Car Tech proves decisive in Ferrari's Formula One penalty

Car Tech proves decisive in Ferrari's Formula One penalty

Kevin Massy

Last weekend's Monaco Formula One Grand Prix was a barnstorming race, but it will be remembered most for controversy in the qualifying round and for the technology that stripped legendary Ferrari driver Michael Schumacher of his pole position.

Schumacher was penalized Saturday after race stewards decided he had deliberately stopped his car on the track, thereby preventing his rival Fernando Alonso from challenging Schumacher's fastest lap time. The stewards apparently based their decision on detailed study of telemetry reading (such as acceleration, steering patterns, and suspension diagnostics) from Schumacher's Ferrari.

After hours of analyzing the data, the stewards concluded that there was "no justifiable reason for the driver to have braked with such undue, excessive, and unusual pressure," and they sent the seven-time world champion to the back of the grid for the start of Sunday's race. Ferrari's boss, Jean Todt, hit back at the stewards, saying that telemetry from the Ferrari pit proved that the incident was accidental.

Whatever the truth, the episode has possible future ramifications for cars on the road. With advanced diagnostic systems being built in to many new cars, this kind of postcrash analysis might prove to be a useful tool for auto insurance companies and a gold mine for lawyers who, like the Formula One protagonists, will no doubt interpret the same data in different ways.