MARCH 8, 2001
Panis penalty unfair
Frenchman Panis finished fourth in Melbourne, but once the 25 seconds were added to his race time he dropped out of the points to seventh place.
Panis was reprimanded after an appeal from the Sauber team, who claimed that the British American Racing driver illegally overtook their driver Nick Heidfeld under yellow flags in the race. The stewards agreed, according to Panis, without any evidence.
"What makes me furious is that I was found guilty without any evidence," exclaimed Panis. "There was no report from the track marshals and it was all based on accusations made by Nick Heidfeld."
Explaining his side of the events, Panis claimed the yellow flags were not apparent and that Sauber's Heidfeld had actually defended his position in the incident.
"I actually overtook him on the other side of the track, not where there were yellow flags," explained the BAR driver. "At that point there were no cars stopped on the track and I didn't see any flags.
"I don't see how Nick could have seen them, because when I passed him he even shut the door on me and made contact. It was his word against mine and they said he was right."
Panis was devastated to be given the penalty after an impressive performance in the first race of the season, and added: "This would have been a perfect result on my return to Formula 1, because I drove a really aggressive race and didn't make any mistakes."
Arrows driver Jos Verstappen was also given a 25-second penalty for overtaking Heidfeld on the same lap under yellow flags and he dropped from ninth to 10th as a result.