Rory's Ramblings

Atlas F1

Rory's Ramblings

An Occasional Column from the Antipodes by Rory Gordon, Australia

Rules and Rulz

What are the rules of Formula One? Are there any rules? Are they obeyed?

I suppose that a cynic might say that the rules of F1 are what Max Mosley, Bernie Ecclestone and certain other interested parties say they are ... no more, no less.

You might not be a cynic, but this year's Grand Prix of Britain might just turn you into one, if you look at it by the rules.

Michael Schumacher had a "stop and go" penalty imposed on him in the closing stages of the race. It seems, or so my eyes told me, that on his final lap, he came into the pits, while leading the race, to take his penalty. This would seem not to be a problem, until you realise that the finish line for that particular GP was actually before Schumacher got to his pit.

Now then, this is where we delve into the rule books.

Not so long ago, finding out about the rules that governed F1 wasn't the easiest task in the world. Frequently, it involved knowing someone who knew someone who knew someone who could get a copy for you.

Nowadays, the FIA is much kinder to us all, and puts the two main public sets of rules on their Internet site for us all to read and peruse. There are two sets of regulations, the Technical and the Sporting.

The Technical Regulations deal with the interesting techo stuff about the actual car itself. A lot of it goes screaming over my head as it is way too technical for me, like all the details on what fuels are legal. But, as a whole, the Tech Regs do make an interesting read, provided that I don't try and fool myself that I understand what they are talking about all the time.

I suppose you could say that the Sporting Regulations deal with the running of a race and of the season. The Sporting Regulations are much more readable and understandable than the Technical Regulations.

I must admit that I don't go through the rules in all that much detail every year. Indeed, the most recent copies I could find recently in my study at home were three years old. So, it was over to the FIA's site to get paper spitting out of the printer.

According to MY reading of the Sporting Rules, the winner of the race is defined in Article 169:

The car placed first will be the one having covered the scheduled distance in the shortest time, or, where appropriate, passed the Line in the lead at the end of two hours.

Okay, that seems straightforward enough: the person who completes the required number of laps first is the the winner.

Then we jump back to Article 14, which states, in part:

... the start/finish line (the Line) ... The Line is a single line which crosses both the track and the pit lane.

So it was perfectly legal for Schumacher to finish, and win, the race by going into the pits. But, was it legal for him to take his time penalty AFTER the race had finished?

This is what started me off on my search through the Regulations. And, yes, it was completely legal for Schumacher to go through the pits to finish the race, so far as I can make out. This is because Article 57e of the Sporting Regulations says that:

If an incident for which a time penalty is imposed occurs with 12 or less complete laps remaining to the finish of the race, the stewards shall have the right to add the time penalty to the elapsed time of the driver concerned.

And this is what the Stewards did to Schumacher in their Steward's [sic] Decision No. 8.

So, my outrage ... well, perhaps that's a little strong, but you get the idea ... was totally out of place.

Hang on. One of the things about these regulations is that, once I get my nose into them, I have great difficulty getting my nose out of them. And I soon came upon Article 165:

After receiving the end-of-race signal all cars must proceed on the circuit directly to the parc ferme without stopping...

Now then, even if we accept that the pits and the pit lane are part of the circuit, Schumacher broke that Article by stopping, did he not?

I'll leave the lawyers among you to mull over that one, and move onto to some other matters in the Regulations.

I'm going to pick on Schumacher again here. Not because I want to, but mainly because he has recently provided us all with an example that got a lot of coverage and has been debated widely ... and fiercely.

I'm talking about the incident when he came out of the pits at the GP of Canada, and seemingly blocked Frentzen. It may well be that Schumacher did not get any advice from his pit about the impending arrival of Frentzen, but more significant to me was that Schumacher didn't see Frentzen in the mirrors.

Back to the Regulations, this time the Technical Regulations and specifically Article 14.3 (Rear view mirrors). I won't quote too much here as the opening sentence says it all to me:

All cars must have at least two mirrors mounted so that the driver has visibility to the rear and both sides of the car.

It goes to say that the mirrors have to be at least 12cm wide and 5cm high, and the driver has to show to the scrutineers that he can make out letters and numbers at certain distances and angles behind the car.

Okay, so maybe, just maybe, after you have read that Article for yourselves, you may just conclude that Frentzen was in Schumacher's "blind spot". But doesn't that mean that the mirrors aren't doing their job? Perhaps a re-wording of that Article is needed?

I'll stop picking on Schumacher now. And, to finish off, I'll pick on one of my favourite "pet hate" Articles: Article 65 of the Sporting Regulations.

Article 65 is about the number on the car. Tell me honestly. Can you identify a car on your TV screen by its number? Can you tell me where the side numbers are on the Jordans? On the McLarens? On the Tyrrells? I can't.

To identify any particular, I look first at the colour scheme to identify the marque, and then - hopefully - at the driver's helmet to identify the driver. The number? By the time I work out where the number is, the car has gone.

I've rambled on long enough. I do highly recommend the Sporting and Technical Regulations to you. They are a fascinating read.

But that's just me.

Rory Gordon
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