Nico Rosberg was lucky to escape without a penalty at the Japanese Grand Prix, according to Jenson Button. Rosberg finished the race in fifth place but was called before race stewards after Brawn GP complained that the German driver had been speeding under yellow flags during the safety car period as he made his way to the pitlane for his final pit-stop of the afternoon.
The safety car was brought out following Jaime Alguersuari's crash in his Toro Rosso car in the latter stages of the race and Button argued he would have legitimately beaten Rosberg without its deployment. Button said: "You're always disappointed when you think someone's done something wrong and then they don't get penalised. I don't think it's right but it is what it is." Prior to the ruling, Button had said he fully expected a Rosberg penalty and to move a place up the grid, which would have given his Brawn GP team the constructors' championship.
The stewards, however, disagreed with Button and Brawn's viewpoint concluding that Rosberg had done nothing wrong and should not be given a 25-second time penalty that would have dropped him down the order. "The telemetry data shows that the driver from a safety point of view had reacted adequately to the yellow flags and safety-car boards," the FIA said in a statement. "In view of this, the stewards intend to take no further action."
Rosberg, who appeared at the post-race hearing with the Williams technical director Sam Michael, denied any wrongdoing behind the safety car. "I didn't gain an advantage," he said, "so what Button says is incorrect." When the yellow flags are deployed, all the drivers in the race are automatically sent a speed limit to their steering wheel, known as a time delta, but the FIA revealed that the system had not worked properly on Rosberg's car and, therefore, a penalty was not appropriate.
The FIA statement added: "Evidence showed a low fuel message on the driver's display had overriden the time delta information, preventing the driver from being able to accurately follow the timing information." In response to that verdict Rosberg said: "As far as I am concerned I definitely did what I should do." A Rosberg penalty would have launched the celebrations for Brawn GP, who need just a point in Brazil to give team boss Ross Brawn what would be his eighth constructors' title, following success at Benetton and Ferrari.
"We're not quite there with the constructors' title but it looks good doesn't it," he said. "What we've achieved this season is all credit to the fantastic team of people we have working for us."