Lewis Hamilton took the win in Hungary but it was the controversy over Nico Rosberg’s pole position that resurfaced after the race, with the two Mercedes drivers taking opposing views on the incident. Hamilton was insistent the German escaping a penalty sent out the wrong message and has said it will be on the table at the drivers’ briefing before the next round in Germany this week.
On Saturday in the final part of qualifying Hamilton backed off from his final quick lap, when shown double yellow flags at turn eight, where Fernando Alonso’s McLaren had spun. When Rosberg arrived shortly afterwards he lifted off but, with Alonso clear, was back on the power quickly, lost less time and claimed pole. He was investigated by the stewards who concluded that “the driver reduced speed significantly into turn eight”.
Hamilton, however, did not agree with their interpretation, when both put their point in the post-race press conference. “If it is a double yellow flag, you have to be prepared to stop,” he said. “Nico was doing the same speed at the apex as I was doing on the previous lap, so if there happened to be a car that was slowing or a marshal on the track, it would have been pretty hard for him to slow down.
“The fact he didn’t get penalised means we have to be careful because the message we are sending to drivers here is it’s now possible for you to lose only one tenth of a second in the double-waved yellow flag section, which is one of the most dangerous scenarios.”
The issue has been of heightened interest because Jules Bianchi suffered the crash in 2014 that led to his death when he was deemed to have not slowed sufficiently under waved yellows.
Hamilton admitted he had gone to the race director, Charlie Whiting, about the incident. “It’s not about Nico’s penalty, it’s about the safety issue and being clear for us,” he said. “I don’t believe I influenced the stewards’ inquiry. I have spoken to Charlie for clarification because in the next scenario, if I’m in the same position, all I have to do now is lose a tenth.”
Rosberg immediately responded. “What you have to do with double yellow is significantly reduce your speed. I went 20kmh slower into that corner, 20kmh is a different world in an F1 car – you’re going proper slow. Everything is safe. I lifted off 30 metres before my braking point.
“It was a pretty clear case for the stewards and that’s why I didn’t get any penalty,” he added, also noting that the drying track made previous lap-time comparisons irrelevant. The third-placed driver, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, who had also lifted significantly at the incident, believed it merely highlighted an issue that had long needed discussion. “A double yellow is something significant,’ he said. “The double yellow needs to be very different from a single yellow. I guess that’s what we’re not too pleased with at the moment.”
Jenson Button also took issue with the regulations regarding the limit on radio communications rules that have caused considerable criticism and confusion recently. His McLaren failed to finish after an oil leak but early in the race he was given a drive-through penalty after talking to his team about a brake problem. “It’s a stupid regulation,” he said.
“I completely understand that drivers should not be fed information that helps us drive the car. But when it’s a safety concern with the brake pedal going to the floor, you shouldn’t be penalised for stopping an accident, and that’s what we did.”
The complicated nature of the hybrid cars they now drive was at the heart of the issue he pointed out, as many drivers have done recently. “When you have a power unit that is so complex, a driver can’t figure everything himself and, when your brake pedal goes to the floor, I think of that as a safety concern,” he said. “It’s a joke really. Stopping an incident should be praised, not penalised. The sport’s got a long way to go before it’s good again.”