The FIA has explained why Sebastian Vettel did not receive a penalty for a false start in the Japanese Grand Prix despite moving in his grid slot.
Vettel was starting from pole position but dropped to second place behind Valtteri Bottas on the run to Turn 1, and replays showed he had momentarily moved forward before stopping again just before the lights went out. The incident was only investigated by the FIA after the replays were televised and the stewards opted to take no further action, saying Vettel had not triggered the sensor that is used to measure a false start.
“The stewards reviewed video evidence and the jump-start report based on the information from the FIA approved and supplied transponder fitted to each car,” the FIA decision read. “While the video shows some movement that movement was within the acceptable tolerance of the F1 jump start system which formerly defines a jump start per (the sporting regulations).”
FIA race director Michael Masi likened the incident to a start Bottas himself made in Austria in 2017, saying there are parameters — that are not disclosed to the teams — that leave some margin when it comes to measuring a false start.
“Basically the approved sensor which gives us a signal was within the tolerances, and probably the best analogy for everyone would be Valtteri a couple of years ago,” Masi said. “That is the approved method in the regulations for it to be determined if it is (a false start) or if it isn’t.”
However, Masi was less impressed with Ferrari’s decision to delay pitting Charles Leclerc despite him having front wing damage at the start of the race, with debris subsequently flying off his car to impact on both Lewis Hamilton and Lando Norris behind. The move ultimately led to a penalty that dropped Leclerc to seventh in the final order.
“I was originally advised that they would be pitting the car, they then chose not to and then subsequently Ferrari were instructed to pit Charles’ car, which they did, by me. It was on the second lap that the elements came off and then they were still instructed to pit because we couldn’t confirm if there was going to be anything else that was going to come off. Which they subsequently did.
“I was more than slightly annoyed from a safety perspective, but it’s something that the stewards are looking into at the moment. It’s something that the stewards are looking at here and now.”