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116

Half a dozen of one…

Sir,

I was saddened to see on the television coverage of the recent Portugese Grand Prix the blatant disregard of a black flag by Britain’s Nigel Mansell, and I was surprised (to put it mildly) that Murray Walker and James Hunt should look for justification for such behaviour.

The black flag is shown to a driver either because of an infringement of the rules of motor racing (as in Mansell’s case) or because car or driver is a threat to safety. It is inexcusable that a driver should ignore such a signal. It is equivalent to a cricketer refusing to accept the umpire’s decision, or to a footballer refusing to leave the field when shown the red card — although in the case of motor racing, such an infringement might also constitute a danger to life and limb (should observers have noticed something seriously wrong with a car in the race). Disciplinary action is indeed appropriate. Whilst not being an ardent “Senna supporter”, I feel that he has every right to feel aggrieved at having gone out of the race after tangling with a driver who should not have been on the circuit at the time!

The whole episode does, however, prompt another thought: presumably there was lurking in the back of Mansell’s mind the possibility that an appeal against exclusion for reversing in the pit lane might succeed, and then to have obeyed the black flag signal would have cost him a “place or possibly a “win”.

Is it beyond the wit of FISA (on second thoughts, perhaps I needn’t ask!) to devise a rule which would cover such a possibility? For example, if a driver were excluded under the black flag for an alleged rule infringement, and if subsequently it were decided that the alleged infringement had not been “proved”, then the driver should be awarded the equivalent of any points to which he might have been entitled by his position at the time of being “black flagged”. (This, with no loss of points by any of those who had actually completed the race).

I should imagine such a rule would only rarely have to be invoked, but it would take away any lingering “excuse” for ignoring the black flag when drivers are caught up in a race, or in an important championship.

John Clegg, Manchester

 

Sir,

Was Mansell alongside? I think not. He was closing to within a few feet but never getting his wheels in front, therefore the corner was not his. Just because he had gone by earlier in the race, before his disastrous pit stop, did not mean that Senna must give way to him.

Mansell’s excess pit lane speed, dangerous reversing, blindness to the black flag and finally the taking-off of Senna and himself must be seen as Dangerous Driving. If the fine and the exclusion from a future race are seen in that context then I applaud the decision.

Stephen Crooks, Truro, Devon

 

. . . Six of the Other

Sir,

I was shocked to see Super Nigel black flagged at Estoril, but horrified to see Ayrton Senna perpetrate the same dirty deed on Nigel as he did on his substitute at Monza last year. When will the Brazilian learn to drive properly?

RJ Wade, Officers’ Mess, BFPO 43

 

Sir,

… After the tyre change, I am prepared to accept that the black flag was impossible to see but the subsequent accident has no place in motor racing, let alone at Grand Prix level. The scene, repeated time and again on television, replay clearly shows that Senna is 100% to blame. If the McLaren had been in the lead it would have been hit up the rear end by the Ferrari. What happened was that Senna just drove into the side of the Ferrari, a tactic he has adopted with Piquet, Prost and Brundle in F3 and, of course, Mansell. I am wondering when some clerk of the course is going to suspend Senna’s licence. The tabloid newspapers state that Senna has a pathological fear of being humiliated and/or out-driven by Mansell and so resorts to the only line of action he knows – violence.

How times have changed! In 1959 Moss kept over to the far right at the finish line to allow McLaren to overtake, if he could, to take second place in the British Grand Prix. And in 1962 Hill and Clark almost dead-heated at the Silverstone May meeting.

MGC Potter, Leighton Buzzard, Beds.

 

Sir,

I have always believed that when racing, the car which has the inside line into a bend and has therefore effectively won that corner, has right of way over any other car on the same bend. Those who continue to forge ahead for their own particular line, and as a result cause an accident, are wholly unprofessional in their behaviour. Over the last few years, there have been several other incidents which indicate Senna’s disgraceful attitude to other drivers on the track.

On the opening lap of the Australian Grand Prix in 1985, Mansell was elbowed off the track by Senna; the first race of the 1986 season in Brazil saw a very similar situation, again in the opening lap; more recently Senna has been involved in a shunt with Schlesser and the most recent incident which springs to mind was when Senna seemed determined to push Prost into the pit wall.

He has always got away with it in the past, with little more than a slap on the wrist. If he is to continue in this way, he should at least have the decency not to blame anyone else!

No one is arguing that Mansell should have been black flagged for engaging reverse gear in the pits for that rule is clearly stated in article 133 of the Formula 1 regulations. What is completely ignominious is that his punishment was an unusually large fine of $US 50,000, plus a ban for the Spanish GP.

The behaviour of Ayrton Senna during practice and qualifying for the Spanish GP the following week, which was somehow overlooked by the sports correspondents in the following day’s newspapers, included such offences as ignoring a black flag several times himself, and probably one of the worst offences possible on a race track, completely ignoring a red flag and passing marshals and wreckage at full speed with no thought for the seriousness of his actions.

He was indeed fined for this offence, but a paltry $US 20,000 is hardly consistent with that meted out to Mansell. FISA is well known for its inconsistent punishments though, so no-one should have been surprised.

When questioned about Senna’s indiscretions with flags during practice, however, Ron Dennis replied that he wasn’t in the car. Someone ought to remind Mr Dennis that people in glass houses …!

As for the comments by M. Balestre of “… if you are driving down a road and you are not paying attention and you don’t see a red light , .. then you must be punished. Here it is the same thing.” Given the complete lack of similarity between driving along a road and racing at over 170 mph, this must be another of M. Balestre’s off-the-cuff remarks which should, as ever, be filed in the appropriate manner!

The actions of Senna during the aftermath of the Portuguese GP and in qualifying for the Spanish GP, are far worse than that of Mansell for reversing in the pit lane. It was Senna who should have been banned from racing in the Spanish GP, not Mansell.

Alexander R Aucken, Twickenham, Middlesex

 

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