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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2012 Italian Grand Prix

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223 comments on Did Vettel deserve penalty for Alonso move?

  1. Jono (@me262) said on 10th September 2012, 2:46

    in the context of last years season Vettel had all but secured the World Championship giving Alonso (in a Ferrari in Monza) more of a ‘license’ to defend on the edge and assumed to exploit Vettel’s theoretical softer groundsa second or third would do in the big picture of winning the World Championship Alonso didnt know Seb still wanted to win THAT bad xD

  2. David BR2 said on 10th September 2012, 3:43

    This statement by Keith is, I think, factually inaccurate:

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

    If you check 25 seconds on this video, it seems that there is not a car’s width. In fact the room left to both drivers (Vettel 2011, Alonso 2012) looks almost identical, the difference being that after Vettel moves to the right, Alonso actually veers further to the left off-track. Also, of course, Vettel controlled the car better, kept his speed and got past Alonso.

    My view of the 2011 incident was that it was a brave attempt to pass by Vettel, Alonso was ruthless in not giving him any extra space when Vettel came alongside, but Vettel nonetheless managed to keep control of the car and produced a brilliant overtake. The 2012 incident looks nearly identical indeed, except that Alonso for whatever reason failed to control his car as well. Having failed to match Vettel in attempting the same pass, which he clearly knew was virtually the same, Alonso then complained about Vettel despite having done virtually the same a year earlier. I really don’t see how anyone can find anything admirable in Alonso’s attitude in seeking a penalty for Vettel here.

  3. the penalty was plain stupid. though Vettel had the full width of track everyone knew that with the speed with which they were attacking the curve it was not possible to take the inside line. He had to take the racing line like everyone was… Alonso knew this too, Alonso’s move was very ambitious and it’s totally his fault that he was so close to Vettel, this meant he was not getting clean air and hence lost control of the car for a bit. Vettel did not push him off the track anyhow.

  4. i think the weird thing is that paul di resta forced someone else off the track and didn’t get a penalty but vettel did. and alonso pushed vettel off the track last year and it doesn’t matter how much someone got pushed off the track. being pushed off is the same every time no matter how far.

  5. When is it the attacking drivers responsability, and when is it the defending driver?
    Because as I see it, the attacking driver has the responsability to get around the defending driver without making contact. Therefore he has to choose what side to overtake on. If he choose to take a line which means he will drive into a disapearing wedge, then isn’t it sort of his own fault?
    I don’t think drivers should drive each other off track when they are defending, but Vettel was not defending. He simply followed his line through that corner.
    As I see it, Alonso simply choose the wrong side, and he should deal with the consequenses.
    We have seen it time after time that drivers have driven each other clean off the track in corner after corner, because they are in front, they have the racing line. They take it, and the attacking driver needs to back out.
    If Vettel had taken a defensive line then I would have agreed with the penalty. But he did not.
    But thats just my view. The stewards view was evidently different. Whether Vettel got a penalty or not isn’t very important, but it does raise the question. Doesn’t this clarification need a new clarification?
    It seems like there is too much inconsistency with the enforcing of this. Maybe a new section needs to be written about flat out corners. Like Curva Grande, like Eau Rouge, like 130R and so on. If that is what makes the difference.
    The rules seem to vague, which leaves too much up to the stewards. And as they chang each race, it means that the stewarding is going to be inconsistent. I think that is very frustrating as a fan.

  6. DC (@dujedcv) said on 10th September 2012, 9:03

    In the good old days stewards would just let them fight it out on the track, so for the sake of entertainment i would say no penalty. After all, it happened at very high speed, at tricky place, during a fight for position

  7. saneev (@) said on 10th September 2012, 9:11

    according to 2012 rule: yes
    according to 2011 alo vs vet in the same place: no
    according stewards inconcistency (2012): no

  8. KeeleyObsessed (@keeleyobsessed) said on 10th September 2012, 9:20

    The way I see it, Alonso left Vettel enough room in 2011 (although not much more, and Vettel decided to give himself a bit of breathing space and hence went onto the grass slightly, all credit to him for keeping it planted though). Vettel this year just didn’t see Alonso coming, despite the fact that he was staggeringly slow through the corner, that left Alonso no room since he had already committed to going round the outside..

    I think the drive-through was the right decision, but Vettel can’t be blamed entirely for it (Alonso seems to be innocent in this)

    I just thought it was great to have the same camera angle catching a replica of one of the best overtakes of last year…

  9. Sean N (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk) said on 10th September 2012, 9:25

    The Stewards would have indicated whether the Curva Grande would be considered as a straight or corner before the Grand Prix (in respect to the overtaking rules). I suspect they would have categorised it as a straight because it’s flat out and drivers can change line through it.

    I understand the steering trace from Vettel’s telemetry indicated he moved further to the left than he had done previously, given his trajectory through the corner was more central (defensive) than his previous lines. This is pretty damning. It indicates he moved left in response to Alonso. I think it was probably intended as a block in which case he would have had the right to move completely over to the edge of the track. He simply didn’t anticipate Alonso being along side him. Because Alonso was there then he had no right to move over on him. So it may not have been deliberate but either way it was certainly bad driving, both from a regulation point of view and more importantly a safety point of view.

    I think the cars are travelling at about 175mph at this point. had their wheels touched the consequences could have been tragic. The stewards had no option but to act. Vettel should consider a drive through a light penalty. Next time he might get a race ban.

  10. Gill Parry (@welshwitch) said on 10th September 2012, 9:57

    Don’t really think it was comparable to the pair of them last year. In that incident Alonso did leave enough room, and there was no rule about leaving a car’s width.
    I really don’t think it was a deliberate move from Vettel but he should have been paying attention to the speed of Alonso.
    I feel sorry for him, but he did deserve the penalty.

  11. Maybe the penalty was fair.
    But IMHO Formula 1 will give a HUGE step ahead adding a golden rule to the code:
    “When a driver uses the team radio during the race to complain and ask for penalties and put pressure on the stewards and cry because he is not winning or leading a race, will be shown the BLACK FLAG INMEDIATLY. Said driver should stop his car on the spot and walk back home”. You see, Alonso is a great driver, but his constant whinning got on my nerves long time ago already.
    /RantModeOff

  12. rdpunk (@) said on 10th September 2012, 11:04

    Given that Vettel retired anyway makes the debate pointless but morally I think that the penalty was correct. Firstly, the rules state that you cannot push someone off the track and that you must give them a cars width. Makes sense because of the safety issues and racing standards. However what gives me the greatest headache (I mean this kept me up all night) is that we see all around the races on every turn drivers being pushed out wide during the apex and entry. Paul Di Resta pushed Senna off the track and nothing happened and that was in the breaking zone not turning. How can it be that you can push someone off the track at one point of the circuit but not at another? Next, Vettel was taking the normal racing line around that turn (it is a turn not a curved straight, Eau Rouge is taken flat out, is that not a turn?) so Alonso should of respected that if he was behind, he wasnt he was alongside and Vettel should of gave him space.

    In conclusion, Vettel should of possibly been reprimanded for the move and it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other on if he should of got a penalty but what is a bigger cause for concern is that the rules aren’t exact enough on what should happen.

  13. Alonso pushed Di Resta off the track on the first lap, where was the penalty, di resta pushed senna off the track where was the penalty? talk about equality…

  14. GT_Racer said on 10th September 2012, 11:55

    For those going on about how it was because it was Ferrari in Italy & the decision was biased due to this.

    One of the stewards was German & he agreed with the penalty.

  15. moshbeard (@moshbeard) said on 10th September 2012, 12:59

    While I don’t doubt his ability normally I’m quite pleased to see Vettel fail (just in a friendly-rivalry type way) but I don’t think he did that much wrong here. In my opinion Alonso put himself into a gap he knew wouldn’t remain there as Vettel progressed around the corner. Vettels only alternative would have been to hit the brakes and turn hard to the right but in my view he just took the corner and didn’t excessively squeeze Alonso.

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