Drivers back Schumacher's penalty

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The Independent Online

The president of the FIA, Max Mosley, was his usual urbane self at Monaco, though even he was a little surprised at the depth of feeling in favour of his oft-criticised organisation and the stewards' decision to put Michael Schumacher to the back of the grid.

Mosley pleaded that he couldn't make an official comment on the matter, but it was evident that he agreed with the decision. And you didn't need genius IQ levels to guess that he found Ferrari's response irksome, particularly the suggestion that the team had greeted the penalty with "displeasure". He said he was prepared to be magnanimous on this occasion, however, as "people say silly things when they are angry".

Schumacher himself went through the mill with the corporate thumbs down from the Renault team as he finally left the paddock on Saturday evening, and a slow hand-clap from the spectators.

The Red Bull Bulletin paddock magazine even captured the mood perfectly when its Sunday morning cover contained an overhead shot of Schumacher in his Ferrari speeding past a "Parking Interdit [Prohibited]" road sign. He was roundly condemned by peers such as former world champions Sir Jackie Stewart, Jacques Villeneuve and Keke Rosberg.

Yet he still insisted: "I was amazed at how tough the stewards' decision was. I can understand that, from the outside, things might seem a bit strange, but if you don't have all the information you cannot give an appropriate judgement. The facts have to be examined in an open manner."

In fact, the penalty was nothing like as serious as the one imposed on Michelin in 2003, in a retrospective interpretation of the wear rules which obliged the tyre company to manufacture completely new tyres just when the balance of that year's world championship was poised in favour of the Michelin runners. On that occasion, Schumacher and Ferrari were the beneficiaries.

Besides undoing any of the reconstructive work that he did on his battered image after trying to put Jacques Villeneuve off the road as they fought for the title in Jerez in 1997 (having succeeded in doing the same to Damon Hill in 1994), Schumacher has also angered his fellow drivers. Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren's Spanish test driver, has threatened to resign as a director of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association unless Schumacher does so.

"He couldn't help himself," the former driver and television presenter David Kennedy observed of Schumacher's foul. "What we saw on Saturday was DNA at work."

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