A day on from the Monaco Grand Prix and one thing dominates the post-race conversations of F1 blogs and forums across the globe. Yep, Michael Schumacher’s found himself at the centre of controversy once again on the streets of Monte Carlo. His crime this time was for pouncing on Fernando Alonso after the safety car disappeared on the final lap, incurring a 20 second time penalty as a result.
But while others berate one another about what the actual rules stipulate under such circumstances, I want to concentrate on what I felt was the biggest incident of the race, which has so far gone without much comment or investigation: Rubens Barrichello’s steering wheel episode.
Barrichello made a decent start in the race, vaulting up from ninth on the grid to sixth, before making his first stop of the afternoon. His pace in the updated Williams FW32 was so-so, so the loss of a few places during the pit sequence wasn’t particularly handy. Worse was to come just a few laps later however.
Up the crest of Beau Rivage, the rear-left of the Williams appeared to break away, turning Barrichello into a 160mph human pinball, as he ricocheted off the barriers, before grinding to halt at the Casino Square, sat facing the oncoming traffic, in the middle of the track.
What happened next just completely beggared belief.
Sat in the cockpit of his battered and bruised car, with the section of track under waved yellow flags, Barrichello was seen to have flung his steering wheel onto the race line. It was then collected by HRT’s Karun Chandhok who dragged it all the way down the tunnel section before it finally dislodged itself… only to be run over by his team mate Bruno Senna.
It was a moment of stupidity, especially for the most experienced driver on the grid, who should be setting examples for others to follow. Not only was it unprofessional, it was highly dangerous and could well have contributed towards a larger accident.
Having watched his actions (available here until Bernie’s henchmen are on the case), I don’t buy for one moment that he wanted to exit the car as quickly as possible due to either a risk of fire or being clouted by another car (though, he would be safer sat in the vehicle in that instance). He crashed, spun around, stopped, and threw the steering wheel out almost immediately, before waiting several seconds to loosen the headrest and step out.
No what happened here is that Barrichello had a prima-donna moment. Disappointed about the car failing him, he took his frustrations out on the £20,000 steering wheel by launching it towards the racing line and into oncoming traffic. The adrenalin was pumping and he didn’t think about his actions, a simple mistake, but one that needs to be addressed and not forgotten about.
I’m not out for Barrichello’s blood, I think the bloke is great, I’m just very disappointed by his actions, which could well have jeopardised the safety of others. Schumacher overtakes in a grey area and receives a time penalty, Barrichello places debris on the track which clearly contravenes rule 30.5 of the sport regulations (‘A driver who abandons his car must leave it… with the steering wheel in place’), yet receives diddily squat. Where’s the logic in that?
On my watch, I wouldn’t even bother with a financial fine as these are ridiculous in comparison to what they earn. Like a petulant child, Barrichello needs to seriously think about what he did, and this won’t happen by taking small change out of his pocket.
He should at least receive a grid penalty or something that impedes him come the next race. Perhaps he should be made to drive the Turkish Grand Prix with whatever remains of the steering wheel after his tantrum – now that I would like to see.