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?

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  1. The Limit said on 10th September 2012, 15:21

    This is so F1! I have always believed that most fans feel the same, its not so much that we disagree with the officials but the fact we disagree with in inconsistency of the penalties. In Vettel’s case this incident was between him the and championship leader, very high profile and with big ramifications for however the stewards punished. Had this incident been between two backmarkers, either the live broadcasts would not have shown it or the stewards would not have taken action. For the simple reason, no one cares about the cars at the back of the field!
    Alonso knew going into Monza that he had to finish higher than Vettel, so ofcourse it was in Fernando’s interests to see Sebastien punished. Last year, Vettel was leading the championship, won the Italian Grands Prix, and had nothing to complain about. Had Fernando been challenging him for the title, he would have complained in the same way Alonso did on Sunday. Nothing wrong with it in my opinion, and I loved Fernando’s car control.

  2. Paulocreed (@paulocreed) said on 10th September 2012, 15:51

    From my perspective, Alonso had no other option. If Alonso would’ve gone to the inside of Vettel he would’ve crashed into him or pushed Vettel off during the turn. Alonso had no choice but to go on the grass. I do believe Vettel fully deserved the penalty he got and it was not the same as the previous year as Vettel only had 2 tyres on the grass and still made the pass before getting into the next turn. This incident was done at the breaking point into the next turn.

  3. Switchbacker (@switchbacker) said on 10th September 2012, 19:08

    “Vettel was following the racing line by moving to the outside of the track”.

    Indeed, so how can that possible be a penalty?

    Pretty dangerous precedent too. To have the right to go for an overtake following car just has to get wing level with leading car’s rears and they have to concede the racing line to following car. Pretty massive game changer if applied as rigourously as at Monza.

    Id be interested to see how often Alonso’s radio comments lead to a penalty for another driver. Seems very frequent.

  4. bsnaylor (@bsnaylor) said on 10th September 2012, 21:05

    It was clearly blatant Alonso had a massive run on him and had to pull one way or the other. (i was using the on-board cam at the time and almost **** miself how close he was to running into the back of him)
    Also blatantly clear Seb left him no room (a car’s width in this year’s regs).
    Therefore had to be a penalty. If you watched the Sky analysis of it from the direct opposite last year, it was quite clear. If you were poor enough to only see the poor BBC coverage, you missed out, sadly.

  5. I did watch the race again today and looked at Senna’s onboard. He he behind Di Resta, but near the end of the braking zone, he dove into a clearly decreasing gap, which ended up forcing him off.

    I strongly dislike how the stewards ignore the rule that says you cannot force a driver off the track. From what we’ve seen from Maldonado numerous times, Webber, and Di Resta in Monza, you are 100% allowed to force another driver off the track if you are in the braking zone, the middle of, or the exit of the corner.

    The clarification to overtaking only affected straights, but Senna argued he had his front wing alongside Di Resta’s rear tire, the “significant portion.” The whole significant portion deal must be a nuscience for the drivers; they’re supposed to look into a tiny mirror to see if a tiny part of an opponent’s car is next to a tiny part of their car?

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