Section 27.3 of the Formula One Sporting Regulations of 2019 reads as follows:
Should a car leave the track, the driver may re-join, however, this may only be done when it is safe to do so and without gaining any lasting advantage. At the absolute discretion of the race director, a driver may be given the opportunity to give back the whole of any advantage he gained by leaving the track.
Don’t believe me, well here’s the link https://www.fia.com/regulation/category/110
The FIA Stewards assigned Sebastian Vettel a five-second time penalty for re-joining the track in an unsafe manner. This mistake by Vettel forced Lewis Hamilton off-track, causing him to take evasive action to avoid an accident. This penalty ruined Vettel’s chances of winning the Canadian Grand Prix and handed the win to Lewis Hamilton on a beautiful and shiny platter.
I’m in the minority of thinking that a penalty should have been assigned, but I don’t believe that the time fits the crime. Get it because it was a time penalty.
For those saying it was hard racing, I’m going to disagree with you wholeheartedly. Hamilton pressuring Vettel into a mistake was good racing. Vettel re-joining the track and then coming onto the racing line in front of Hamilton who was at racing speed is not good racing; that was blocking. No, if’s, and’s, or buts about it. Vettel’s advantage wasn’t made up in time but in keeping himself in front of Hamilton’s Mercedes. It would have been different if the two drivers were side by side coming out of the chicane and Vettel was trying to attempt to squeeze Hamilton out of position. It could have been a battle of both drivers having to fight for position. Instead, Hamilton had to evade Vettel who was in full desperation mode due to his own doing. Vettel impeded Hamilton’s progress.
And I understand those that say there was nothing Vettel could do. The track is narrow, he was in the grass, the car was oversteering and unsettling, he had his hands full, but that was the price for making a mistake. For Hamilton, he ran the racing line like he was supposed to. Precedence has dictated that the driver on the racing line will get the preferential treatment from The FIA stewards. We’ve seen this time and time again, and we saw it play out again last Sunday. Vettel’s radio transmission to his team at the end of the race, he asked them, “where the hell am I suppose to go?”
The race track. These mistakes have become a knack for Vettel as of late.
Again, I agree that a penalty should have been given, but I do not agree on the ruling of the penalty. Section 38.3 of the Formula One Sporting Regulations of 2019 states that:
The stewards may impose any one of the penalties below on any driver involved in an Incident:
a) A five-second time penalty. The driver must enter the pit lane, stop in his pit stop position for at least five seconds, and then re-join the race. The relevant driver may, however, elect not to stop, provided he carries out no further pit stop before the end of the race. In such cases, five seconds will be added to the elapsed race time of the driver concerned.
b) A ten second time penalty. The driver must enter the pit lane, stop in his pit stop position for at least ten seconds, and then re-join the race. The relevant driver may, however, elect not to stop, provided he carries out no further pit stop before the end of the race. In such cases, ten seconds will be added to the elapsed race time of the driver concerned.
There are no other kinds of penalties to give. I believe that this is where the frustration of the fans, drivers (former and current), and media members are left to shake their heads in disbelief. The five-second penalty had all but sealed the deal in Vettel having no chance to make up for his mistake. It took away a race that Formula One had desperately needed during this lackluster of a season. If they had made Vettel swap positions with Hamilton, that would have given Vettel a chance to fight for the win, and we would all feel different about the outcome.
But this is the box that The FIA has encased the stewards in. If you want to be technical, and we all know that Formula One is nothing but, then this was the only decision the Stewards could have made based on the regulations given to them.
I know we are getting subjective because no one knows what Vettel was thinking at the time of the incident. But in this instance, at this moment, it is where we hate the game and not the player. Hamilton shouldn’t have been booed when he took the podium.
If Vettel never made a mistake in the first place, we would be talking about a dominate Ferrari victory. Instead, we get the most significant storyline of the Formula One season.
photo credit: Motorsport Images