McLaren presses for clarification over yellow flag rules

THE McLaren team lodged a protest against 17 of the competing cars after qualifying for the Belgian Grand Prix on the basis that they had ignored the rule which requires one to slow down for a waved yellow warning flag.

In the closing stages of the hour-long session, with the track drying out, the lap times came tumbling down with Juan Montoya just pipping his BMW Williams team-mate for pole position.

The McLaren-Mercedes MP4/16s of Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard were left trailing seventh and ninth, in part because their pit crew had reminded them to back off for the waved yellow flags at the Burnenville corner where Nick Heidfeld's Sauber C20 had become stranded just off the racing line when it jammed in fifth gear.

Ron Dennis pointed out that he simply wanted to know how the rules should be interpreted rather than risk wholesale disqualifications. "If you go through a sector of the lap under a waved yellow flag and improve your time, then you will lose your previous best lap time," said Dennis.

"These are the wholes. If you are a disciplined team, in such circumstances you get onto the radio and tell your driver that if they exceed their previous best sector time they will be penalized.

"I just want to know how to run a racing team. We told our drivers to back off and it looks embarrassing for us, as if we got it wrong."

It is unlikely that the dispute will result in a realignment of the stating grid which has Michael Schumacher's Ferrari F2001 and Heinz-Harald Frentzen's Prost AP04 on the second row of the grid. A protest against Frentzen for overtaking Kimi Raikkonen's Sauber C20 under a warning flag was thrown out by stewards, much to the relief of the French team which is hoping to guarantee its financially precarious future by confirming a much-needed major sponsor in the run-up to the Italian Grand Prix.

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