“The news was that there was no news”
With its penchant for messing around with results after the fact, motor racing can often inadvertently send a bullet through its own proverbial metatarsal in a way other sports don’t. Fans and spectators, paying customers all, want to know that what they’ve just watched has some meaning, and that the results won’t be readjusted ad tedium behind closed doors by blazer-garbed officials.
So it was with a sigh of resignation last Saturday afternoon, as I composed the qualifying section of the Hungarian Grand Prix report you can read elsewhere in this issue of MN, that I noted how only the quickest nine drivers had gone under the 107 per cent time during Q1. Surely a rule that was introduced to keep dangerously slow cars off the grid couldn’t be invoked to arbitrarily shuffle the order in these circumstances? We would find out – but it would take a few hours.
Of more pressing import was the business of Nico Rosberg setting pole position on a lap in which yellow flags had been displayed. To my mind this is the kind of event that warrants consideration straight away, before the fans in the grandstands have begun the trudge home in their wet shoes and the folks at home have switched off and adjourned to the pub. Make a decision or don’t make a decision, even if that decision is to open an investigation that won’t be concluded straight away.
On Saturday, over three hours elapsed between the end of qualifying and Rosberg being summoned before the stewards. He, like most of the spectators, had departed the circuit. The stewards declared themselves satisfied with his explanation and then moved on to their deliberations over the 107 per cent rule. Finally, at 2117hrs, it was declared that the results of qualifying would stand…
Unless you’re one of those people who obsessively follows the minute-by-minute stuff on social media, you were OK. The news was that there was no news.
But still the rancour rolled on, and in the post-race press conference there was an intriguing scene as Lewis Hamilton responded to a question about his call for clarification of the yellow-flag rules. “Nico was doing the same speed at the apex as I was doing on the previous timed lap,” he grumbled. “If there happened to be a car that spun or a marshal on the track, it would have been pretty hard for him to have slowed down… the fact that he didn’t get penalised for it means that we need to be careful because the message we’re sending, not only to the drivers here but also to the drivers in the lower categories, is that it’s now possible for you to lose only one tenth of a second in a double-waved-yellow-flag section, which is one of the most dangerous scenarios.”
“Can I respond? Thank you very much,” was Rosberg’s rather prim response after Hamilton had reached a natural conclusion. “Thank you for making that statement, so now I’m going to put my response.”
During the course of this exchange, neither man made eye contact with the other. I was half expecting the compere, BBC Radio 5 Live’s Tom Clarkson, to stand in the stead of the absent Jeremy Kyle and demand a DNA test. Next time I’ll bring some popcorn. This one is going to run and run…