“The news was that there was no news”

Motor Sport News - - Gp Extra -

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…

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