FIA admits “lack of clarity” and vows to change rules after Monaco controversy

Posted on

| Written by

The FIA will revise the rules that caught out Michael Schumacher
The FIA will revise the rules that caught out Michael Schumacher

The FIA has said it will make changes to the F1 rules following the controversy over Michael Schumacher’s penalty in the Monaco Grand Prix.

The governing body issued a statement saying:

The problems identified during the final lap of the Monaco Grand Prix, counting for the 2010 FIA Formula One World Championship, showed a lack of clarity in the application of the rule prohibiting overtaking behind the Safety Car.

Adjustments to the regulations are necessary to clarify the procedure that cars must meet when the last lap is controlled by the Safety Car whilst also ensuring that the signaling for teams and drivers is made more clear.

These adjustments will help to avoid the problem which occurred during the Monaco Grand Prix from happening in the future.

The Formula One Commission, upon a proposal of the F1 Sporting Working Group will submit an amendment to the Sporting Regulations to address this issue. These amendments will be considered by the World Motor Sport Council at its next meeting in Geneva on June 23.
FIA statement

Over 1,100 comments on the incident have been received so far on F1 Fanatic, and 79% of readers said Schumacher should either receive a less severe penalty or no punishment at all.

Read more: The FIA?s badly-written rules leave Formula 1 looking stupid once again

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

95 comments on “FIA admits “lack of clarity” and vows to change rules after Monaco controversy”

  1. Now that the FIA have admitted that the rules were not very clear. Shouldn’t they overturn the stewards penalty?

    1. That was my first thought too. Of course, they’d have to find some way of putting him in seventh, i.e. behind Alonso, and I don’t think they can do that because of article 16.3 (see here:

      So I don’t think we’ll see any further changes in the Monaco finishing order.

      1. I thought that too. FIA doing this basically are trying to say, “Ummm sorry we were wrong, the rules are a bit crap aren’t they”

        1. No, I think they are doing it to reduce the amount of irritating pedantry that has been doing the rounds in the last few days, courtesy of Ross Brawn and assorted web-gnomes.

          1. Who are the web gnomes? The 78% who think FIA made the mistake or the few that hate Schumacher and want to see him hanged?

          2. Generally the web-gnomes would be those who got pointlessly angry about the whole thing. Such as blaming Damon Hill for the whole fiasco (including the deplorable practice of sending him hate mail), or suggesting that the regulations should be overlooked on the grounds of “entertainment.” Essentially, those people who wouldn’t know logic if it presented itself to them in a coherent, rational sequence of events.

          3. Now you’re conflating two separate things and basically making out everyone who disagrees with the penalty to be illogical, which is a really dishonest way to discredit people who disagree with you.

            And how wrong was Ross Brawn – in view of the fact that the FIA have admitted the rule is unclear?

          4. Not really. I understand the points of those who say that the rules can be read in different ways. The FIA has admitted as such. Personally, I thought 40.13 was pretty clear, but there you go.

            But if you go back onto some of Keith’s pieces on the incident, there were plenty of people who said that the move should be allowed to stand because it was “entertaining” or “a smart piece of opportunism,” as if these qualities alone should be sufficient reason for the rules to be ignored. That’s the illogical part. Perhaps I should have pointed out that not everyone who disagrees with the penalty is necessarily the target of my exasperation. It depends on how you reach that conclusion.

          5. 40.13 is indeed quite clear. But the condition “IF the race ends whilst the safety car is deployed” coupled with a removal of the SC signs obviously gives room for the interpretation that the safety car was NOT deployed.

        2. Red Andy, Although there were people who argued due to entertainment, they are the minority, 40.13 is very clear, and it’s intention is that at the end of a race, to make it look pretty for the camera’s (This artificial edit to an otherwise pure racing event is something I detest and an insult to out intelligence.). So ergo the cars cannot pass.

          But 40.13 is clearly on the basis that the safety car is deployed.

          The problem many, but not all, people have had, Is that a combination of other events, like Charlie whiting giving the “safety car in this lap” message, and the drivers being shown green flags, is what in any other circumstance, fulfils all the requirements to a return to racing, and if those requirements are fulfilled, which many believe they were, 40.13 doesn’t come into it.

          Personally I think the whole thing is a blunder by Whiting and the FIA, Whiting for fulfilling the requirements I mentioned above, and the FIA to having rules so badly written, yet so ridged, that a compromise, like Schumacher demoted to 7th, was impossible.

      2. Allow me to quote rule 152 of the ISC again:

        As well as this and independently of the prescriptions of the
        following Articles, the FIA may, upon the proposal and report of
        the FIA observer or the joint report of the two international
        stewards of the meeting designated by the FIA, directly inflict a
        penalty which will take the place of any penalty which the
        stewards of the meeting may have pronounced on any one of the
        above-mentioned parties. In this case, the ASN concerned cannot
        refuse to appeal to the International Court of Appeal on behalf of
        the party concerned.

        And 153:

        Penalties may be inflicted as follows in order of increasing
        severity :
        − reprimand (blame);
        − fines;
        − time penalty;
        − exclusion;
        − suspension;
        − disqualification.
        Time penalty means a penalty expressed in minutes and/or
        Any one of the above penalties can only be inflicted after an
        enquiry has been held and, in case of one of the last three, the
        concerned party must be summoned to give them the opportunity
        of presenting their defence.

        If they would have the intention of rectifying the result, they had every possible means. They could replace it with either a reprimand or a 0,7s penalty (reversing the order).

        1. HounslowBusGarage
          20th May 2010, 10:59

          I thought the rules stated that the minimum time penalty was 20 seconds.
          Could they have just fined him instead?

        2. If they can use 152 then I think they should do it.

          1. So maybe it would be good for the FIA to clear the possible use of that as well, giving the Stewards more room to hand out appropriate penalties, as well as having a means to overturn a penalty which is deemed not to fit the crime.

          2. That “if” is literally confirmed in the same Sporting Regulations:

            Article 18.1

            “The stewards may inflict the penalties specifically set out in these Sporting Regulations in addition to or instead of any other penalties available to them under the Code. ”

        3. So let me get this straight: Schumacher broke the rule, but only because they didn’t know this one applied. Having broken the rule, you can’t leave him in 6th place, but instead of using 152 and 153 they penalise him as if it had been a blatant cheating manoeuvre?

          Madness. I only hope that the stewards didn’t know of the rule, because if they did and ignored it, that’s very poor – but entirely typical of a stewarding system that rarely takes into account the context of the situation (except, bizarrely enough, Senna having to cross the pitlane exit line to avoid Button’s stopped car).

          1. I’m surprised, Usually they would have penalised him anyway….

      3. One option is to allow him to have his sixth place back.

        Schumacher shouldn’t get any punishment for poorly written rules.

        1. So why should Alonso lose his 6th place when him and everyone elses understanding of the rules was that you couldnt overtake?

          The only sensible thing to do is for the FIA to admit they were wrong and change the rule for the future.

        2. Fully agree. If Alonso had defended his position properly he wouldn’t have been overtaken in the first place…And as everyone thought the race was commenced after the messages and the green flag, Schumi should be rewarded for his move, which was also very entertaining.

      4. why webber was not penalised for speeding in the pit lane ?

        1. He was, he got a fine (it was before the race started).

      5. when i was watching the coverage and jake said that they found a gap on the rules that penalises shumacher it was clear that that rule was not clear was previous to the new overtaking after the last corner rule cause the rule says that on the last lap cars cant overtake and that obvious if you only are able to do that after the checkerd flag

    2. The FIA cannot rule retroactively. If they change the rules governing the safety car they cannot apply them to the Monaco GP results. Unless there is an appeal (which there is not), the result will stand.

      1. That’s true of course, but the point is they admitted SC rule was unclear, which has been Mercedes’ point all along.

        1. Poor Schumacher he made a wonderful pass under the circumstance but won’t get any reward.

    3. My words exactly. They know it was a shambles, Schumy should get his place back.

  2. The rules were “not very clear” is a huge understatement.
    That’s ridiculous that despite FIA admitting to their own failure, they still punished the driver/team who have falled victim to their failure.

    If this is not a mitigating circumstance, then what is?!

  3. And they did not look at other things happened in the race such as Barichello’s crash and Massa’s exit from pits…

    1. I think Massa only appeared to cross the line because of the camera angle. It is a difficulty pit exit at Monaco and there were other drivers who touched the line but didn’t cross it.

      The Barrichello thing is covered here: Two crashes in costly race for Williams (Monaco GP team-by-team)

      1. Here is the real reason why it was not investigated (they might have looked into it and found nothing wrong). They had spent so much time and energy looking at Schumi VS Alonso, they sort of forgot about him!

        1. I’m a bit dubious about that report. I’ve no idea how reliable the original (Swiss) source is, it’s been translated, and we all remember what happened with Pitpass and the ‘Nick Fry leaving Mercedes story’ this year.

          1. You are probably right about the original source. I had a look about it and it seems to be in line with the German “Bild”.

            Not the most reliable source then.

        2. What’s the deal about Button being upset there was a remote control left in his car?

          Isn’t he the one who has that thing in his hands? ie shouldn’t he have put it out of the car before he left? Bit odd to blame that on the mechanics.

          1. why on earth did he have a TV remote in his car in the first place? Can someone enlighten me – or tell me what “tv” this is supposed to control…?

          2. It’s for the timing monitor that they watch whilst in the garage.

          3. It appears that bung duty also falls to the man responsible for the remotes.

  4. Lets hope they have a serious look at those rules as well as the penalties available to the race Stewards.

    I suppose there is a lot of unclear rules between them.

  5. I think it’s a shame Schumacher got punished this severely (he should have just got his old position back moving up Alonso), but it’s a great sign the FIA handles it this way. They took responsibility almost right away and assured they’re going to fix it.

    Too bad it’ll still take until June 23rd to make it official, but then again it’s perfectly clear already at this point. I like this new FIA, you only hear from them when there something that can be done better it seems.

    1. HounslowBusGarage
      20th May 2010, 10:55

      Yes, I think the FIA have handled it much better under Todt than under Mosley.
      With Max it would have been ‘admit nothing, blame everyone else and threaten anyone else who might complain’. But with Todt, it seems to be ‘ okay, we messed up. Let’s try and make that clearer . . .’.
      But I also agree that Schu got the brown end of the stick on ths one and didn’t deserve so harsh a penalty.

      1. Mark Hitchcock
        20th May 2010, 11:44

        Completely agree.
        Obviously the way this bad rule was exposed and the fact that Schumi lost out because of it is bad. But the grown-up, sensible way the FIA have reacted is very refreshing.

  6. Prisoner Monkeys
    20th May 2010, 10:28

    I don’t think the problem is that the rules are unclear. If there’s a “problem” – and I hesitate to use that terms as it’s one that can never really be resolved – it’s that there are loopholes in the rules. You can change them, but there’s still going to be loopholes. And, very occaionsally, someone will slip into that grey area. Just as Schumacher did. When that happens, all the stewards can do is interpret the rules and amend them to prevent it from happening again.

    Because it’s impossible to cover every conceivable outcome for every last rule in the book.

    1. The only problem was that race control had the SC signs removed and green flags waved.

      Had they not made that mistake there would have been no discussion at all.

      1. Exactly, it’s not the rules, it’s the way the end of the race was handled. All they need to do is modify 40.13 to read “…To signify this, yellow flags and Safety Car boards shall continue to be shown, and the SAFETY CAR IN THIS LAP message shall not be displayed [or, “a message stating the race will end under safety car conditions shall be distributed”], or some variant.

        1. hehe – no matter how we might see it, it will never be that simple – that’s like applying common sense to it.. like i said, it’ll never happen

  7. well i think they shouldn’t have changed the regulations regarding what flags and signage are waved after the SC dives into the pits… last year the same happened in Australia, and no one overtook in the last meters because yellow flags were kept…. i hope they will be able to reverse the order, but that will open a whole barrel of worms with retro-active modifications….

    1. Well, back than there was no overtaking before the start/finish line so they could have waved green flags all the wanted.

      But still, I agree that a race finishing under the safety car should have SC signs out and not green flags waved. Just like they did in Australia.

  8. I wonder is this a situation where the FIA should make use of crowdsourcing?

    One thing that is clear from reading the comments here and on other F1 blogs is that there are fans out there with a better understanding of the rules than the FIA does

    Now that they have admitted that the rules are unclear they should take advantage of the situation and have a place on their website where fans can highlight bits of the rules that don’t make sense

    then they can change them before such controversies arise – they can call it FIA F1 rules consultation or something like that to make it less embarrassing but it might work well where one rule change impacts another in an obscure way….

    1. Mark Hitchcock
      20th May 2010, 11:48

      Or the teams could avoid all this themselves by properly reading the rules and thinking about any situations where loopholes may arise. Then tell the FIA.

      If a bunch of people on the internet can see the problems then surely professional racing teams should be able to as well.
      That’s assuming they haven’t already tried and been ignored.

    2. Donal, I think that is an excellent idea for the FIA to take a crowdsourcing approach. It is cheap and many eyes looking from different angles at the rules will certainly flush out discrepancies, vagueness, contradictions, etc. And it would fit in very well with the new dare-I-say transparency of the FIA.

      Reminds me of open source and wiki approaches in other fields.

  9. Seeing as the FIA make the rules, why not make a rule that says that when they are wrong, they can reverse unfair punishments dished out to someone who exposes a fault in the rules?

    (sorry for the long sentence). All they do is quote from a faulty rule book instead of implementing commonsense.

    1. The FIA can reverse those penalties. They did so with Trulli in Australia 2009.

      Even that could not rectify the situation though. It would put Schumacher ahead of Alonso.

      1. If I’m reading things correctly, putting Schumacher back in front of Alonso would be the right thing to do.

        If the FIA are says that Mercedes interpretation of the rules was correct, this also mean that the other teams interpretation was incorrect.

        It now appears the Schumacher was free to race after the safety car line and that penalty should be overturned.

        1. No. You are wrong.

          The FIA have acknowledged that the rules were unclear, leading to the possibility that they could be interpreted in different ways. What they have not said is that all interpretations are equal.

          In other words, Mercedes interpreted the rules incorrectly, but the FIA have acknowledged that the unclear rules were one of the causes of the misunderstanding. Nonetheless a rule was still broken and should be punished accordingly.

          1. That’s the same as adding a rule 40.15:
            No driver may act contradictory to the intentions of Race Control. Race Control is by no means obligated with notifying competitors of its intentions.

            Make the entire thing a guessing game.

          2. But that’s the thing – which rule? The one that says no overtaking even though the safety car has come in, or the one that says race on when safety car comes in and green flags are waved? This isn’t a question of one rule being unclear, but of two rules being contradictory….

          3. 40.13 makes no mention of flags or lights. It only talks about cars.

            The rules are not contradictory – it is just the “common sense” perception that green flags should not be displayed if overtaking is still not permitted, that caused the confusion in Monaco. I guess that the rules will be changed so that if the race finishes under the safety car, yellow flags and SC boards will continue to be displayed.

          4. 40.4 and 40.13 combined with the procedure that was followed are clearly contradictory.

          5. FWIW, I think Mercs interpreted the rules correctly! Unless the Race Control specifically told the teams that they are bringing the SC in as per article 40.13, then the team should interpret what is going on based on what they see on the track.
            It’s a simple if then situation. If ‘the race ends’ while ‘SC deployed’ and on the ‘last lap’, then ‘SC will enter pitlane’.
            The race ends when end-of-race signal is given as soon as the leading car has covered the full race distance (article 43.1). I ask anyone who thinks that he/she interpret the rules correctly by saying as per article 40.13, SC should always comes in on the last lap and race should run without overtaking.. did the Monaco race ended with a SC? If it is indeed the original intention of 40.13, then from my POV, t