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It's time to review F1 officiating

Okay, so let me get this straight.

Okay, so let me get this straight.

It’s not okay for, say, Rubens Barrichello to slam on the brakes a hundred yards from the checkered flag so that his teammate, Michael Schumacher, can pass him and win the race, as happened at the Grand Prix of Austria in 2001.

It’s not okay to do that . . .

But it is okay, apparently, for Kimi Raikkonen to slow down seven laps from the finish so that his teammate, Felipe Massa, can pass him and finish second in a race, as happened yesterday at the Grand Prix of China.

It’s okay to do that . . .

What I really can’t understand is the hue and cry in 2001 as compared to yesterday’s “yeah, so what did you expect?” reaction.

It’s either wrong to deliberately let somebody pass in F1 or it isn’t. Simple as that. If it was wrong in 2001, when Barrichello let Schumacher past (there was an investigation), then it was wrong for Raikkonen to let Massa pass yesterday and I’d like to know where the FIA stewards were on that one.

For a bunch of guys who couldn’t wait to hand out penalties in Japan a week ago, they sure were a quiet bunch yesterday, weren’t they?

Those were the guys who handed out a drive-through penalty to Lewis Hamilton a week ago for braking too late and forcing Raikkonen to go wide at the first corner in Japan. Naughty boy, Lewis.

But what about Sebastien Bourdais yesterday? He clobbered Jarno Trulli shortly after the start and sent him spinning right off the racing surface. The force of the collision was enough to send Trulli to the garage. Surely it was worth a drive-through, no?

But no, apparently not.

The drivers who spoke out this past week about the awful officiating in F1 were spot-on and hopefully something will be done about the situation in the off-season. Because while the penalties handed out in Japan were excessive, the silence yesterday was deafening and every bit as bad.

However, it was about the only thing left to talk about after a really boring Chinese GP. Hamilton led from the lights, with Raikkonen second and Massa third. That was the order the rest of the way, except for Raikkonen slowing down to let Massa into second so he could score more points.

Fernando Alonso, who won the last two grand prix in Japan and Singapore, was fourth in a Renault this time around with the BMW-Saubers of Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld fifth and sixth. Timo Glock drove a Toyota to seventh place; Nelson Piquet Jr. was the last to earn points in the second Renault.

Hamilton leads the world championship points standings over Massa, 94 to 87. Either of them will win his first title in the last Grand Prix of 2008 in Brazil a week from Sunday. Bonus: we will all be able to watch that race while enjoying lunch, as the Grand Prix will go to the post precisely at noon.

NOTES

– Barrichello was angry back in 2001 when he was accused of following team orders. “There is nothing in my contract about team orders,” he said. “All my contract says is that I am to follow orders.”

– Raikkonen might have let Massa past with seven laps to go but seconds after they crossed the finish line he re-passed his teammate so that on the cool down lap it was Hamilton, Raikkonen, Massa.

– During the telecast on TSN yesterday, host Vic Rauter was talking to Canadian F1 expert Gerald Donaldson about the possibility of the Canadian Grand Prix somehow making its way back onto the calendar next year. At some point in their conversation, there was a mention of moneys allegedly owed F1 teams by the Montreal organizers going back several years.

Last night, those same Montreal organizers said in a statement that while there was, indeed, a financial disagreement with F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone concerning the 2008 race, any allegations about outstanding payments prior to this year were false.

– The consensus is that Nelson Piquet Jr. will not be back at Renault next year. I have a hunch Bourdais will take his place there.

ALMS

Marco Werner and Lucas Luhr ended their American Le Mans Series Prototype 1 championship season in style by winning the Monterey Sports Car Championships at Laguna Seca, Calif., in their Audi R10 diesel. Emanuelle Pirro and Chrstijan Albers were second overall, also in an Audi, while Frank Montagny and Tony Kanaan were third overall and first in the P2 class.

Olivier Beretta became the first driver to win 40 races in the ALMS when he teamed with Oliver Gavin in a Corvette to win the GT1 class. They finished 12th overall. Dominik Farnbacher and Dirk Mueller were first in the GT2 class in a Ferrari.

It was Pirro’s last race for Audi. The old campaigner was a sports car champ before he drove in Formula One and he returned to the sports car wars after his F1 career ended. Audi seems to want younger drivers, however, so now that Pirro’s gone who knows how much longer guys like Allan McNish and Dindo Capello will be around.

Before we leave sports cars, I have to say this: I know they are constantly striving to make circuits like Laguna Seca safer but, in doing so, they are taking away all of the atmosphere. I watched a bit of that race and it was like watching my kid play a video game.

There is no soul left in those places anymore.

NASCAR

With only four races left in NASCAR’s Chase for the Championship, Jimmie Johnson has just about got a hammer-lock on another Sprint Cup championship, which would be his third straight.

His victory in yesterday’s TUMS QuikPak 500 at Martinsville, Va., puts him 149 points ahead of Greg Biffle, who moved ahead of Jeff Burton into second place in the Chase by finishing 12th (Burton was 17th).

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was second yesterday, followed by Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon and Denny Hamlin.

Unlike the situation at Lowe’s Speedway in Charlotte last weekend, where half the seats were empty, the stands at Martinsville yesterday were jammed.

But the bloom is off the rose in that series, for sure, and while the talk was mostly about attendance — or the lack thereof — last weekend, sponsorship for 2009 — or the lack thereof — dominated conversation this weekend.

It’s gonna be grim, boy.

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