Scuderia Ferrari German driver Sebastian Vettel believes that he and other Formula 1 drivers have brought excessive penalties on themselves by “whinging and complaining”. The four-time Formula one world champion was given a three-place grid penalty at last weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix for impeding Carlos Sainz Jr’s Renault in Q2.
Sebastian Vettel explained after qualifying that Ferrari had not informed him of Sainz approaching, though the stewards ruled that “being aware of the issue of rear vision with his mirrors” he should have come off the racing line just in case. Following the race, when he converted sixth on the grid to third place, Vettel remained frustrated but felt drivers’ actions in recent years had pressured stewards into a too-stringent policy.
“I wasn’t told, I tried to look out for him, I don’t want to drag on about it, but… The rule book’s now so fricking big. I think it’s a result of all the drivers, all of us, I think we’ve more or less all been there, whinging and complaining, ‘oh he’s done this, he’s done that’. In the end you should let us sort it out on track, that’s my belief.” – he said.
Sainz was sanguine about the qualifying incident, accepted that Vettel blocked him accidentally: “I feel like this situation is sometimes more the engineers’ fault, not the driver’s fault, for not letting you know someone is coming,” Sainz said after qualifying. I must admit if that incident didn’t allow me to go into Q3 I would be standing here a lot more angry, a lot more disappointed. But I did such a good lap in Q2 [anyway].”
FIA race director Charlie Whiting explained during the Austrian GP weekend that stewards use a database of all incidents and rulings from recent years to decide penalties. When asked by Motorsport.com about Sebastian Vettel’s penalty, he said on that basis of past precedent “I think it was deserved. Completely consistent with other decisions”.
Charlie Whiting had also intimated at the Red Bull Ring that stewards might in future look more at the consequences of an incident for others, rather than focusing on the scale of the perpetrators’ mistake or their intentions, when deciding penalties. He acknowledged that had that theory been employed in Austria, Vettel’s punishment might have been lighter because Sainz still progressed to Q3.
“The impact was low, so if you wanted to take that path of trying to assess the implications of the actual incident then you could say, in effect, ‘no harm, no foul’. But that’s not something we are thinking about [at the moment]. We are thinking about talking about it, but it’s not something we do presently.”