Charlie Whiting sat in on the drivers press conference today, fielding questions about the controversial penalties awarded both during and after the race, the transcript as follows:
Q: Charlie, obviously there are several key areas of interest. Firstly, can we talk about the incident with Lewis missing Turn Two at the start and the one later with Max at the same spot and the differences between them?
Charlie WHITING: Yeah, sure. I think the principal difference between the two was simply that, in Lewis’ case it was felt that he didn’t gain any lasting advantage and it Max’s case, he did. We can show you a couple of videos here just to refresh everyone’s memory: perhaps that will be a help. The first… I think you’re all pretty familiar with it. You can see that Lewis makes a small mistake at the beginning, cuts across, gains significant track advantage but then sets about giving that back immediately. You can see on the straight – or we can see – on the straight between Turns Three and Four he backs off to 80 per cent throttle to give that advantage back. Because obviously he’s got a significant advantage there. Then, about a minute later, the Safety Car’s deployed and that advantage is gone completely. So, the stewards felt no lasting advantage. On the other hand, the case with Max and Sebastian, if Max had done the same thing on the straight between Turns Three and Four, he would certainly have lost the place. I think that’s why the stewards felt that this deserved a penalty because the driver had gained a lasting advantage. That’s the fundamental difference between the two incidents in the eyes of the Stewards.
Let’s bring the drivers in on this. Max, you had a comment there. What’re your thoughts on what you’ve seen here and what Charlie just said? MV: Yeah, well of course I don’t agree with the decision but it doesn’t really make a lot of difference, does it? I’ve got a penalty. I think if you give penalties, give it to both or you don’t give any penalties. But I think what we maybe need to change for the future is that once you go off it should be a penalty on its own instead of the stewards interfering with that to decide a penalty. I think we need to come up with a solution that, once you go off, that should be the penalty on its own.
Lewis, your thoughts on what we’ve just seen and what Charlie just said?
LH: I relatively agree with Charlie’s explanation. I don’t really have a particular opinion about it. I think ultimately the stewards have a very, very difficult job because every single scenario is different, as he was mentioning. For example, the Safety Car came out immediately after my incident, for example. Every scenario is a little bit different; it’s not that easy to apply the same rule to every single thing. I also agree with Max that we should work with Charlie – as we have been, I think, through the year – to try and make it easier for them to make decisions and for it to be more clear.
OK, moving on to another topic of great interest. The moving under braking obviously has been widely discussed throughout the season. You issued a clarification at the Austin weekend. Can you tell us about Sebastian’s defence from Daniel at the last race in light of that?
CW: I think it might be helpful to just go back a little bit to Hungary where there were two incidents involving Kimi and Max. This got thoroughly discussed during the drivers’ meeting in Germany and the consensus of opinion was that moving under braking was something that should not be done. We agreed with this and then we had the incident with Max and Lewis in Japan where the first think that Lewis said on the radio was “He moved. He moved when we were braking.”We looked at it after the race. The stewards, as you know, felt that there wasn’t a case to answer there, which gave rise, of course, to a lengthy discussion in the drivers’ meeting in Austin. I then issued what was a clarification of existing regulations to say exactly what we felt should be reported to the stewards. With that as the backdrop, so to speak, Mexico was really the first race where that rule was applied.
There are three fundamental points there within the rules. Firstly, if a driver has to take evasive action; if a driver makes an abnormal change of direction in the braking zone; and if it could be potentially dangerous to another driver. If those three conditions are satisfied then the stewards felt that was a dangerous manoeuvre and should be penalised. That’s how the stewards looked at it and they felt Sebastian had moved under braking; that was very clear from the data, and also pretty clear from the video, of course; it was potentially dangerous and it was an abnormal change of direction which could have led to an accident. So I think it we look carefully at some footage here, you’ll probably… there’s one view I doubt anyone has actually seen. This is from the track camera. I think you can see very clearly that both cars are on the left of the track; Sebastian moves to the right and then, in the braking zone, moves to his left and then you can see quite clearly that Daniel had to take evasive action. And then the onboard [footage]. I think you can see very clearly that, had Daniel’s right front hit Sebastian’s left rear it would have been a significantly different scenario. That’s, I think, what the stewards really looked at was that it was a potentially dangerous situation. It’s close, and I think that’s what the stewards looked at. As I say, those three conditions were satisfied as far as the stewards were concerned and that’s what they felt they should act upon.
OK, let’s bring the drivers in on this, Daniel first. DR: yeah, I think it’s obviously been explained and we were in the stewards’ after the race and, from an outside point of view, for fans – and for drivers – you don’t want to wait so long after a race to then have an outcome but that was that. I felt like the move was as Charlie explained. It’s just when you’re in that braking zone, once you’re committed, and especially when you’re overtaking. You know, we’ve discussed this, drivers, that you’re putting the car on the limit because you’re trying to out-brake someone, so you’re already on the edge, so any sort of move then, you’re not really in control, I guess. Hence why I lock up the brake and it all turns into a bit of a mess. It’s the only real part where we’re not in… it’s not that we’re not in control but we can’t really get out of it much, once we’re on the brakes. When you’re down the straight, if someone defends, if they move one way you can obviously move the other, or whatever, but then once you’ve committed to the braking then it’s hard to pull out of the move. Yeah, so obviously I felt that was the right decision. As I said, from an outside point of view, from I guess fans and that it’s probably a bit hard to understand and digest it all after the race but yeah, obviously we’ll try to keep it… I won’t say clean: I like the hard racing, but we’ll just try to avoid these moving-underbraking things in the future and then these things won’t need to be addressed.
And Seb, your thoughts? SV: Well, obviously I don’t agree with the decision that was made. I think I moved over once to defend my position, after that yeah, I think I gave Daniel enough room on the inside; I kept the car straight for more than the majority of the braking, so I think the reason why, from my point of view, why Daniel locked up so bad is because there was no grip on the inside and it’s something that… yeah… I think we all knew. There were people locking up on other corners when they were offline, so I think it actually looks a bit worse than it was. I don’t think it was actually dangerous for Daniel at that point but OK, I have to deal with the decision.