FIA vs Mark Webber - who is right?
Mark Webber has been reprimanded for the third time this season resulting in his 10 place grid penalty in Korea for hitching a ride back to the pitlane along with Fernando Alonso at the Singapore Grand Prix. Though the FIA hasn’t ‘banned’ this procedure as such, it was thoroughly discouraged as it lead to life threatening incidents in its previous occurrences.
Ever since Ayrton Senna rode on the side pod of Nigel Mansell’s Williams at Silverstone in 1991, the FIA has made it clear to the drivers that their safety is priority and cannot be compromised at any point in time. History repeated itself when Fernando gave Webber a lift last Sunday. (Probably, also to repay Webber for the same act he did in 2011). Derek Warwick, a steward at the Grand Prix and also an ex-F1 driver agreed: "It is not health and safety gone mad. (But) a driver could easily have been hurt.”
Under further investigation and publically available CCTV footage of the incident showed that Mark Webber ran across the track after his engine caught fire due to overheating. His reprimand was for running back onto the track without Marshals’ permission, while Alonso’s was for an unsafe pull over in the middle of the track. While there are many takes on this matter, whether Webber deserved that penalty or not, it’s obvious that both drivers were a danger to themselves and also the cars behind them.
This has been a rule for ages that Webber and Alonso have misunderstood, and for all we know might’ve disobeyed in name of ‘friendship’ in motosport. What we saw in Singapore was very much appreciated- a good professional relationship between two drivers, but next time, probably we should expect such acts backed by a bit of more common sense.
"We could not do otherwise." Swiss steward Paul Gutjahr insisted, regarding the harsh penalty given to Webber after the race.
Did Webber deserve that harsh penalty?
Very simply, yes, the FIA was justified in doing so. Webber acted in an unsafe manner, which wasn’t appreciated by the FIA nor was it applauded the other drivers behind when Alonso stopped on the racing line. Watching the CCTV coverage, the entire incident looked dodgy, which gained them both reprimands. The reprimand wasn’t given for the ‘taxi ride’ as such, but the way in which both drivers jeopardized safety.
The FIA also asserted their rules by imposing a harsh penalty on Webber for disregarding the written regulations of the sport. For if a driver doesn’t learn this the harsh way, there is no stopping such precarious acts from being repeated over and over again, hence making it very clear to the drivers about playing by the rules, the FIA has strengthened its control over the sport and its drivers.
To give you an example: Speeding in the pitlane calls for a fine to be paid by the driver because it can be very dangerous if drivers speed in the narrow lane. Had this not been done, the drivers would continue to speed in order to reach the track earlier; making the pitlane would be an unsafe zone. In the very same light, Webber’s penalty is a sort of reminder to rest of the 21 grand prix drivers.
In the end, rules are meant to mark the boundaries up to which a team or driver (in this case) can go. If any team personnel is found disregarding these lines set by the governing body will have to be penalized, which has been the right thing to do in Webber’s case.