of Webber and Alonso, before just a few seconds later Lewis Hamilton has to take to the kerbs on the outside.
Mark Webber has a lift on Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari, Singapore GP 2013
Alonso’s reprimand was for stopping in a dangerous place, which was in the middle of Turn 7 where he could not be seen by cars entering the corner.
Hamilton said on Sunday night that he was “really shocked” to find a stationary car on the track at that point, and that Webber had been lucky not to get run over.
Dangers in motor racing remain even when the chequered flag is out. At this year’s Canadian Grand Prix, a marshal was killed when he was run over by a crane as he assisted in the retrieval of a car.
And on Sunday afternoon in Singapore, GP2 driver Fabio Leimer crashed into Alexander Rossi on the slow-down lap.