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Protest process to complicated to change.

Lewis Hamilton's post-race disqualification from the Australian Grand Prix, some four days after the Formula One circus had decamped from Melbourne to Malaysia, highlighted one particular bugbear that does not cast the sport in its best light.

Similarly, the wait for the 'diffuser three' to be protested at the opening round - despite the offending parts having been queried during pre-season testing - raised questions about the whole area of the rulebook covering objections, appeals and punishments, with critics asking why the whole process cannot be speeded up for the benefit of those involved, as well as the media and fans.

Unfortunately, the four team principals present at the FIA press conference at which the issue was raised had few answers, admitting that the protest and appeal procedure is as it is for a reason.

"I think one has to distinguish between the sporting regulations and the technical regulations," Williams CEO Adam Parr explained, "I think, with the sporting regulations, you have to try and sort it out as quickly as possible, and the only reason to come back at any distance from the race is if there's new evidence that is very significant.

"On the technical side, I think it's extremely difficult because, obviously, over the winter or before that, we're developing cars, we're seeking clarifications from the FIA as to how to interpret rules or confirming that we've correctly understood them. It's not necessarily until we come up to the new season that people get a sense of what other people are doing - and then the process demands that you protest after an event or during an event or after scrutineering.

"If you look at the process we're going through now, we were protested [for a supposedly illegal diffuser] on the Thursday [in Melbourne], which was the first opportunity that anybody had to do it. It was well signalled by the teams that they would do that, very transparently, and we've now got a hearing which is exactly 16 days after that process. You need eight days for the submissions from the appellants and eight days to respond, and I think anything less than that would be very difficult. It may look like a very long drawn-out process but I think it's dictated by the nature of the sport."

Toyota's John Howett admitted that attempting to change the process could be something that teams' association could raise with the FIA, but he admitted that the structure already in place did dictate the situation somewhat.

"I suppose, fundamentally, the FIA is the Federation, it's their championship and it's their right to determine how they manage it," he noted, "It could be something that FOTA, if the members so desired, could try to discuss openly with the Federation, but I think one has to respect the fact that, as in football, the stewards are there and appointed and have the right to decide. I think it's something that could be expressed as a future opportunity to improve. but I don't believe it's something that we have the right to really interfere with directly."

Ross Brawn, Formula One's newest team owner but no stranger to the political and legal machinations of the sport, conceded that it was not good for the sport for the fans and media not to expect the result they saw on the day to stand, but again accepted that it was the nature of beast.

"I think it is always a bit unfortunate when fans go away and there's still debate going on about decisions - and I wish it were possible to walk away from a race that was black and white - but it's a very complicated sport, particularly when you start to move into the technical side," he reasoned.

"I think the process that we're going through is fair and proper. I've been on the wrong side of protests and appeals, I've been on the right side of protests and appeals and it is a very, very complicated sport - and, particularly with new regulations coming in, three teams took an interpretation which they're very comfortable with and several other teams aren't happy with that interpretation. It has to be resolved, so I think the process is as good as it can be."

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Brawn BGP001 Diffuser, Australian F1 Grand Prix, Albert Park, Melbourne, 27-29th, March, 2009
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Snake - Unregistered

April 04, 2009 8:39 AM

The FIA love to amend the race results after the each race, I am serious doubt that why should the media pay so high premium to broadcast the sport to the worlds? What they watch is not what the result they get, so all the TV viewer or those pay to go to watch on site is better still read the newspaper a week later for more firm race result.

Alan D - Unregistered

April 04, 2009 5:16 PM

The only reason the diffuser protest won't be sorted out for another week is because the FIA refused to clarify their regs when the issue was raised well ahead of the Australian GP. But FIA refuses to have a mechanism for that and says you have to go through a more expensive, damaging and divisive Protest procedure.

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