The 2012 season ended last sunday at the Brazilian Grand Prix, and with it, the championship was decided. It was a fantastic race full of incidents, twists and turns and at the end of the race, Vettel had won the championship, by just three points over Fernando Alonso. Everyone went home happy.
But Sky Sports F1 brought to light a possible incident, in fact two possible incidents, in which Sebastian seemingly overtook Pedro de la Rosa and Kamui Kobayashi under yellow flags. They analysed the footage live on air and there was uproar. ‘DISQUALIFY VETTEL’, people were tweeting while others were tweeting ‘FIA: Ferrari International Assistance’. Neither parties were looking at the event objectively and eventually it arose that Vettel made both overtakes under the Yellow/Red flag this indicates a slippy track. The passes were legal.
Everyone became relatively quiet except for some die-hard anti-vettel fans who maintained that he should have been disqualified. All remained good, no teams or drivers made a comment and everything was forgotten.
Until on Tuesday when a video popped up on YouTube proving once and for all that Vettel’s pass on both Kobayashi and de la Rosa were legal. But that’s not all that the video showed. The video also showed another pass that Vettel made, this time on the Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne on the long straight between turns 3 and 4.
The video showed that the small lights on Vettel’s dashboard (that alert a driver to a flag) was yellow. Hence, he was in a yellow flag zone. A green flag appeared at the end of the straight which would mean that he could make a pass then. But only when he reached the flag; not beforehand. Yet, Jean-Eric Vergne slowed down, seemingly letting Vettel straight past him. Not uncommon for Red Bull’s sister team to do such a thing, but it would still count as an overtake.
So obviously, Vettel’s pass was illegal. Very controversial. This would mean a 20-second penalty for Vettel and the Championship would then be given to Alonso. Again, there was uproar. So that’s what happened.
But the FIA cannot penalize Vettel. Why not? A couple of reasons.
He’s not guilty:
A picture surfaced on twitter, taken from the onboard camera on Vettel’s car, that showed a green flag being waved beside Vettel as he made the overtake. A flag overrules the light boards and this would mean that Vettel was actually allowed to pass the Toro Rosso.
The FIA couldn’t possibly risk a storm. Sebastian Vettel’s fans would riot (online) against the FIA and even the Fernando Alonso fans wouldn’t be very happy. Who would genuinely like to see the championship been won through a disqualification? Nobody. The fallout would be monumental. On average, there are 600 million people watching each race. How much would that fall to? 500 million? 400 million? Even 300 million? Does Bernie Ecclestone really care who is watching. No, not really. But he cares how many people are watching. The more people watching means the more money to be made from advertising. The stripping of Vettel’s world championship would be of equal, if not increased controversy to the disqualification of Ayrton Senna from the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix which gifted Alain Prost with the championship. They couldn’t risk such a drop.
How would you like it if you had just won the championship and you were cruelly stripped of it? You’d be far angrier than the fans, right? Well the same principle applies to Red Bull. There is no way that they would take it lying down. They would launch an official complaint, it would go to the FIA court of appeal and it would get ugly. Ugly and drawn out. A decision of this magnitude could potentially rip the sport to pieces. Red Bull could very well leave the sport and set up a separate championship, as Ferrari have often threatened. This would surely destroy the sport.
Now before you accuse me of being either pro-Vettel or anti-Alonso, don’t waste your time. I’m simply analysing what could happen if Vettel was penalised and why the FIA would probably not penalize him. I personally think he is not guilty after looking at all the evidence, but what do you think?
Leave a comment or tweet me @BenSweeneyF1.