Ross Brawn believes that the penalty inflicted on Lewis Hamilton
prior to qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix
underlined the unfair nature of the current system.
Hamilton was slapped with a five-place grid penalty after Brawn's Mercedes team was forced to change his gearbox after Saturday morning practice, but the reasons for the switch were nothing to do with either team or driver.
Hamilton limped back to the pits at the end of the 60-minute session, his left-rear wheel askew and carrying a punctured tyre. While the fault was initially though to lie with the shredded rubber, further investigation by Pirelli ruled out structural failure and pinpointed debris on the circuit as the real cause. Worse still for the Briton, however, was that the blow-out not only damaged his suspension, but also pulled the driveshaft out of the gearbox, necessitating the entire unit to be changed.
While the teams reluctantly accept the need for penalties for things such as engine and gearbox changes in a bid to keep costs down, there is a groundswell of support for extenuating circumstances to be taken into account when it comes to their application. Hamilton's gearbox problem was nothing to do with anything he or the team had done, and Brawn believes that a more reasonable system would have allowed the 28-year old to take up his hard-earned fourth place on the grid.
"I think Lewis would agree because he made the very same point to me, that external influences have given him a penalty,” Brawn told journalists in Bahrain, "The difficulty we have in the future is where we get marginal cases where you have a problem, perhaps aggravated by the driver, and you don't get a gearbox failure as such, but it needs to be changed. Then you get into these long debates.
"But it is frustrating to get a penalty when there has been an outside influence. It's annoying. Fortunately, it doesn't happen too often, but if it were to happen at a critical part of the season, then it would be doubly frustrating, so it's worth looking at again."
Hamilton subsequently overcame the penalty, which relegated him to the inside of row nine for the start of the race, to come through and claim fifth place in the race, moving him up to third in the overall standings.