New FIA system, marshal to blame for Massa mistake
(GMM) A new transponder system and an wayward marshal are to blame for Felipe Massa's Spa head-start not being noticed in Belgium two weeks ago.
The Brazilian driver explained at Monza that he did not realize he had overshot his grid box because he sits so low in the cockpit of his Ferrari.
But why the FIA's technology, and observers at the side of the track, did not notice the error is currently the subject of an investigation.
Germany's Auto Motor und Sport reports that the automatic jump-start detection system in 2010 is new.
The transponder reacts more sensitively than the old one, meaning that false starts can be detected even when the driver is located too far to the left or the right of the centre of the starting box.
But the glitch in the system is that, because the sensors are so strong, the car and track transponders can locate one another even when – as in Massa's case – the car is positioned too far forwards.
Previously, the sensors would not locate one another, and Charlie Whiting would receive an alarm on the starter gantry that a driver is out of place.
But the back-up system is a human one, with marshals standing beside the track holding a sign with the driver's grid number.
"I looked at the marshal next to the grid, he put his sign down which to me is the signal that everything is right," Massa said.
Countryman Rubens Barrichello said he noticed on the grid that Massa was getting a head-start.
"I knew he had missed his box, but what do I do?" said the veteran.