Should Vettel have had a penalty? (Poll)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Sebastian Vettel has already admitted fault for his error during the Belgian Grand Prix that took Jenson Button out of the race.

The stewards took a surprising decision to penalise him for the move – even though in the past drivers have rarely been punished for similar collisions with other drivers.

Vettel clearly made a bad mistake – but should he have been punished for it?


The stewards said Vettel’s penalty was for “causing an avoidable accident”.

His error took another driver out of the race while he continued, so surely it makes sense for him to be punished?


Other drivers have taken rivals out of races in the past and gone unpunished – such as Kimi R?â?ńikk?â?Ânen with Adrian Sutil at Monaco two years ago.

There’s no doubt Vettel caused an avoidable accident – but so did other drivers during the race without being punished. Vitantonio Liuzzi, for example, who hit Vettel while in complete control of his own car. Nor was Rubens Barrichello punished for crashing into Fernando Alonso.

I Say

Vettel made a bad misjudgement and it’s not the first time he’s done it. We all remember his collisions with Webber at Istanbul and Kubica last year at Melbourne.

Therefore I could understand why the stewards might want to censure him for his dubious track record. But that isn’t what they’ve said they’ve done, so I’m taking the penalty at face value – and I don’t like it.

I hope we’re not going to start seeing penalties every time a driver loses control and happens to hit another car while trying to overtake them. It would discourage exactly the sort of wheel-to-wheel racing F1 should be promoting.

Mistakes happen, and if some blameless driver gets taken out by a rival who’s lost control of his car, that’s just part of racing.

You Say

Should Vettel have had a penalty? Cast your vote and leave a comment below.

Should Vettel have had a penalty? (Poll)

  • Yes (57%)
  • No (40%)
  • No opinion (3%)

Total Voters: 2,409

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258 comments on “Should Vettel have had a penalty? (Poll)”

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  1. I won’t blame him for that incident but that penalty was harsh. What the FIA could have done is to hand him 5 place grid penalty for the next race as Button’s race & championship battle was over back then.

    1. … and you call the drive-through harsh? Since he already was out of the points after the incident, I think he far prefers having the drive-through during the race. But it might have been a just penalty seen from the perspective of the Championship. I don’t think it would have been very defensible for the stewards though.

  2. Button said this to Martin Brundle on the grid before the race:

    “It’s still very very tricky, you know, if theres any wet patches its a big slap of oversteer, and its an uncontrolable slap”

    Case closed.

    1. Well Spa is known for having two different seasons at different ends of the track.

    2. Yet it was drie at the time Vettel spun.

      1. “Dry” is a relative term, there were streams of water on the camera lense.

  3. Should Vettel be penalised for what he did? I don’t think so. Can’t blame somebody for an accident.

    Should he be penalised for the way his front wing flexed seconds before crashing in Button? Hell yes.

  4. Here is a quote from Ayrton Senna:

    “By being a racing driver you are under risk all the time. By being a racing driver means you are racing with other people. And if you no longer go for a gap that exists, you are no longer a racing driver because we are competing, competing to win. And the main motivation is to compete for victory, it’s not to come 3rd, 4th, 5th or 6th. I race to win as long as I feel it’s possible. Sometimes you get it wrong? Sure, it’s impossible to get it right all the time. But I race designed to win, as long as I feel I’m doing it right.”

    I couldn’t agree more with these words. Yes Vettle made a mistake, but that is to be expected when you drive cars that can reach 200mph+. I don’t want drivers to be afraid to overtake because they might get a penalty if things go wrong.

    1. Need I point out that Ayrton Senna is dead, as a consequence of that attitude?

      1. That’s pretty tasteless. Senna probably died because of a tragic car failure. Not much to do with his will to fight.

        Still i think Manu’s quote does not fit here, look at this bit

        And if you no longer go for a gap that exists, you are no longer a racing driver because we are competing, competing to win.

        Here Vettel looked, so now gap that existed and crashed it into Button (compare him going for a gap that didn’t exist in Turkey and at other occasions as well). If there would have been a gap, he could have made the move, now he should just have waited and given it a try later on.

        1. Thanks, that is exactly my opinion too, and great for using Senna’s quoted words to say it – that is exactly the problem Vettel is showing.

    2. Except those words aren’t true when applied to the actual incident that they refer to. Senna deliberately took out Prost in 1990 when no gap existed – he tore off his own front wing before even making contact with Prost.

  5. I dislike Vettel but I don’t think he should’ve been punished. It was merely a racing incident.

  6. Vettel should of been punished. My reasoning for that is because it was crazy decision to try and go down the inside, hence he lost control avoiding Button. It was clear he should have gone to the outside.

  7. Plain and simple, if the stewards start penalising drivers for botched passing moves, it will more-or-less discourage wheel-to-wheel racing. He clearly didnt intend to hit Button, and an opportunity to pass was there for the taking, as Button was clearly slower. Penalise a driver for poor judgement or for breaking the rules, but not for poor execution. That’s like penalising a footballer for missing on a penalty kick.

  8. I’m no fan of Vettel and I really hope either one of the McLaren drivers or Mark Webber wins the title this season, BUT…

    To me the penalty was ridiculous. F1 is about racing, all drivers are driving at their limits or pretty close to their limits, when you overtake you stretch those limits even a bit further, so a mistake is quite possible. Even if it was very unfortunate what happened to Jenson, penalizing people who try to overtake and mess up while attempting a move will discourage overtaking and on-track action.

    Think back to old races from the past that where great because of people going wheel to wheel and sometimes perhaps going a bit too far, think of Hill and Schumacher at Spa 1995 or Schumacher and Coulthard in Argentina 1998 or Senna and Mansell at Barcelona 1991, these drivers shared extremely close moments and came close to taking eachother off, but they didnt and so they were not penalized and we remember great duels from these races. So what if they had messed up and taken eachother out, should they have been penalized? No for sure they should not be penalized if you ask me, there was no intention of harming the other driver, no matter how stupid the move might have been.

    1. Going wheel to wheel is completely different from spinning your car in such a ridiculous manner.

      The first is racing and the latter is an avoidable accident.

  9. I wonder what happened with the “transparency” the FIA promised. Didn’t the FIA promise that steward’s decisions would be better explained to the public? Now all they do is that they inform us the decisions and on which rule they based it.

    I guess that is some improvement, but there is no added video footage or verbal explanation of the verdict at all.

    They really need to explain why they feel that Vettel was at fault in his incident and why Barrichello wasn’t.

    Personally I think this was a textbook case of “avoidable accident”. If this one wasn’t avoidable then when is it avoidable? Obviously though, a lot of people (the minority, but still a lot) have trouble understanding the stewards’ verdict.

    Now we get fans complaining about stewards not being impartial or that they are punishing at random. That’s just bad for the sport.

    Same with Schumacher’s move on Barrichello. Another textbook case, albeit “crowding of a car beyond the edge of the track”. Many people didn’t realize that the track ends at the line and not when a driver crashes into a wall. Or that a driver CAN stick to his racing line and push a driver off, but not move to the opposite side of the track and push a driver off.

    If the FIA/setwards would explain themselves a bit better people would learn to understand how penalties are handed out and why.

    1. I suppose releasing the footage is something that FOM controls, not the FIA, sadly.

  10. HounslowBusGarage
    30th August 2010, 19:59

    “I think Jenson took him by surprise with how early he braked for the bus-stop and trying to avoid him Sebastian got into a bit of a moment and collected Jenson. ”
    I read this quote from Horner this morning and really just considered it to be a load of Red Bullocks, but now I’m not so sure. Maybe Button did brake a tiny bit early, but he was also tucked well over to the right hand side of the track that Vettel should have been able to move left and brake. Problem was of course, that he braked, turned left violently, oversteer slid, tried to correct and harpooned Button.
    But despite his obvious stupidity there, I’m still not convinnced a drive through was necessary.

    1. From what Button (or Witmarsh) said after the race, now way was he braking early. Even Vettel himself said nothing like that, only Horner dipped up this Bull****t.

      But maybe what F1 Novice points out above (Vettels wing wildly moving around when switching directions close behind Button) might be also the reason why Horner does want to take attention away from the car. It looks like exactly what happens with too flexible bodywork.

      On the penalty i am completely with you. Not convinced Vettel needed a penalty handed to him

  11. He should have been disqualified (or have a grid penalty for Monza) for cutting the track twice!

    1) Cutting the pitlane entry, crossing the white line

    2) Cutting the Les Combes chicane

  12. It looked to me like the wing movement occurred as the wing moved outside the slipstream of Button’s car. I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens quite often. If you think about half the wing is still slip streaming in Button’s wake, while the other half suddenly starts generating more down force when it clear’s Button’s wake.

    1. Thats true. If you think about it that could partially explain the accident. It wouldn’t be a problem if he did it in a straight line, but since he swerved in a braking zone it may well have been the straw that broke the camels back

  13. Kovalainen made webber spin at the bus stop in 08 and got a drive through… Vettel’s penalty was a bit light IMO

  14. I think guys are mistaken about the front wing flexing. Maybe it is flexing a little bit, but what shown here in the video is the suspension getting compressed upon lifting the throttle. And this caused the weight to transfer to the front thereby taking out the traction on back wheels.
    Also no point in blaming Vettel too much. Had Button stuck on to the racing line, it would have been a fantastic overtaking. Button blocked the last moment, by a quick yet small change in direction to inside and vettel could not be blamed. Just a racing incident.

  15. If a championship contender damages a rival’s title hopes then they’ve got to suffer commensurately. First a punishment for bad driving and then additional punishment depending on the effect on the victim (I’ll admit I haven’t worked out a fair formula yet). If it leads to less overtaking then so be it. Vettel’s move wasn’t as bad as his move on Webber in Turkey or Webber’s move on Hamilton in Australia but for the damage to Button’s championship campaign he should get a grid drop for the next race.

  16. I disagree with Keith’s prediction that close wheel racing would be discouraged because of potential penalties.

    I do not see how this is any different from the effect of harsher penalties for crime, including the death penalty. People will feel more satisfied in justice being served, but it deters very little. Why? People who commit crime do not count on being caught. And so I believe people who take risks in close wheel racing do not count on crashing.

    Thinking logically, the real penalty of crashing into another car is typically a retirement or no points. A drive through or getting a time penalty does not seem like much.

    On to the topic of if one should have penalties for avoidable accidents or not. One may ask why have the penalties if the drivers are not much deterred in close racing.

    Qualifying has penalties for blocking another when it was avoidable. There, the rule accomplishes one thing: it discourages those who have true malicious intent, who could otherwise say “I didn’t notice you in my mirrors. Sucka.”

    Surely it must be apparent that ‘incidents’ do not always treat all the involved equally. Sometimes the offender gets away without a scratch while the other must retire.

    Like the effect of the qualifying block rule, punishing avoidable crashes into others will discourage those who would maliciously enter into a high risk move where the risk to the other is higher than the risk to themselves. They could not just claim ignorance. And it would be difficult for them to gain from it.

  17. Comparing the Vettel/Button accident to Rubens/Alonso is absolutely apples and oranges. Everybody went wide in the corner where Rubens hit Alonso and he had nowhere to go as he was boxed in by other cars. Vettel by comparison, was out in the open pulling yet another erratic passing move (memories of Vettel/Webber) when he clearly had enough momentum to pass. He should be penalized for next race and I am growing tired of his (S.Vettel) antics as the season draws closer to an end, the stewards are right to punish him. Although I agree with the judgement this time, I find that the stewards are not ruling with fair, even judgement.

  18. Completely avoidable, he was driving like an idiot. He should have steered off the track rather than his Gran Turismo-style tank slapper. I don’t buy that he went left to avoid the crash because he turned far too hard to really have his heart in a proper avoidance attempt. He was trying to pull off the pass because he doesn’t know how to get one done properly when he’s under pressure.

    Webber ran into Hamilton in Melbourne and if he had continued on as Vettel did, he should have got a penalty. I don’t think the excuse ‘well, Raikonnen got away with it in Monaco’ is valid because he shouldn’t have gotten away with it. Remember who was in charge of the FIA at the time and whose stooge was in the steward’s box?

  19. theRoswellite
    31st August 2010, 3:57

    No penalty should be enacted primarily because the accident was brought about not by a grossly negligent or purposeful move, but by a miscalculation in grip resulting from the rain.

    This is what happens when you are driving on the limit, especially in a less than ideal situation.

    Many mistakes of this kind were made during the race, some were recoverable, as with Hamilton, some were not…Vettel. They were however, in all probability, the result of honest attempts to maintain a competitive speed.

    To punish Vettel is really only saying, “you were unlucky in that your spin happened to take out the car you were passing…and it was very spectacular, and of course you had that other crash with your teammate…so, hey…be more careful”.

    I want the drivers to operate in that 10/10’s zone as much as possible, that’s racing, that’s F1. Don’t punish a driver for trying too hard.

    And, by the way, Vettel was punished, he was eliminated from the race.

  20. I flat out disagree with the Vettel penalty. I agree that his move on Button was reckless, and that it is not the first time the young German has put himself in that position. However, as Keith pointed out, the inconsistent decisions made by the race stewards are indeed at best baffling.
    Vettel’s car suffered considerable damage in the collision with the McLaren, he had to pit to change tyres and have the nose of his car replaced. His race was pretty much ruined by his own error, so why compound it by giving the young man yet another drive through penalty?
    In an age where Formula One has an ‘overtaking committee’ to aid modern racing cars from passing each other on track, when we do see drivers take risks the sport moves heaven and earth to punish them. Then we ask ourselves why drivers do not overtake more, and all we here about is the complexity of the cars aero and the lack of overtaking opportunities on modern Tilke designed circuits.
    It makes me laugh when some claim that Vettel drives in a ‘dangerous’ fashion, but can anyone here tell me what is safe about going wheel to wheel at 200mph? Motor racing is, within reason, about taking risks to pass some of the world’s most talented drivers. It is why 99% of most racing fans watch Formula One on a regular basis. The technical aspect is an attraction, but double difusers and blown exhausts are not what gets bums on seats and raises the odd pulse or too.
    If F1 gives out penalties like this too often the only passing we will see will be the fans desperate to head for the exits demanding refunds on their tickets. It is as simple as that!

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