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GP Week : Issue 200
19 GPWEEK.com // 19 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: It was always going to be very hard for the Chinese Grand Prix to match the soaring heights that Bahrain achieved only two short weeks ago. The 2014 Bahrain Grand Prix will enter the F1 history books as one of those races you were mad to miss, up there with Monaco in 1984 and Dijon in 1979. But the Shanghai race does have its own claim on F1 history, thanks to the odd situation that saw all 56 laps completed by lights-to-flag winner Lewis Hamilton, only 54 of which actually counted when push came to shove (ED: Lewis’ in-car comments were right – he did see the chequered flag at the end of lap 55!). Never let it be said that the FIA don’t have a rule for everything. And, as we learned in Shanghai, there’s a rule covering the use of the chequered flag: when it comes out, the race is over, even if it came out by mistake (Article 43.2 of the Sporting Regulaions). So the last two laps of the Chinese Grand Prix may as well never have happened. Kamui Kobayashi’s last-lap pass of Jules Bianchi has been expunged from the history books, irrespective of whether or not the position lost would affect the eventual outcome of the 2014 World Constructors’ Championship. It’s an unusual rule, because while China’s premature flagulation was the result of simple human error, it is a scenario that could easily be manipulated to fix race results should the person responsible for waving the chequered flag on any given Sunday, should they be slack in morals and see that their favourite driver is out of position and leading the pack. The FIA were under extraordinary pressure on Sunday night in Shanghai, with the bulk of the press corps pushing for them to reveal the name of the flag- waver in question. But the identity of the over-eager will remain concealed, with the Federation unwilling to pile the pressures of publicity on a hard-working and long-standing race official who made a simple mistake and is already humiliated by it. In my opinion, the FIA’s stance was the right one. After all, I don’t know any adults who haven’t made a mistake (or several) in their working lives. While the rest of us might experience those cringe-worthy moments that see us sending an email to the person the email was about, or accidentally shredding the only copy of a document that was supposed to be filed, none of those mistakes play out before a global television audience and are then reported on in the daily papers. We’ve all had moments where our own stupidity has made us want to curl up under a rock and die. It’s part and parcel of being human. The next step is to pick yourself back up again, dust off the shame, and keep on going. That is what the unnamed flag marshal is going to have to do, but the only way they will be able to return to their post at next year ’s Chinese Grand Prix is if they are given room to recover their dignity in private. Having spoken to some of those people familiar with the official in question, they are a long-serving motorsport volunteer with vast experience. To lose them as the result of a simple mistake, or the humiliation arising from such a mistake, would be a travesty. Motorsport is built on volunteers, and we cannot afford to lose quality people by hanging them out to dry for the simple fact that they are human, and as liable to screw up as anyone else. PREMATURE FLAGULATION OPINION OPINION KATE WALKER