Why the FIA can’t penalize Vettel

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.

(c) Im a die hard F1 fan

The fans:
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.

Red Bull: 
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.

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11 Comments

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11 responses to “Why the FIA can’t penalize Vettel

  1. Daniel

    Red Bull setting up their own championship! They don’t hold enough respect for any other F1 teams to follow like Ferrari do,(apart from Torro Rosso) and also millions leaving F1 because Red Bull being stripped of championship! Not sure about that either but I do agree that it would harm F1 and the FIA irreversibly. But that’s what is happening anyway, so many times this season the stewards have given penalties for one drivers mistake/error/lack of judgement to then just let another driver get away with it and most times it was Seb Vettel! Now I’m no Vettel hater but he had got away with a lot this season- Holding Alonso up during qualifying- Jean Eric Vergne doing same but got grid penalty! also in my opinion he bullied Kobayashi off the track at Interlagos but got away with it! Would the same happen to Hamilton? Who knows! But it would be folly to strip Red Bull and Sebastian of the Title, lets be done of this and enjoy F1 for what it is, an amazing sport full of action, drama, emotions and best of all…..the Fans!!!!

  2. If more evidence pops out and proves the move was illegal and FIA doesnt penalise Vettel, there is no use of stewards and the last date of NOV 30 to frame the final results. But true, it all goes down to who takes the final call. if bernie wants the result change, he will do it. So lets ssee..

  3. Great piece Ben, I don’t think he’s guilty either, hopefully Ferrari don’t take it any further, not really sure how they could since the video footage speaks for itself.

  4. Manuel

    Is better for everyone to let things as they are. But i love to see Vettel in Alonso’s shoes. Alonso is the best driver in the grid today.

  5. I agree, they should leave it alone. Can you remember if it was before or after the safety car? I thought that at least the KK/PdlR overtake was before, in which case Vettel haters can rest assured that the safety car would have allowed him to recover enough, even if he’d been given a drive through at that point. Really. It was a great season, and only F1 would even contemplate changing the ref’s decision 5 days later. Lets all go to sleep until March.

  6. Vinci71

    The analysis is correct, but I think it misses out a point… if the pass is legal, OK, but what if a pass is really illegal ? Should the fact that the final result of the championship is at stake imply that the rules are not fully enforced ?

    I think FIA has the chance of verifying if he is guilty or not, since they have more onboard footage than they show on TV. So I think the only point that matters is “he is guilty, yes or not ?”, if not, you are right, the title stays where it is, otherwise… well, it has to be seen which penalty FIA will determine is correct. But I don’t think that “fans wouldn’t like it” could be a reason not to do anything about a breaking of safety rules. And even less, “RBR wouldn’t like it”, since it’s obvious… nobody likes to be punished, even when guilty 🙂 maybe they wouldn’t be “cruelly stripped of the title”, if they broke the rules to win it…

  7. Andrew Smith

    Great write up Ben, I have been trying to say all the same things . I am niether a Vettyl or Alonso lover or hater, I love good racing, and this season that was delievered

  8. Dedi

    One is not guilty until it is proven otherwise. So is vettel.
    Ferrari willnot hurt their potential future hero (vettel). The protest will not improve ferrari rank anyway.
    To add to your analysis.
    Without hurting tv rating and fan fallout, ferrari would suport alonso by investigate with fia behind the scene /infotmally. Seek clarification from redbull. Proven guilty ,fia will announce it and ensure red bull comment is not hurting tv rating. Not guilty then nothing happen.

  9. I’m a Ferrari-fan and I would have died to see Fernando winning the world championship, but Ben is right saying that Ferrari-fans would not be happy to see him winning the championship at the court instead of the track. I have to admit though that I find Ferrari right to ask for clarification from the FIA. Everybody knows – even Ferrari – that the final result will not be changed, still there are things that must not be left just passing by. Not because it would change anything, but because they have to prove – maybe even just for themselves – that they will not swallow everything, to use a bit profane expression. We have to accept (and respect) that the championship is won this year by Vettel. Yet it would be good to know why the flags and the cockpit/dashboard lights are not synchronized.

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