Guest Author - Christine Blachford
There were three very high profile fines handed out at the European Grand Prix. At a brand new track, it's unfortunate that most of the attention was on the sanctions given by the FIA rather than the racing, but that's the way the weekend seemed to go.
Lewis Hamilton started the ball rolling by turning up two minutes late to the Thursday Press Conference, and he received a 5,000 Euro fine. The FIA take their press conferences very seriously, and Kimi Raikkonen has also been fined this year for the same offence.
In Free Practice, the drivers were busy learning the track, and Fernando Alonso took a very late decision to enter the pit lane. He cut across the white line that a driver needs to stay to one side of, to indicate his intention of entering the pit lane. The FIA fined him 10,000 Euros and he received a reprimand. This is unusual, because although the rule is clearly there, we haven't seen a driver penalised for such an action for a long time. I've been watching for about four years now and I don't think I've ever seen it.
The final incident came in the race itself. Felipe Massa was released from his pit stop into the path of an oncoming car, which was deemed to be unsafe. The stewards announced they were investigating the incident straight away. Curiously, they then announced that they would decide the result after the race has finished. There doesn't seem to be any reason for this, and I don't believe this has happened before either. It's normal for a driver to receive a stop/go penalty, or a drive through, but this meant Massa's win was hanging under a shadow the entire race.
When they did announce the result - a reprimand for Ferrari and yet another fine - there was understandable relief that the winner got to keep his victory. But we really need to start questioning these decisions. This year alone I have seen at least two similar incidents, where a driver is released into the path of another car, and they have gone unnoticed.
It seems the FIA have suddenly tightened up on the rules, and I'm curious why they have done so now, and if they intend to carry on. Perhaps it was just for the one race, hoping to make Valencia a serious racing event. It remains to be seen if they will start to be consistent or if we will see more rules emerging as the season progresses.