I know. I struggled to understand it too. How could something which appeared so clear cut return such a seemingly unfathomable outcome? But sure enough, it is Conor Daly who has been handed a ten place grid penalty for this weekend’s first GP3 race in Valencia.
The reasons, as outlined by the stewards of the meeting are as follows:
That Daly “collided with the rear of another competitor and removed rear wing. Collided again with the rear of the same competitor, resulting in the race being red flagged.”
As such, Daly was found to have been “involved in an incident as defined by Article 16.1 of the 2012 GP3 Series Sporting Regulations.” A drop of ten grid places was thus handed down.
Last night I was able to have a catch up with Tony Scott-Andrews, GP2 and GP3’s permanent steward, and we had a long and very interesting chat about how the decision was reached. Those of you following me on twitter will no doubt have been aware of my nigh on incandescent rage at the outcome of the stewards deliberations, and while my feelings over the issue do in part remain, I do at least now understand how and why the decision was reached.
First it is important to understand why we only learned of this penalty here in Valencia, four weeks after the event itself in Monaco. The issue in Monaco was that Daly was taken to hospital for checks and as such was unable to see the stewards at the time. As such, Francisco Rodrigo and Luis Folch, who are the stewards in Valencia, were nominated as honorary Monaco stewards for this matter, and Daly was called infront of them and Tony to answer for his role in the accident on arrival in Valencia. That is why the decision came out in Spain, and is also why the document is numbered as #34 for the Monte Carlo event, rather than being designated with a low digit for the Valencia event.
And so we move to the incidents themselves. Daly was guilty of removing Suranovich’s rear wing. There’s no arguing that. He’d made contact with him before. Now, Daly has argued on this very blog that Suranovich’s driving had led to those contacts. That is an argument that will have been put to the stewards, but the responsibility in that case rests with Daly as the car behind. There’s simply no getting away from that.
Then to the incident that resulted in the crash. The track itself turns right at the brow of the hill. The racing line takes the drivers to the right. Suranovich, as the leading car stuck to the racing line but then, when Daly moved for the inside, Suranovich kept in a straight line. To us, outside, it appeared as though Suranovich moved to the right, and then to the left. The numerous camera angles that the stewards have at their disposal, allied to the explanations of both drivers, led the stewards to believe that Suranovich had indeed made one single defensive move. This was entirely legal.
For Rodrigo and Folch, their deliberations in Valencia alongside Scott-Andrews were the first time that they had seen the incident, and their conclusions were the same as had been their colleagues in Monte Carlo at the time of the incident. Namely, that the onus remains with the attacking driver to make a clean pass. Daly and ART were aware that they would have to answer this question in Valencia. The team made no appeal. As such one could logically conclude that, with the benefit of hindsight, cooler heads may have thought that Daly could and perhaps should have bided his time, waited for his rival to pit for repairs, or find a place to make a cleaner move.
Now I’m not saying I necessarily agree with the decision. There is an argument to be had that too much reliance on who did what when in an analysis of thousandths of a second as Charlie Whiting explained to this blog in his reasoning on declaring Rosberg’s Bahraini defences legal, can lead to decisions which to the outside world seem baffling. Is it wise to have decisions which need so much explanation behind them? There is an argument to be had for relying on what we see as we see it.
But there is also an argument to be had that an initial impression will never provide a 100% realistic view of how an event occurred. Using telemetry, data, multiple camera angles and slow motion replays allows a better understanding of fault.
Tony Scott-Andrews has been permanent GP2 and GP3 steward for some time now. He’s seen it all. And he is beyond reproach. Unbiased, unflinching… Tony’s one of the good guys.
Over a drink last night we had a good chat, and we may not have agreed on every point, but I do now at least understand why a few of the decisions we’ve seen this year were made.
The job of the stewards is not to judge based on what our reaction as viewers and fans of the championship will be. It is to judge on the facts as they stand. Without bias. The stewards will likely always come in for a pounding from one angle or another, it’s the nature of the beast… a thankless task if you will.
But with Tony at the head of the operation I’m sure that, for as unfathomable as their decisions can sometimes seem, the stewarding of GP2 and GP3 is and will continue to be dealt with in an even handed and calm fashion by people who know what they are doing and have all the information at their finger tips.