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?


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.


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. Race drdrive said on 9th September 2012, 21:39

    Rules is not for all. Too much money in formula 1… The more money u got the better respect u deserve. My 6 years old soon is a cart racing and I can see how money can change people n rules in motorsport.

    • Jorge Lardone (@jorgelardone) said on 10th September 2012, 0:20

      There are a lot of money in Alonso, so he “must” be a world chamapion, yes or yes!.
      That is very easy to see and this punishment to Vettel is an example.
      The sport at that level is not fair, unfortunatelly.

  2. Victor (@victor-2) said on 9th September 2012, 21:50

    I don’t think he deserved the penalty, he was following the usual racing line, he made no special move to block Alonso, and if it was a penalty for forcing a driver off of the track, then Diresta should have gotten a penalty for forcing Senna off the track in Variante Della Roggia, but he didn’t. We all know Vettel’s real offense was putting a Ferrari off at Monza, and not simply forcing a driver off the track in a location where no one normally passes.

  3. Ron (@rcorporon) said on 9th September 2012, 21:54

    Shouldn’t have been a penalty. He kept his racing line and made no move to “push Alonso off the track”. If Alonso didn’t have room to make the pass there he should have waited for a better opportunity.

  4. dirgegirl (@dirgegirl) said on 9th September 2012, 22:08

    I’m no great fan of Vettel, and usually delight in Alonso’s driving and even his radio histrionics, but today his angry demand for a penalty over team radio was reminiscent of a dive in football plus haranguing the referee. I know this happens a lot, but for him to explicitly ask for a penalty rather than simply draw attention to the nature of the alleged transgression is gamesmanship, not sportsmanship.

    I don’t think Vettel deserved a drive-through – it seemed too marginal judged against the written rule – and it seemed worryingly inconsistent that other incidents such as Senna-di Resta were not investigated, as many others have pointed out.

  5. GT_Racer said on 9th September 2012, 22:10

    Couple things.

    The stewards would not have been influenced because it was a Ferrari in Italy as the race stewards were not Italian.
    The driver stewart advisor was Emanuele Pirro, Highly experienced racer.

    Also do not forget that the stewards have far more data avaliable to them than the viewers do. They can compare Vettel’s line that lap to previous laps, Have highly advanced GPS data as well as other computer analysis tools. They also have full access to team telemetry so can see Vettel’s steering input & compare it to prior laps.

    Also consider that the stewards sit in on driver briefings so know of any warnings regarding specific parts of the track that have been given by the FIA.
    For instance based off last years situation with Vettel/Alonso Charlie Whiting may well have given a warning regarding conduct at that part of the track, If thats the case the stewards would have needed to act off that.

    As for my view of the penalty, I also think Anthony Davidson did a great job of showing why the penalty was fair in his post race analysis on Sky.
    Also would mention that all the former drivers on Sky’s team (Hill, Herbert & Brundle) also agreed with the penalty.

    • brny666 said on 10th September 2012, 0:34

      So the advisor was an Italian. I rest my case.

      • GT_Racer said on 10th September 2012, 11:50

        So the advisor was an Italian. I rest my case.

        Yes Emanuele is an Italian, However that would have had zero influence on his opinion.
        He’d have looked at the incident & given a totally unbias opinion from a drivers perspective.

        If you believe that his nationality played a role then shoudl we ban any steward from any nationality of any team or driver currently in F1 for fear of national bias?

        The stewards are selected based on knowledge & experience, All the FIA stewards that are selected for F1 are people that have been in a similar role of other championships for many years.
        One of the stewards at the Italian Gp this year is someone who has worked as a race steward for the WRC, GP2, GP3, BMW Europe, DTM and World Series by Renault. She had also worked as a permant steward for the Euro F3 championship for several years.
        The other has been a member of the DTM stewards panel since 2006 & has been an F1 steward on a few occasions in the past.

        People tend to think the FIA just pick people at random when it comes to stewards, However the people they pick have to have a lot of experience in that role, There carefully selected based on past record in the role & having showed a good knowledge & understanding of the regulations.

        The one area of critisism for the stewards is consistency & I’ve always felt a big reason for this problem is that there are 3 different stewards at every race.
        I think a permant steward who is at every race would improve consistency as he/she can explain to current stewards how a past decision was reached if a similar incident occurs again.

    • vho (@) said on 10th September 2012, 9:36

      The stewards would not have been influenced because it was a Ferrari in Italy as the race stewards were not Italian.

      Yeah, but do you think they’d get out of the country, let alone the track, alive if the made the call the other way?

      • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 10th September 2012, 11:25


        do you think they’d get out of the country, let alone the track, alive if the made the call the other way?

        I do.

        At any rate I don’t believe fear of reprisal from the crowd played any part in the stewards’ decision.

        • vho (@) said on 10th September 2012, 16:05


          Perhaps his Highness, Emperor Julius Caesar is getting soft with foreigners… LoL…
          Maybe my Aussie sense of humour is difficult to pick up… and we also tend to like to exaggerate things… you could say my humour is as dry as a dead dingo’s donger.

          In all seriousness, there is no doubt that the stewards decision is without any influence from fear of the crowd… But I’d reckon the Italian media would’ve given them a good ribbing… and perhaps a couple of taxi drivers could’ve made it difficult for them to reach the airport in time… LoL

  6. James_GBD said on 9th September 2012, 22:11

    Something I think this incident highlighted is the danger of things like KERS which creates massive closing speeds that can easily catch drivers out.
    Alonso was on KERS when he tried that move & thats why the closing speed was so great & probably why Vettel didn’t necisarily see the move coming.

    This sort of thing could become more common when we have the more powerfull KERS systems in 2014, I can see the closing rate between cars on KERS & those not as been ridiculously unsafe.

  7. I voted yes. Vettel has a tendency in his defensive driving to push drivers quite aggressively and today he was a bit too aggressive. On the pit straight in the same lap for example, Vettel made two moves, one toward the pit wall to take the inside and then another one to go back to the normal racing line, forcing Alonso wider than he would have gone. The moment itself looked eerily similar to Grosjean pushing Hamilton off last week, with their wheels interlocked at the point where Vettel moved to the edge of the track and Alonso did the only thing he could do that allowed him to bail out of the overtake.

    There is a slight caveat in that Alonso himself also pushed di Resta off track in the first lap, same corner. And di Resta later pushed Senna off the track into the second chicane. Neither of those incidents were even investigated, so in that context, the punishment seems harsh. The incident in and of itself, I still say deserved the punishment it got.

  8. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 9th September 2012, 22:57

    Vettel put Alonso in a position where he was forced off the circuit and through the gravel trap at race speed. He didn’t even give Alonso the choice of backing off and slotting back in behind him. He absolutely deserved a penalty – any other driver would have lost control and crashed out. That Alonso was able to keep it together is a testament to Alonso’s skill, not to Vettel’s sensibility.

  9. Lin1876 (@lin1876) said on 9th September 2012, 23:26

    Having seen it again, I think Vettel deserved the penalty for two reasons: first, he drove to the outside of the corner in spite of knowing that Alonso was there or thereabouts. Moreover, it was not the normal racing line — he moved off the racing line and in doing so forced Alonso off the track.

    Second, he did it on a fast part of the track, which I think is the difference between this incident and the Di Resta/Senna incident at the Roggia chicane earlier in the race. If Di Resta and Senna had made contact, we would probably be talking about a broken front win. If Alonso and Vettel had made contact at the Curva Grande, we would likely have been talking about a sizeable accident at best. That, I feel, was the deciding factor.

  10. Nocturnis (@nocturnis) said on 9th September 2012, 23:45

    If someone would like to compare Alonso/Vettel 2011 and 2012

    For me? Yes, he deserved it.

  11. Nigel Smith (@nwsmithex) said on 9th September 2012, 23:53

    The cars need to have some sort of radar sensor, pointing sideways, to tell the drivers there is someone almost along side.
    The sight of wheels almost interlocked on Curve Grande was too close a call.
    The way things are going, someone is going to have a massive and serious accident.

  12. Trido (@trido) said on 10th September 2012, 0:21

    Corners like Curva Grande, Eau Rouge and 130R (ie. Flat our corners) need to come under the same rules as straights. I think the rules should be more strictly enforced and penalties harsher for incidents on these corners because of how dangerous it can be. On a straight, you might crash but unless your wheels get tangled it shouldn’t be that serious, but in a corner, the speeds are so great and as Brundle said in the commentary last night you could essentially physically push a car into a spin that is at the limits of grip. It could make these sorts of accidents catastrophic.

    • Dave (@dworsley) said on 10th September 2012, 9:13

      Curva Grande is nothing like Eau Rouge or 130R. The latter two are easy-flat, but you think about maximising your speed with the ideal line. Curva Grande is an absolute nothing in a modern F1 car. You can take it flat out staying hard right or hard left throughout the entire bend.

      As an illustration: Eau Rouge or 130R – lateral acceleration of 3-4G. Curva Grande – 2G.

      • Dave (@dworsley) said on 10th September 2012, 9:22

        Well stupid thing for me to say: actually, it is in some ways similar, but I would not put Curva Grande in the same category as those other two corners. However, I do agree that curved flat-out stretches like Curva Grande, the stretch between turns 10 and 11 at Albert Park, and other like-examples should be defined, and treated, in the rules as ‘straights’.

  13. Kimi4WDC said on 10th September 2012, 1:38

    Personaly I don’t agree with penalty. And I view it as the recent movement of trying to make racing tailormade.

    It was Alonso’s responsibility as he is the one who put him self into this situation. This situation is uncomparable to last year.

    Alonso had a much greater momentum, and by having that you cannot expect other drivers to move over, frankly, he choose the wrong side. Can’t blame Vettel as Alonso was closing in way too fast in the end. It was more reckless move by Alonso rather than Vettel as he had all the information infront of him and choose to shoot into the closing space.

    And the way he cried about it after he shoot him self in this situation is just appaling, he is not going to win this year. Ferrari will be torn apart in the remainder of the races.

  14. mrjlr93 (@mrjlr93) said on 10th September 2012, 1:46

    I’m a Ferrari and Alonso fan but after viewing the attempt to overtake a few time i believe that Vettel deserved that penalty, even had Vettel not retired due to mechanical failure it was the right decision by the stewards. When Alonso was right alongside with Vettel Alonso’s front right tire could have almost touched Vettel’s rear left tire and if this was to happen at the speed the two where travelling at the Curva Grande then that could have been a very big and dangerous incident for both drivers.

  15. sic_j02 said on 10th September 2012, 2:28

    C’mon guys! I can’t believe this topic even existed. First, we have written rules to follow and I’m glad FIA are doing their job this time. Following the rules is one thing and being inconsistent is another thing. Should not just we make a topic about FIA’s inconsistency?

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