In the wake of the controversial Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji Speedway at the weekend, it has been revealed that – not for the first time this season – race stewards went against
the advice of FIA race director Charlie Whiting in meting out a post-race time penalty.
A retrospective 25-second penalty was applied to Sébastien Bourdais for the Frenchman's contentious collision with Felipe Massa on lap 51, as the Scuderia Toro Rosso ace accelerated out of the pit-lane, only to be squeezed by the approaching Ferrari coming down the pit straight and spinning the scarlet machine round in the inevitable contact.
The punishment has received widespread condemnation in the Formula 1 paddock, as it was generally held that Massa
was responsible for causing the collision, not Bourdais, and yet it was the Brazilian who ultimately benefited from the record-breaking multiple Champ Car king's misfortune.
Bourdais subsequently lashed out at both the penalty and Massa, accusing the title contender of displaying a complete lack of 'respect' and suggesting the only other thing he could have done would have been to have 'unrolled the red carpet and given him the corner' [see separate story – click here
There is now likely to be further outrage, however, as it has since emerged that the stewards contradicted Whiting's pre-race direction that 'the car exiting the pits has right of way'.
There was a similar scenario when the Belgian Grand Prix stewards demoted Lewis Hamilton from first place to third at Spa-Francorchamps last month – similarly benefiting Massa – despite Whiting having assured the Briton's McLaren-Mercedes team during the race that the world championship leader's action in yielding to Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen after he had passed the Finn on the grass was 'okay'.
“The team managers I spoke to after the race all said that FIA race director Charlie Whiting had briefed them in Singapore and again in Fuji that the car exiting the pits has right of way,” explained ITV-F1's
James Allen, who slated the decision as 'ridiculous', according to Planet-F1
“If the teams cannot believe the race director, what hope have the rest of us and the wider public got? The FIA styles itself as the referee in this sport, but surely it cannot afford to keep sending out such mixed messages.”
F1's governing body has come under fire on a number of occasions this season for what has been seen as the inconsistent application of penalties, with some even going so far as to suggest there is a conspiracy theory against Hamilton and McLaren and more favourable rules for Ferrari.
The stewards have still not offered any explanation for Bourdais' punishment, or why it was issued retrospectively when there were 16 laps – or more than 20 minutes – of the grand prix left to run when the incident occurred.
Massa has insisted that Bourdais was at fault in the coming-together [see separate story – click here