Drivers say Vettel penalty was harsh ahead of Friday review hearing

Image by Steven Tee/LAT

Drivers say Vettel penalty was harsh ahead of Friday review hearing

Formula 1

Drivers say Vettel penalty was harsh ahead of Friday review hearing


A number of Formula 1 drivers have voiced their belief that Sebastian Vettel’s penalty in Canada was harsh ahead of a review hearing with the stewards at the French Grand Prix.

Ferrari opted against an official appeal after Vettel was handed a five-second time penalty for the way he rejoined the track in front of Lewis Hamilton in Montreal, but has instead exercised its right of review. A hearing will take place on Friday at Paul Ricard to see if the stewards deem any new element to exist that requires the incident to be reviewed, and ahead of that a number of drivers were asked for their opinion on the penalty.

“He had no choice,” Kimi Raikkonen said. “When you’re on the grass you have no control and then when you rejoin the track, 50 meters later, you still have a lot of s••t on the tires, so there’s not much you can do.

“The odd thing is that this year they keep telling us there’s more freedom to race and then this penalty happens. They say it’s no one’s fault but there is a penalty. Honestly, I’m in no one’s side — I don’t care — but what Seb did, the penalty and what’s on the rules somehow doesn’t match…

“I guess the stewards are always in a difficult position, whatever ruling they issue there’s always going to be happy and unhappy teams. That’s how it is.”

Max Verstappen described the penalty as “wrong” but says he feels the stewards often have their hands tied by the regulations.

“I don’t blame the stewards themselves,” Verstappen said. “I’ve been with the stewards in Marrakech (at Formula E) for the whole day and I think they do realize what’s happening, but sometimes they can’t give another penalty because it’s written in the rulebook exactly like that — they have to give this penalty… sometimes they don’t even want to give this penalty, but they have to.

“I read some stewards got some bad language messages on Twitter and stuff, which I think is not fair. At the end of the day they’re trying to do their job in the best possible way, so it’s not fair to say they did not do their job.”

Vettel leads Lewis Hamilton to the line in Canada. Image by Joe Portlock/LAT

Verstappen’s teammate Pierre Gasly feels the punishment did not fit the alleged crime, with Vettel losing out on victory as a result of the incident as Hamilton finished within five seconds of him at the checkered flag.

“I think it is really tough when you cross the line first on-track and then they tell you that you are second,” Gasly said. “I think it depends what perspective you look at it from. If you look at Seb’s side for sure, it’s really tough and a harsh penalty, if you look at Lewis, you would say maybe I could have won the race without the incident.

“But I think at the end of the day, when you race Formula 1 cars at that speed and pushing to the limit, these things happen and it’s part of racing. It’s difficult to draw a line but I think for me it was quite harsh to lose the victory that way.”

While the majority of drivers felt the incident should have gone unpunished, Nico Hulkenberg does not believe any changes are required to the rules given the way different stewards interpret them.

“There was a penalty?! I did not notice that in the press…” Hulkenberg said. “I think my opinion and view on that is that it’s just racing — it is tough to control a car on the grass and how you make the entry to the racetrack because we are not in full control, and we don’t have the normal grip.

“For me it seems like a racing incident and in terms of rules, I think there are different judgments everywhere, every weekend, different kind of stewards so I don’t necessarily see a reason why we need to tweak the rules.”