If you’re into F1 you’ll no doubt be up to speed with the controversy at yesterday’s (9th June 2019) Canadian GP. If not briefly… Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) was leading from the start. Later in the race his great rival Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) seemed to have a faster car but overtaking in F1 can be difficult, esp when the best overtaking spot, into a chicane just after a DRS spot (cars following another get a couple of places a lap they can lower some of their rear wing to make their car a bit faster) is after a hairpin which for some reason Vettel repeatedly went through very smoothly whilst Lewis kept on locking up a front tyre, missing the apex or seemingly being much slower round the bend than Vettel (on occasion all three on one lap!)
However Hamilton continued to close lap after lap and was harrying the German driver into making a mistake. Which he did. Going into the chicane at turns 3/4 Vettel went off the track and then came back on. Hamilton was almost alongside him, was this Hamilton’s chance? In a split second both were heading towards the concrete wall – the Montreal circuit is unforgiving built on a tight island circuit in the middle of a lake, it doesn’t have many run off areas, many corners having solid walls built right up the circuit edge. Hamilton backed off and Vettel retained the lead.
As it happened in our excited house I said “Oh now that could cause Vettel problems”. Hamilton quickly made a radio comment “That was unsafe”. I’ve watched motor-racing most of my life since a teenager. I’ve attended lots of live events and watched all forms on tv. Now there is a rule that I’m very aware of which in summary states the following. If you leave the track you have to rejoin SAFELY. That rule has been there forever – I’ve seen it applied at all levels in the sport. It is one of safety and also about fairness. You can’t just drive where you like – you have to drive on the race circuit, and that is defined normally by solid white lines at either side. If you put all four wheels over that line you’re “off the circuit”. You can neither “gain an advantage” or “return unsafely” once you’ve done that. Both will be punished.
So if you watch the incident – You’ll see Vettel skittles back onto the track forcing Lewis to change is line toward the wall and possibly putting him off the circuit too by going too far over the curbs. Lewis appears to have to back off.
The stewards (learned men all, including always an ex F1 driver) decided that Vettel’s return was unsafe and that it deserved a 5 second penalty – applied to the time at the end of the race. So Vettel crossed the line first but Hamilton won due to that penalty. View this and decide.
I hear the comments on this commentary but can’t agree. If you watch the overhead shot Hamilton is forced “off circuit” and has to break.
There is furore about this “ruining the race” etc. But …. the rules are the rules, that rule has been around years and years. The Stewards looked and agreed with me that is was dangerous. This rule is primarily about safety – I heard commentators say “That’s not the situation that rule should be applied.” But it’s a rule without anything saying – “but only in this case, or not these cases”.
However what followed was pure farce. Vettel stopped his car past Parc Ferme – as a podium finisher (despite the penalty he was 2nd) he has to drive to the end of the pitlane near the podium. He then pushed his car backwards in the pit lane into the scrutineering area. He then stormed off to the Ferrari offices. They pursuaded him to return for the podium ceremony (or face additional sanctions). He did but moved the 1st and 2nd marker boards.
What a petulant show from an adult man. Whilst many on social media applaud this to me this is more wrong than anything with the penalty. Act like an adult – have the arguments out of the public eye.
Here’s the thing….
If Vettel had just driven without making any mistakes that took him off the track (like Hamilton did and most other drivers yesterday) then he’d have won a hard fought race and this would never be a thing. He went off the circuit. He reentered dangerously in the view of the stewards – who are the judges of fact. It did possibly rob us of Hamilton trying to overtake as once the penalty was announced he knew he could win without that risk. But again… them’s the rules.
Some say “Where should he go?” To me that’s neither here nor there. Rules for safety are made to make sure you consider your behaviour at all times. He made a mistake which if he’d been thinking completely maybe he should have avoided isn’t that the point of this rule? He should have slowed a little into that corner earlier not had the kick and not gone off – then it wouldn’t have mattered.
That’s my position on it – I think the penalty was just and fair. Vettel lost that race since he made a mistake not because of the stewards, if the mistake hadn’t been made they wouldn’t have been in the equation.
I personally think his actions after the flag – not driving to the right place, pushing his car backwards in pit lane, moving the boards, not being at the first post race interview should all be punished too. And he’s got previous on that – remember the weighbridge incident last year?