Formula 1 race director Michael Masi has defended the FIA’s disregard of Valtteri Bottas’ jump start in last weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix after concerns the series may be too tolerant on penalties surrounding start procedures.
Bottas was seen having moved before the lights went out on the start gantry, admitting there was a confusion with the lights on his steering wheel that made the Finn momentarily edged forward having released the clutch.
The Mercedes driver did come to an abrupt halt immediately afterwards and subsequently fell to fifth by Turn 1 once the race did officially get underway.
“I was looking at the start lights, there were five lights on and just before the lights went off something either turned on or off – I believe it was the main page of the dash changing to a different colour or something, like a pretty bright colour,” said Bottas.
“I thought the lights went off. And anyway, I was kind of half-seeing the start lights because of the halo and the position I was in.”
However, the false start failed to launch an investigation by the stewards who deemed the start legal, adding Bottas’ start was disadvantaged compared to the rest of the field which compromised his race.
Ultimately, the lack of penalty has drawn criticism by teams and fans alike who admit the grey area surrounding the start procedures offers too much leeway for guilty drivers.
Each car is fitted with a transponder which measures the movement of the car but does not measure driver reaction time, highlighting a blurred distinction between what defines a jump start should a driver pre-empt when the lights go out.
Speaking after the race, Masi explained the FIA’s decision to ignore a penalty, alluding to Sebastian Vettel’s false start at Suzuka who, like Bottas, was also able to stop in his box before the official start.
“The means by which a false start is determined is clearly detailed in the sporting regulations and has been the same process for a number of years,” said Masi.
“The transponder that’s fitted to each car is the judgement mechanism and there is a sensor in the road in the track as well.
“And there is a tolerance within that that is the determining factor.
“So, there was nothing further to have a look at. We spoke to the timekeepers immediately and they reviewed all the data and that was the end of the matter.
“If there’s something that’s a minute jump start, or someone accelerates past the field down to Turn 1 before the lights have gone out, obviously it’s a very different penalty that will be imposed.”
Bottas went on to finish third in the Grand Prix, unable to catch Max Verstappen who was nursing worn tyres to the chequered flag.
Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton, meanwhile, claimed his eighth race victory at the Hungaroring and has claimed the lead of the world championship.
The next round of the 2020 F1 season is a Silverstone doubleheader with the first race set for August 3 NZT.