MAY 26, 2002
A software problem?
THE Monaco Grand Prix was a great event for Formula 1 but there was a slight cloud over the event in the evening when it was found that there was a problem with "a programmable device" on Jarno Trulli's Renault. This immediately caused people to speculate that something untoward had been going on but the phrasing of the technical report was rather confusing and it seems that the problem is simply because the paper seal on the electronic box was either broken or missing. This in itself is no crime. It happened in Austria in 2000 when Mika Hakkinen's winning McLaren was found to be missing the seal. The software was checked and it was then established that the software "lock" (a 12 character code known only to the FIA) was still in place. There are several billion possibilities for such a code and it is unlikely that this could have been broken and the software tampered with. However, this needs to be checked on Trulli's car and that was not possible at Monaco and so the result remained provisional for fourth place and below.
In Hakkinen's case it was decided that the software lock had not been tampered with and so there was no possibility that the software had been tampered with. However it was decided that there should be a punishment to ensure that teams do not become complacent about seals. The team was docked the 10 points in the Constructors' Championship and the team was fined $50,000 but Hakkinen kept the points because it was felt by the FIA that he was not to blame for the problem.