Did Vettel deserve penalty for Alonso move?

2012 Italian Grand Prix

Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, Monza, 2012Sebastian Vettel received a drive-through penalty during the Italian Grand Prix after Fernando Alonso was forced onto the grass at Curva Grande.

The move was similar to that which took place between Vettel and Alonso at the track last year – though on that occasion it was Alonso who was defending and Vettel who ended up on the grass.

Alonso did not receive a penalty on that occasion, but Vettel did this time. Did the stewards get the call right?

For

After the incident in today’s race the stewards ruled that “[while] defending his position [Vettel] forced [Alonso] off the track even though [Alonso] had a significant portion of his car alongside into turn three.”

This refers back to the July rules clarification which said: “Any driver defending his position on a straight and before any braking area, may use the full width of the track during his first move provided no significant portion of the car attempting to pass is alongside his.”

Looking at the replay of the incident it is clear Alonso did have a significant portion of his car (defined as any part of his front wing alongside the rear wheels of Vettel’s car) alongside, but Vettel continued to squeeze him.

Against

While Vettel’s penalty cannot be disputed on the grounds that he pushed Alonso off the track, it is debatable whether he was defending his position “on a straight” as per the rules clarification.

The stewards themselves referred to the scene of the incident as “turn three”, also called “Curva Grande” – i.e., a curve. Vettel was following the racing line by moving to the outside of the track at the point where Alonso was forced off.

We have seen many times in the past that the leading driver is allowed to force a driver off in a corner even if that driver has a significant part of their car alongside.

I say

Much has been made of the similarities between this move and the one involving the same two drivers – albeit with roles reversed – in last year’s race. But I don’t believe those two incidents compare, for two reasons.

First, in the 2011 incident Alonso did leave Vettel a car’s width. Vettel ended up on the grass anyway.

Second, that incident came before the recent clarification on defensive driving which the stewards are clearly referring to in their statement.

Had Vettel made this move on the straight heading into the Rettifilio or a similar location, this would be an open-and-shut penalty. But seemingly the stewards consider ‘straights’ to include ‘curves which are normally taken flat-out’ – or at least this one.

Perhaps drivers are told in pre-race briefings which areas of tracks like this are considered ‘straights’. Or perhaps it is taken for granted that any section of track taken flat-out is a ‘straight’, regardless of whether it is straight or not.

Assuming that is not the case, I think Vettel was hard done by here. Maybe it’s for the best that, thanks to his alternator failure, his penalty was ultimately inconsequential.

You say

Should Vettel have been penalised for the incident with Alonso? Cast your vote and have your say in the comments:

Should Vettel have had a penalty for putting Alonso wide at Curva Grande?

  • Yes (54%)
  • No (41%)
  • No opinion (5%)

Total Voters: 764

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223 comments on Did Vettel deserve penalty for Alonso move?

  1. It should not be a penalty! Last year Alonso did the same thing to Vettel (Alonso caught more dirt this year but still) and didn’t get a penalty. I’m sure that if they would switch positions and Vettel would get off that much today, Alonso would not get a penalty. A Ferrari simply doesn’t get penalties in the Italian Grand Prix…

  2. vishy (@vishy) said on 9th September 2012, 19:06

    This incident brings back memories of Alonso brake testing Coulthard when he was clearly going to be overtaken (many many years ago).

    In this case if you watch closely Alonso was caught off guard, either Vettel kind of slowed down marginally so as to not let Alonso have a run at him or Alonso was just caught in the slip stream and was too close. Vettel’s move this year was no different from last year’s incident.

    In any case there is enough doubt that Vettel was to blame (mostly brake testing Alonso) to give him the punishment. Have to see that particular sector time to decide that, only stewards know.

    • This incident brings back memories of Alonso brake testing Coulthard when he was clearly going to be overtaken (many many years ago).

      2003 Nurburgring.

      It also wasn’t a brake test, He had a braking problem which forced him to brake earlier than normal, This continued over the final few laps & he very nearly lost a few spots on the final lap.

      The race stewards investigated post race, Renault provided them with telemetry which showed Alonso had the problem & the FIA looked at his car post race & also confirmed that he did have a problem.

      This is why no action was taken & why coulthard/mclaren didn’t take matters further.

  3. kilrcola (@adelaidef1fan) said on 9th September 2012, 19:08

    Deserved.. and so many of you jump on the bandwagon of a a Spanish driver of an Italian Team in an Italian Race, that is why they have Stewards/Marshalls from other countries, just like any other sport. You bandwagon cucumbers!

  4. Adam Blocker (@blockwall2) said on 9th September 2012, 19:14

    I think it is borderline, and because you cannot give a half-drive thru, it was either going to be over or under penalized.

  5. typical fia on ferraris side again, had alonso done this to any other driver he would have been left off scot free

  6. Of course not. Maldonado and Webber have squeezed drivers off the track in the middle or exit of a corner, and that was never given a penalty. I think the penalty to Vettel was a knee-jerk reaction since it was done in a high speed corner and there was gravel runoff.

  7. sumedh said on 9th September 2012, 19:51

    While Alonso did have a significant part of his car alongside Vettel, the section on which they were driving were neither a “straight” or “before a braking area”.

    Alonso was going into a disappearing wedge and should have thought better of and backed off.

    A warning to Vettel and a clarification to all drivers later would have been a better decision than a penalty. And I am sure had it been any other pair of car,race and not Alonso,Monza; he would not have got a penalty.

  8. Alex Brown (@splittimes) said on 9th September 2012, 19:56

    I had the pleasure of driving a Lotus 7 type kit car the other day, and it was wonderful, the wind in the hair, the ‘infinite headroom’, the clear view in all directions…

    Except the wing mirrors wobbled. Not a great deal, but just enough of a high frequency vibration to make things tricky. And at 60mph, overtaking another car, I couldn’t see him in my wing mirror at all, so a shoulder check was required before retaking the lane. Fair enough.

    I say this in defense of Vettel, but of course it doesn’t apply. You can’t use ignorance as a defense. At 190mph+ and 2.4G, you err slightly on the side of caution with car positioning when you’re not 100% on where another car is.

    At that speed, is it OK, ahead or not, to push a car off the track? No! The game of racing is outsmarting your opponent to get yourself in front. If you place your opponent in an indefensible position (unless he wants to cause an accident), then well done. You’ve just won the game of high-speed chess that is competitive track motorsport.

    • bosyber (@bosyber) said on 9th September 2012, 20:27

      I loved that comment @splittimes! And good way to put it into perspective too, this is why I think most of us agree it is good if the stewards are a bit harsher (if only they could also work on being more consistently consistent!).

  9. Odd (@odd-lord) said on 9th September 2012, 19:57

    I think the penalty is harsh..
    This was just proper racing… if they [the stewards] continue like this, then maybe it is better to just get them all time-trailing. If they take away every defending possibility racing is no longer racing.. (F1 is not real racing as we all know of course) but to least keep the illusion of racing would be nice..

  10. Pete (@repete86) said on 9th September 2012, 20:05

    I agree with the penalty, but I wish it were more consistently enforced. It’s pretty clear that it’s political at this point with Red Bull constantly being penalized for things that everyone does. Is the RRA really that important to the FIA that they need to show partiality out on the track?

  11. Steve D (@schteeeeve) said on 9th September 2012, 20:13

    My initial reaction to some of the incidents since the new rule about a car being alongside, is that this shows how the rules can’t always cope with certain circumstances.

    Fer example, Senna tried to get alongside Di Resta and was subsequently gesticulating about said move because in his eyes he was “alongside.”

    The problem this might create is that cars will look to be alongside whether or not a move is on. A massive grey area that probably can’t be legislated for. It’s a bit like in football where players “buy” free kicks, I think this means that some drivers will try and put their car in a position where it looks like they are alongside, even if the move can’t be made.

    Take Alonso & Vettel last year at the same corner, Seb makes the move very early and Alonso is aware of it and so leaves room. This year, Alonso makes a very late call to pull out and Seb is already moving to take his normal line. In my eyes the gap is not there to go for and therefore it is an error from Alonso. I’d even go so far as to say Alonso should have a talking to, because his insistance on carrying on into the grass and gravel could have been dangerous not only for him but for marshalls and others in and around that corner.

    The problem is it is such a fine margin at such speed, but he was just (and I hasten to add just) too late to actually make that move work for him. To penalise Vettel is very harsh for me, until I see another angle that suggests otherwise.

  12. Yobo01 (@yobo01) said on 9th September 2012, 20:20

    After watching the replays I thought that the drive through was deserved. But I didn’t remember exactly how the rule clarification was written. Now that I read it, I think that it’s very borderline, but if we apply the rules taking into account every word, Vettel didn’t deserve the penalty. As Keith said turn 3 is in fact a corner. And it’s not uncommon to see driver pushing each other off track in corners, so I think that you are allowed to do that.
    The problem is that “Curva Grande” isn’t really a “curva”. It’s flat-out and the angle on the steering wheel is very little.
    So, yeah, very difficult to decide, but in the end I think it would’ve been better not to give the penalty.

    It’s actually quite strange to see Vettel getting a drive through, while the Di Resta-Senna incident was not even investigated. Sometimes I wonder if the stewards are only watching the top 5.

  13. These guts know what they are doing. To say he didn’t know where Alonso was is complete ********. Im a McLaren fan and can’t stand Alonso but this penalty was well deserved. The key point you are missing is BEFORE THE BRAKING ZONE. When coming out of a corner you or going into one you are allowed to use the whole width of the track. Because in most cases you need it to make the corner and maintain speed. On a straight, ora flat out corner in this case, Vettel in no way needed to use the full width off the track, he sat in the middle and moved over AFTER Alonso picked a side. Total ******** driving and the kind of stuff that needs to be cleaned up.

  14. Baron (@baron) said on 9th September 2012, 20:41

    No penalty. Vettel was on his normal racing line, wasn’t defensive and didn’t move across. Alonso just stuck it up there hoping to intimidate him and it didn’t work. You cannot expect drivers driving their race to jump out of the way every time a hopeful overtaker sticks his nose in a precarious position and give them a penalty if they don’t swerve away, otherwise more cynical drivers will use that strategy to force a car ahead to give way.

    Nonsense.

    • Race drdrive said on 10th September 2012, 2:36

      I been race for years… Alonso did a big mistake and could cost his life, rule number one never try to overtake when u not have a clean space… Too many laps and he should know that was a vettel racing lane. But ferrari will always be a ferrari the same as Mclarem don’t mess with them. F.I.A.

  15. Master firelee (@master-firelee) said on 9th September 2012, 21:31

    In my opinion no, no he did not! Alonso was a bit foolish to think that he would get around the outside of Vettel without causing some sort of accident, I saw it coming as soon as he went for the pass.

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