Vettel demoted to fifth with 20-second penalty

2012 German Grand Prix

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Hockenheim, 2012Sebastian Vettel has been given a 20-second penalty for passing Jenson Button off the track during the German Grand Prix.

The penalty, for breach of article 20.2 of the sporting regulations, drops Vettel to fifth in the race.

The stewards determined Vettel had “left the track and gained an advantage when he rejoined”. He was given a drive-through penalty which, because it was awarded after the race, became a 20-second penalty.

Button moves up to second with Kimi Raikkonen promoted to third ahead of Kamui Kobayashi.

2012 German Grand Prix

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269 comments on Vettel demoted to fifth with 20-second penalty

  1. ACZ said on 22nd July 2012, 16:55

    To all you people claiming its “unfair” because of the fact that he would have passed Button anyway, think back to when Hamilton had to start behind EVERYBODY despite being a second quicker in qualifying due to too little fuel, did the stewards say “well a few more litres wouldn’t have changed that”?! No, rules are rules no ifs or buts

  2. F1sauber (@f1sauber) said on 22nd July 2012, 16:59

    Why only 20 seconds and why Perez five places behind in the grid?

  3. PeteF12012 said on 22nd July 2012, 17:02

    I saw a few drivers in GP2 & GP3 pass cars the same way vettel did without getting any penalty so the decision seems very inconsistent & the fact its 20 seconds rather than simply swapping the places round just seems unfair.

    • BBT (@bbt) said on 22nd July 2012, 17:11

      Wasn’t it was one of the RBR drivers (vettel?) in Oz I think that passed by going off track and got no penalty. This the correct decision.

    • F1Canuck said on 22nd July 2012, 17:13

      i would say had it happened 10-20 laps earlier there would have been a drive-through penalty costing vettel roughly 20 seconds.. fair punishment.

    • Postreader said on 22nd July 2012, 17:19

      Retributive theory. The same reason someone who robbed you probably won’t get away even giving back exactly what he stole. A price must be paid to “avenge” the rule.

    • Mark (@marlarkey) said on 23rd July 2012, 10:26

      GP2 and GP3 arent the same as F1…

  4. Tete said on 22nd July 2012, 17:04

    I agree. Hamilton should have been penilized in barhain. Because he passed rosberg outside the race track . Fair penalty for vettel but Hamilton should have been penalized because it is basically the same manouver

    • Conzo said on 25th July 2012, 14:28

      Tete: Penalties aside, I think the moves were very different. Vettel tried the overtake on the outside, and Button stayed on the inside, and ran line edging towards the outside, in order to block Vettel. At no time did Button push Seb off the track – if you look at the replay, Button is actually leaving some space (albeit obviously not enough for Seb to squeeze through).

      Otoh, in Bahrain, Hamilton was in the slipstream right behind Rosberg, and tried to get out of it by going to the inside of the track (right-hand side). Rosberg went the same way, and they veered from the one side of the track to the other, with Rosberg not actually pushing Hamilton off the track, but most certainly being a lot less gentlemanly than Button to Vettel. Whereas Seb could have backed down without much loss, Hamilton was already so committed, and they were veering so sharply that there was no realistic other split-second decision to make.

      I found the Hamilton/Rosberg incident difficult to judge (and thankfully, I’m not tasked with the job), but I can understand the rationale behind not punishing Hamilton. On the one hand, he overtook off the track, but on the other hand, Rosberg’s driving was not really kosher and merited at least a severe slap on the wrist. Maybe the smart thing indeed was to let it go.

      With Button and Vettel, everything was clear.

  5. Slimboyfatpauly (@slimboyfatpauly) said on 22nd July 2012, 17:07

    Perfect Punishment! Exactly as I was hoping!

  6. JB (@) said on 22nd July 2012, 17:10

    Although I am extremely surprised, finally we can see some consistency within the FIA… You just can´t let these things go unpunished… And to everybody saying that the 20 secs. are a bit harsh… well punishments are meant to be harsh, that´s the whole point of it so that you think twice before commiting the same mistake twice! Finally some justice!

    And just to clear something up, I have read a lot of comments saying FA continuosly went off track in turn 16; take a closer look, his front right tyre is still on track and therefore perfectly legal.

  7. BBT (@bbt) said on 22nd July 2012, 17:12

    * this time ^

  8. xeroxpt (@) said on 22nd July 2012, 17:25

    Unfortunate, unnecessary but rightful

  9. Paul A (@paul-a) said on 22nd July 2012, 17:28

    This decision is really disappointing. It doesn’t matter whether the rules are right or wrong, nor if the stewards’ decision is right, wrong or inconsistent. What does matter to some extent is that it was handed down way too late, after the awards were handed out. But above all, it’s a killer for the competitive spirit of the sport — if you can’t overtake a slower car and ensure safety by running wide when the other driver uses all the track, that puts a serious damper on overtaking. What’s left? Only artificial DRS…

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 22nd July 2012, 17:31

      ensure safety by running wide when the other driver uses all the track

      I think you’ve attached too much credulity to Vettel’s rather fallacious argument here.

      He did not leave the track for reasons of safety, he did so because he wasn’t far enough alongside Button at the exit of the corner to force him to leave room, and instead of tucking in behind and trying to get a run at the next corner, opted to use the run-off instead.

      • Paul A (@paul-a) said on 22nd July 2012, 18:40

        I watched it, and obviously what I saw and what you saw left different impressions on us both. Are you really saying that if he had kept at least two wheels “on the track” there would not have been a collision? [btw, I haven’t yet found a replay on line.]

        But, as I originally said about “not mattering whether it’s right or wrong” (in other words, I’m not taking sides for either driver) it’s the manner in which the decision was made and it’s cooling effect on future overtaking that I find abominable.

        • S.J.M (@sjm) said on 22nd July 2012, 18:45

          Sorry but Keith has the correct take on. It as far as I can see. There is more then 1 place to overtake on the track, and this punishment doesn’t do anything to deter people from attempting them, but reminds the drivers of what they can and can’t do. All weekend Charlie Whiting was telling them to keep 2 wheels on the track, all the shame for Seb for no listening.

          • Francuis (@francuis) said on 23rd July 2012, 9:29

            As seen on the footage of the camera angle from above, after the race, in the exit of the corner Vettel straighten his car earlier and started accelerating prior than Button and therefore had better traction than Button. Button still turning could not accelerate earlier or as much as he has not straighten his car yet. Or at least his traction was less than Vettel’s. If Vettel had kept 2 wheels on the track it would have been a legal pass. But the fact that he straightens his car earlier, he knew that that he had nowhere to go but off track to keep on accelerating faster than Button. He had another option and that was to lift off throttle and tuck in behind Button and try later. The same happened with Alonso in 2010 when he passed Kubica. Ferrari was on the phone to Charlie whether they need to give the position back. As it turns out Kubica car expired and Alonso then had to take a drive through penalty. Red Bull had that option to ask Charlie as well even if they had little time to the end of the race. They did not take it. They should have told Vettel to give the position back and try again. If Vettel was clever he should have stayed in front of button and give back the position just before the DRS activation point and staying tucked behind button and take clear advantage on the straight with DRS to pass. He did go off track with all 4 wheels and he did gain and advantage in doing so to pass Button off track and therefore the standard penalty is justified.

          • Mark (@marlarkey) said on 23rd July 2012, 10:30


            Photo 4 is the key one…. at this point BUT is not on full power and still turning… VET is on full throttle commited to leaving the track. He only overtook from photo 4 onwards because of the extra traction of heading straight off the track.

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 22nd July 2012, 18:53


          Are you really saying that if he had kept at least two wheels “on the track” there would not have been a collision?

          I’m not making any presumption about what might have happened had they driven differently. You seem to be taking at face value Vettel’s insistence that his only option was to remain alongside Button. I don’t buy that (and nor, it seems, did the stewards).

          This decision compels drivers to confine their overtaking to the racing track and not going of it in search of an advantage. That’s fine by me.

    • JB (@) said on 22nd July 2012, 17:36


      Ummm I think that if he was faster than Jenson, he should have waited to get past him on the last lap… Just as Maldonado should have waited for the next lap to pass Hamilton in Valencia… This sanction has nothing to do with safety… it has to do with abiding rules… plain and simple… I agree that it has handed way too late… they should have taken immediate action and Kimi should have been up there in third place!

  10. This penalty is simply ridiculous!
    What the stewards would say about the battle between Massa and Kubica at Fuji in 2007 or Arnoux and Villeneuve at Dijon in 1979, when F1 was much more dangerous than nowadays?
    I think these drivers would be arrested and executed in public!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    F1 = balls!

    • JB (@) said on 22nd July 2012, 17:44

      I agree with F1=balls but your case of the Arnoux and Villeneuve race has nothing to do with this case… In the Dijon race, yes they banged wheels, yes there where moments where they went off track but those off track moments where in straights and they never ever made a pass off track…. I recall Villeneuve showing a massive display of balls trying to hold position on the outside once Arnoux dove for the inside of turn 1…. Dijon can never be compared to what happened in Germany today…
      The punishment is just. People say it´s harsh but since when are punishments intended to be linient?

      • I respect your opinion, but I stick to what I have said.
        This is not racing anymore. This is turning into a kindergarten because the FIA treats the drivers like spoiled kids that need to be grounded all the time.
        Let them have real racing like 10, 30 years ago, when the drivers had to have balls and not get on the radio to be whining about.

    • Baron (@baron) said on 22nd July 2012, 19:27

      All sporting incidents at any sport are subject to human interpretation. Penalties issued can vary enourmously from venue to venue – official to official but it doesn’t mean there is a conspiracy or favouritism. FIA Stewards are “lay” meaning non professional and are backed by an experienced F1 driver. Although there might appear to be precedents, each circumstance, whilst they might look similar, are very different in a complex sport like F1. I think the stewards decision was absolutely spot on. A previous poster commented that a “runn off area” shoudl be treated like a brick wall. Years ago, it would have been armco and if Vettel had tried that – he would be dead. By using the run-off, he was able to avoid scrubbing off speed and braking to follow Jenson through as he should have done, therefore he gained a significant advantage. It was not a move to avoid a collision because he shouldn ‘t have been there as at that point, he was not even ahead.

      A good catch and as someone else said, they gambled, and lost.

    • Brownerboy (@brownerboy) said on 22nd July 2012, 23:31

      I think these drivers would be arrested and executed in public!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      Since when was Jeremy Clarkson a member?

  11. caci99 (@caci99) said on 22nd July 2012, 17:32

    Should Button and Vettel be punished for not giving enough room to Alonso in the parc ferme after the race? :)
    Sincerely, I don’t know what to make of this incident. Vettel used the outside of the track which generally does not favor the one taking it. It is completely different from when a driver cuts short the track. In this case the driver is taking the longer line to overtake, so he must be really fast to make it stick. There have been other similar cases, between the two again where Vettel was not punished, so I don’t know.

    • Perfect point of view!

      • Chris_H said on 22nd July 2012, 19:10

        No it’s not. Increasing the radius of a corner, i.e. taking to the outside of the track, allows you to maintain more speed through the corner.

        It’s simple physics.

        An advantage is made by increasing the available cornering speed by not keeping inside the confines of the track.

        Velocity = sqrt(coefficient of friction*gravity*radius)

        As gravity is the same, and the coefficient of friction will be almost identical you can see that increasing the radius increases the velocity that you can take a corner. Vettel increased the radius of the corner and in turn was able to increase the velocity in which he took said corner.

        • Baron (@baron) said on 22nd July 2012, 19:35

          Remember Mansell “discovered” the run-off area at Spa when he was driving for Ferrari? It was such a favourable overtaking move at the low speed first corner and also helped to avoid a collision and he was also smart enough to realise that by taking a wider turn, you can ‘slingshot’ past the driver ahead, as the Americans would say. Staying within the white lines might be a shorter route but in a tight turn, it’s not the quickest, ergo Seb got an advantage by using an aera which was not part of the track.

          There were no penalties for that as such then, so they made it part of the track. There are run-offs like this in all tracks, and even at club level, a driver will be warned if he makes excessive use of a run-off, let alone gain an immediate advanatge over a competitor and will be disqualified from the results if he ignores the warnings (which Seb did from the Drivers Meeting)

        • Malibu_GP said on 22nd July 2012, 19:55

          @Chris_H That was my point exactly when explaining to the Mrs why I deemed the penalty just.

    • JB (@) said on 22nd July 2012, 17:50


      First of all, I recall reading on this site that Charlie Whiting said that going off track would not be tolerated… that being said, they where warned.
      Secondly, although generally going to the outside does make it a longer distance to cover… SV wouldn´t of had gone there if there wouldn´t of had been a tarmac runoff area. Plain and simple… Do you actually think he would of have tried making that move there if there had been grass instead of tarmac? I highly doubt it… He rightfully got what he deserved… he should of have just given the place back as soon as possible and try it on the next lap.

      • caci99 (@caci99) said on 23rd July 2012, 13:36

        @catracho504 I do understand your point and some of the others above, but still I don’t feel that it is wrong. Sure if there was a wall, Vettel would have not took that line. But then you have the case of Hamilton and Rosberg and I don’t think that was wrong too. While some would argue that Hamilton did not complete the overtake on the outside of the track, no one can deny he gained momentum by doing so.

        • JB (@) said on 23rd July 2012, 23:17


          While some would argue that Hamilton did not complete the overtake on the outside of the track, no one can deny he gained momentum by doing so.

          Well you have your answer in your own words dude… SV did complete the pass outside the track and by going straight to the runoff he did gain a whole lot more momentum that JB. You can try and justify him but at the end of the day, the move was ilegal, plain and simple.

  12. Ciaran (@ciaran) said on 22nd July 2012, 17:34

    It was right to award the penalty, but dropping him to 5th just seems a bit harsh. Incorporating a 5 or 10-second penalty into the sporting regulations might help for this sort of incident.

  13. boundary layer (@boundary-layer) said on 22nd July 2012, 17:45

    Kimi’s got to be crossing fingers for more penalties like this. He gets a podium, but gets away from the crap of press conferences and all that ****

  14. ME4ME (@me4me) said on 22nd July 2012, 18:05

    This is just one stupid penalty in my oppinion.
    There is no reason for hitting Vettel that hard, they could’ve just swapped places between Button and Vettel.
    Also it’s quite bad for the WDC

  15. Nickpkr said on 22nd July 2012, 18:12

    The sad thing it reinforces the “cheater” badge Redbull somehow keeps getting involved with.

    Mclaren did play it on Vettel, but they help Alonso only !

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