x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

FIA right not to punish the top three at the German Grand Prix

Five things we learnt from Nurburgring: None of the top three at the German Grand Prix deserved to be penalised by the FIA.

Fernando Alonso, left, enjoys a lift back to the pit lane at the Nurburgring on the side of Mark Webber's Red Bull Racing car.
Fernando Alonso, left, enjoys a lift back to the pit lane at the Nurburgring on the side of Mark Webber's Red Bull Racing car.

It was right that the top three should not have to face action for infringements post-race, writes Gary Meenaghan

The FIA show common sense

When Fernando Alonso was ordered by his Ferrari team post-race to abandon his car midway round the Nurburgring to ensure he left fuel in the tank, the Spaniard did as he was told. He then, however, hailed down Mark Webber and jumped aboard the Red Bull Racing car's side-pod.

The display of camaraderie was heartwarming to see. But it was illegal. As was Lewis Hamilton's decision, having exited his car, to jump the barrier and celebrate his second race win of the season with his McLaren-Mercedes team.

Both drivers could have been punished by the sport's world governing body and the way the FIA has acted in recent months in regards to changing regulations meant penalties were never genuinely out of the question. Fortunately, common sense prevailed.

As Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula One commercial rights holder, is quick to make clear, F1 is as much about entertainment as much as it is motor racing.

Webber's pole problem

The Australian has now started nine grands prix on pole position, but only converted it into a race win three times.

Such statistics do not make for pleasing reading for a driver who is already under pressure for struggling to keep up with Sebastian Vettel, his teammate and the championship leader.

Webber has started on pole three times so far in 2011, but he is yet to retain the lead during the opening lap of a grand prix having struggled off the line.

Webber played down his poor start post-race, pointing out that he led later in the race, but had he been able to maintain his gap on Hamilton at the start he could have, with no traffic ahead, pulled away quickly. Instead, he had to settle for a fourth consecutive third-place finish.

Sutil shows his capabilities

With two of the six German drivers competing in their home race this weekend being world champions, much of the attention was on Vettel and Michael Schumacher, the Mercedes-GP driver.

Yet it was Adrian Sutil of Force India who deserved the plaudits of his compatriots.

While Vettel struggled to fourth and Schumacher managed only eighth, Sutil drove a superb race to achieve his best result of the season, placing sixth.

In finishing ahead of both Mercedes, as well as seven places above his teammate, Paul di Resta, Sutil showed what he is capable of. Now he must show consistency.

The issue of criminal charges for an incident involving an altercation in a Shanghai nightclub after the Chinese Grand Prix still hang over his head and Vijay Mallya, the Force India owner, is said to be considering his options.

But if the 28 year old can continue racing as well as he did in front of his passionate German crowd, his race seat will remain safe.

Glock believes in patience

The Virgin Racing driver vented his frustration on Saturday after being congratulated for finishing 20th fastest in qualifying. "You make my life difficult in the last two races," he said. "The car is just so difficult to drive at the moment."

Timo Glock knows, however, his team are in only their second season. He also knows they have lofty ambitions. Having undergone extensive changes recently, the Russian-owned team are now working with McLaren and continue to talk of a podium position by the time they head to Sochin for their home grand prix in 2014.

The 29-year-old German signed a new three-year contract this weekend and he acknowledged he knew he "would have to go back a few steps in order to move forward". Virgin have already shown they can build a reliable car; now Glock needs them to build a high-performing car.

Bad times for Buemi

Sebastian Buemi's bad week will continue. Toro Rosso's Swiss driver is locked in a season-long fight with his teammate Jaime Alguersuari to partner newcomer Daniel Ricciardo next season. So he will have been furious with his team after being disqualified from Saturday's qualifying session following the discovery of a fuel irregularity.

The disclosure meant he was forced to start the next day's race at the back of the grid. Not only did he and his team wrongly predict it would rain and opt for a wet set-up, but he was also involved in a collision with Nick Heidfeld on route to finishing 15th. The FIA deemed the incident Buemi's fault and he will now face a five-place grid penalty at next weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix.

It is a harsh penalty as replays showed Buemi likely did not see the German in his mirrors, but having endured bad fortune all weekend, he probably half-expected to be reprimanded.

"All we can do is look ahead," he said. "And at least we don't have long to wait."

 

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

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