Guest Author - Christine Blachford
In the first round of the championship, at Australia, Rubens Barrichello had a disastrous pit stop. Firstly, he had to come in when pit stops were not allowed, under a safety car lap. He would have run out of fuel otherwise, and the team decided that it was worth taking the penalty rather than stopping out on track.
During the actual pit stop, the lollipop man raised the signal too early, and Barrichello pulled away with the fuel rig still attached to the car. This knocked over a couple of mechanics, and some minor injuries were sustained.
Whilst looking in his mirrors to see the disaster behind him, Barrichello missed the pit lane light which was red. Running through the red light means an instant disqualification Ė although the stewards didnít actually decide he had run through the light until the end of the race.
Barrichello later said he couldnít see the red light, that it wasnít bright enough, big enough, or in the right place. He said it was too easy to run past it, because by the time he saw it, it was too late and heíd already gone.
Teams are also starting to raise questions about the validity of the safety car/pit lane rules. They say itís an unfair strain on their strategies Ė they cannot plan for when a safety car will be out, so how can they make sure their cars wonít run out of fuel?
This week, in Malaysia, Barrichello fell foul of another pit lane rule Ė the speed limit. Speeding in the pit lane is an automatic drive through penalty, meaning Barrichello has to come in one extra time, but can only go straight through the pit lane without stopping for fuel or tyres. This effectively ruined his race.
Afterwards, Barrichello said he couldnít see the pit lane markers.
Itís slightly worrying that for two races in a row, the Honda driver has got pit lane penalties and both times he has complained that he couldnít see the item in question. No one else appears to have had this problem, so we have to start wondering whether Barrichello is starting to struggle with the job.
Heís the most experienced man on the grid, so you would think he would know better than to speed in the pit lane. But on the other hand, everyone makes mistakes. Itís a tough call and perhaps for now, itís just something to keep an eye on in the future.