Many of you Indian cricket fans might vividly remember the Sydney cricket test match on India’s recent tour of Australia. It was fought with full determination and aggression from both sides which made it great to watch. But it would always be remembered for the controversies it caused and the officials involved. For example the umpire asking the captain of the fielding team if his slip fielder had caught the ball cleanly, instead of referring it to the Third Umpire waiting upstairs.
Do you see any similarity between this cricket match and the recent F1 Belgian Grand Prix?
Controversies caused by vague decisions.. you said? Full points for the correct answer!
A lot has been said and written about the fiasco at the end of arguably the greatest F1 race in living memory. Being a huge F1 fan myself, I too was up in arms when I read about the decision. The great Niki Lauda claimed it to be the ‘worst decision ever in F1 history’, and I couldn’t agree more with him. Not just McLaren fans, but even hard core Ferrari fans have cried foul over it (this obviously does not include Stefano Domenicali and the rest of the Ferrari outfit).
Inconsistent decisions made by officials who do not understand the little nuances of the game have always been a bane for sports like cricket, and in a fickle sport like Formula One car racing, it was only a matter of time before this ‘inconsistency’ creeped in.
Here’s an example of that inconsistency: Timo Glock was given a penalty of 25 seconds for overtaking under yellow flags.. didn’t Kimi Raikkonen do the same thing on that ‘famous’ 42nd lap in the rain? Or maybe the stewards forgot to ask Kimi about it, c’mon they too are human, and some humans make ‘forgivable’ mistakes, isn’t it?
Whats more funny is the reason given by the stewards for stripping Lewis Hamilton of his victory on Sunday. If Hamilton hadn’t taken evasive action there would have been a repeat of the controversial Schumacher-Villneauve crash in Jerez in 1997. He took a ‘short cut’ across the chicane, realised his mistake, backed off to allow Kimi Raikkonen through, and then got in his slipstream (made an ‘opportunistic move’ according to Fellipe Massa) and overtook him at the next corner. WHAT ELSE DO YOU EXPECT RACING DRIVERS TO DO?
I agree he could have waited till the next corner and would have got past Kimi’s Ferrari just as easliy. But the people who say that he gained a performance advantage (of speed.. presumably) by cutting the chicane, have never driven a car in a racing situation like this I am sure. If every racing driver starts to think twice before executing a exciting overtaking manouvre over another driver, you can say BYE-BYE to overtaking in F1. Wouldn’t that take the excitement out of the sport we love so much?
The safety upgrades to the circuits and cars have already taken out the ‘daredevil’ approach of the racers of the 70’s and 80’s. Why would we want to kill the sport further? Would stewards in that era have made the same decision as the one taken after the Belgian GP?
As someone mentioned in his article, such a thing would be unthinkable in football for e.g. the English Premier League football or the Euro championships or the World Cup. “People would just never buy such a thing” he said. I totally agree. Then why should we allow ourselves to be cheated in F1? Did Massa, who was way off the pace of both Raikkonen and Hamilton throughout the race, really deserve to be declared its winner?
Surely there is a case of appointing a team of stewards for an entire season, and not chop and change them for every race. Further, as many have pointed out in their articles online, these stewards should be the people who are familiar with the high adrenalin situations during races. Many former greats, who can clearly differentiate between ‘racing incidents’ and genuine mistakes would love to give something back to the game.
Management bodies like FIA have to make sure that F1 remains a sport, whoever crosses the chequered flag first is the winner. This is no place for political rivalries!
As time passes, the euphoria will eventually die down and we will again get down to watching the drivers battle it out on the track. But I hope the FIA, and sporting in general treats this as a wake up call and gets out of its administrative slumber.
Hamilton and Massa have been head and shoulders above others this season if you look at their race pace, and according to me they are the only ones on the current grid who deserve to fight it out for the championship. But won’t it be really great if this championship is won by racing hard on the track, and not by pointing fingers at one another in a courtroom and a submitting to the verdict of its judge?
P.S. – After loosing the Sydney cricket test controversially, Team India bounced back in the very next one to beat Australia in their own backyard, the ‘Fort Knox’ of Aussie cricket, Perth. Incidentally, the next round of the F1 races is in Monza, Italy – Ferrari’s own backyard. Last year McLaren had a 1-2 finish on this very circuit amidst the ‘Stepanygate’ controversy. Similar situation this year too. Can they pick up the pieces and do it again? Will history repeat itself?