But should that be the Stewards, or Sebastian Vettel? Sundays Canadian Grand Prix should go down as one of the best of the season. With Sebastian Vettel leading Hamilton, Leclerc, and Ricciardo. With an out-of-position Verstappen waiting to make the race interesting later on. Within 3 laps Vettel had escaped Hamiltons DRS range. A handful of laps later and the gap was almost 2.5s, but Lewis hung-on gamely and Sebastian failing to increase his lead. That was until the pit stop window opened. Mercedes attempted the over-cut, failed, and Ferrari’s lead driver extended the gap to 4s over Lewis. But the hard shod Mercedes was a happier car, and Lewis was back within DRS range and began piling on the pressure. It was game on! Until Vettel made an error, leaving the track, and also leaving Lewis no space to go around the outside when he rejoined.
Most assumed this was a racing incident. An unfortunate error, followed by fortuitous positioning as Vettel struggled to regain control of his wayward Ferrari. But it was not to be, the stewards slapped Vettel with a 5 second penalty that took away his race win. Another dark day for F1.
The FIA’s International Sporting Code states a driver may rejoin after going off but only when safe to do so. It also prohibits rejoining in a way that crowds another driver off track. The stewards decision, therefore, was unavoidable. The facts of the case are not open for debate, and consistent application of the rules also meant a punishment was unavoidable.
While Vettel was rightly angry about the punishment, he also needs to look at himself. This would not have happened if he had not made another error in the heat of battle.