Team Malaysia believes that the equivalent of a 'crossed line' may have been to blame for the additional pit-stop that cost Fairuz Fauzy a likely podium in Sunday's A1 Grand Prix feature race at Sepang.
The team has been investigating the circumstances that led to Fauzy making an extra stop while running third in the longer of the weekend's two races on home soil, and believes that, following a series of problems with its radio systems, its driver picked up an instruction from a rival team that caused him to pit. A1GP officials and the series' radio systems supplier are also making full investigations into the matter.
Fauzy was running comfortably in third place as the race headed towards half-distance, sitting just four seconds behind Portugal and around eleven ahead of the USA, but the unscheduled lap 17 stop saw the yellow machine rejoining in 14th place, making it impossible for him to recover the podium position the team had expected to celebrate.
Following the race, investigations carried out to ascertain the sequence of events confirmed that, throughout the feature race, all communication between driver and team had been of poor quality, while transmissions between team members were reported to be 'satisfactory' or 'normal'. Fauzy had to make several attempts to communicate a request for tyre pressures to be adjusted ahead of his second stop, after experiencing too much oversteer in the middle stint of the race, and it was during this exchange that, without any warning, he appeared on pit-lane.
As he came to stop in front of the garage, the team, not prepared for the stop, immediately signalled Fauzy to rejoin without service, but the delay cost a vital 40 seconds that would prove crucial to the result of his race.
No further communications with the driver were required, except for the instruction to carry out the planned final pit-stop, which was completed without problem, and Fauzy eventually completed the race in tenth position, scoring one point.
The post-race debrief, however, saw the experienced driver report that he had received a communication to make a pit-stop during his exchange with the team about tyre pressures. Assuming that the pit crew were ready for him, he followed the Team GBR car into pit-lane.
Evidence gathered by the team in the ensuing period points to a 'bleeding' of a radio transmission issued by Team GBR to driver Danny Watts on the previous lap, which was clearly heard by Fauzy, who followed what he thought was an instruction from the Malaysian team's chief engineer. With such communications given in wide-spread racing terminology, it was unsurprising that Team GBR uses identical terms to its rival, and further enquiries are now being made by the series and its radio communications system provider to discover how the error occurred.
“As you can imagine, the team are hugely disappointed by this, knowing that our sponsors and fans had hoped for the kind of result that was clearly within our grasp," Team Malaysia chief executive Jack Cunningham.