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JUNE 29, 2010

Renault: Kubica unjustly penalised

Robert Kubica would have scored his third podium of the season, after Melbourne and Monaco, had he not been hampered by the Safety Car deployment, his team believes.

The Pole, who finished fifth, did not suffer as a result of poor pit work or, ultimately, the 5s penalty he received for exceeding the lap time delta when pitting under the Safety Car, but through circumstances.

Team mate Vitaly Petrov had made a slow start and had opted for an early tyre stop just before Mark Webber's huge accident. Renault's Alan Permane explained: "We were quite unlucky with the timing of the Safety Car because when it came out we were preparing for Vitaly's scheduled stop and the mechanics were already in the pit lane with Vitaly's tyres.

"The Safety Car was deployed just as Robert was approaching the final corner so we quickly called him in to try and take advantage, but obviously the mechanics had to rush back into the garage to get his tyres ready. That cost us a bit of time and delayed Robert's pit stop, which dropped us behind Button and Barrichello. However, it was certainly the right call to react quickly to the Safety Car because we moved ahead of both Ferraris so Robert remained in fifth place after the pit stops. 

"If we hadn't been planning to stop Vitaly on that lap, I'm sure we could have serviced Robert and stayed ahead of both Button and Barrichello, which would have given us a podium. Formula 1 is all about ifs and buts and you can always look back with the benefit of hindsight, but it was a shame that we lost out like that."

Even though Kubica's eventual result was not impacted by being one of the nine drivers given a 5s penalty for speeding on the 'in' lap while the Safety Car was deployed, the team believes he was unjustly penalised.

As the FIA conceded, Kubica was the closest of those cars who were penalised to the Safety Car line when the yellow light came on in the cockpit, was doing 175mph plus and there was precious little he could have done to avoid being penalised. There is, however, a body of opinion which contends that the following cars had more time to react and should therefore have been more heavily penalised for their transgressions. Had, for example, Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello been given 20s penalties, for instance, and Kubica gone unpunished, Renault would still have had a podium finish. Undoubtedly though, McLaren and Williams would contend that such action would have been unjust.

"When the Safety Car came out," Permane adds, "it was just before Robert's braking point for the final corner, which is just before the Safety Car line. His reaction time from the Safety Car lights coming on to braking was about 1.2 seconds and he then entered the pit lane. It's difficult to see how he could have avoided this penalty because he couldn't have braked any sooner and he reacted as quickly as he could. Unfortunately, Vitaly also came in too quickly (from further back on the track) and we accept the penalty for him, but it's hard to understand Robert's penalty."