Monaco FR3.5: Stoffel Vandoorne penalised for crash under yellows
|By Glenn Freeman||Thursday, May 23rd 2013, 10:33 GMT|
McLaren junior racer Stoffel Vandoorne has been given a five-place grid penalty for this weekend's Formula Renault 3.5 race in Monaco for crashing under yellow flags in free practice.
Vandoorne topped the session - his first around the streets of the Principality - but he was involved in an accident that brought the red flags out with two minutes to go.
The Belgian spun at Sainte Devote, colliding with the stopped car of Zoel Amberg who had narrowly avoided hitting the already-crashed car of Mathias Laine.
Marshals were already on the track by this point, but fortunately they were not hit by any of the cars.
Vandoorne was investigated by the stewards post-session, and given a five place grid penalty.
However, AUTOSPORT understands the former championship leader believes there were no yellow flags on the approach to the corner.
Fortec team boss Richard Dutton told AUTOSPORT: "We would like to see some video. We don't have any and it seems the officials don't either."
The decision provoked an angry reaction from many drivers and teams in the paddock, who believe that the penalty should have been more severe if there were yellow flags waving that Vandoorne ignored.
Title rival Antonio Felix da Costa said: "If there were no yellow flags then his penalty should be nothing.
"If there were yellow flags then the penalty should be bigger. I get on with Stoffel, but I would feel this way if it happened to anyone on the grid.
"For the amount of stuff we get [from the officials] in the drivers' briefing about this - which they are right to do – a five place penalty is a joke."
News editor Glenn Freeman
If the fuss surrounding Stoffel Vandoorne's free practice crash seems a little bit over the top, it is worth considering just how hard a time the drivers are given on yellow flag safety in the drivers' briefing for the Monaco weekend.
Several drivers have confirmed that a large portion of the Monaco briefing every year focuses on an incident from 2005, when Pastor Maldonado hit a marshal who was on the track recovering another car.
The drivers are shown footage of this and the incident is dissected in great detail with the use of slow motion replays as well. Maldonado was given a hefty ban for his incident, and it is drummed into the current crop of drivers just how important the safety of marshals is on this track.
So you can understand that a fair few are a bit miffed that after all that, the penalty for crashing as marshals are recovering another car is only five places on the grid for Sunday's race.
Unfortunately the TV footage of the incident – seen again by AUTOSPORT – is inconclusive. There were clearly flags waving at the scene of the crash, but were there any on the approach to Sainte Devote?
It is understood that there is a CCTV camera that picks up on what could be a yellow flag in the background, but this does not offer 100 per cent proof.
In the end the officials made their decision based on the evidence of the marshals, who say they were waving the yellow flags.