AF Corse and Aston Martin Racing were angered by their mid-race penalties at the opening round of the 2019/20 FIA World Endurance Championship last month, that were revoked after they had been served.
Teams have a limit of three laps to serve a penalty they are handed at a WEC round, or else risk gaining additional penalties, so if a team wants to appeal a decision they have to do so quickly. This was exactly the case that #51 AF Corse and #98 Aston Martin Racing found themselves in at the 4 Hours of Silverstone when they were handed mid-race penalties for overtaking under the safety car.
The argument from both teams was that the pass had already been made when the safety car came out and that they were ahead of the car in question, meaning that there was no breach to the rules. The FIA took note of this and cancelled both cars’ penalties, but by this time the three-lap window the teams had to serve the penalty in had surpassed, and both had already been hit with the 25-second loss driving through the pit lane.
The penalties were revoked, but the damage was already done.
“We were leading the race and we lost 25 seconds from the drive-through. We arrived with a 15-second advantage, and we could have won the race.” Ferrari‘s technical director Ferdinando Cannizzo told Sportscar 365. “When you are informed of this penalty [you have] just three laps to fix the situation. It’s not enough time – it covers five minutes. It’s a real shame.”
“[the penalty] was rescinded even though they had taken it. Our car would have possibly won [the race].” added Aston Martin‘s technical director Dan Sayers. “For sure, it had a negative impact, but I don’t think they can do anything now. It’s just a shame when something like that happens.
“You’ve got a finite time, so you have to take it. Or you’ve got to be very confident that you’re going to get away with it. We waited as long as we could, had to take it, and then they withdrew it.”
Sayers went on to explain that few teams would have risked staying out past the the three-lap window, and only would have done if they were confident that the penalty would have been overturned.
This is not the first time in 2019 that motorsport events have been determined by penalties that arguably were bad calls from the stewards. It is understood that these decisions are being made very quickly, but in something like a long endurance race the stewards could take some time to assess all the data before handing out the penalty.
A solution may be to alert the team they are under investigation and get them to argue their case before any penalties are handed out to save penalties being served that were not deserved, or distributed but then rescinded. This, or either give the teams a longer window of time to appeal decisions.
Most certainly, if a penalty has been served, it should not be revoked for that makes a mockery of the whole system.