Yellow flag controversy casts shadow over championship

Did Vettel celebrate too early? Ferrari would like to think so. Photo: AC

Not surprisingly the internet is buzzing tonight after Ferrari indicated to the BBC that it is reviewing footage of the Brazilian GP which appears to show Sebastian Vettel making an illegal pass under yellow flag conditions.

Should the team bring the matter to the FIA and an appeal be heard – and that is possible despite the results being declared on Sunday – Vettel could in theory earn a 20s time penalty, which would drop him from sixth to eighth place. Alonso would win the title by a single point.

On Sunday the most talked about incident involved Vettel passing Kamui Kobayashi. This blog checked with the stewards who had reviewed it, and they confirmed that it was legal.

At the start of this week attention turned to a lap 4 pass on Jean-Eric Vergne. Full speed onboard footage floating around the net shows Vettel passing Vergne with yellow lights on his dash, and before a green light indicating the end of the yellow flag zone.

It looks clear cut. However, head-on screen grabs, and super slow-mo of the onboard, appear to reveal a green flag on Vettel’s left (see clip at bottom of story).

Usually this human intervention takes priority over the electronic devices in the car and at trackside, and Vettel does not begin the pass or use KERS until he has gone past the flag.

The FIA does of course have access to a lot more data and footage than is floating around the net, and will be able to confirm that the various images we’ve seen do indeed relate to the same incident.

Alonso was generally gracious in defeat on Sunday, but he couldn’t help himself by referring to “strange decisions” by the FIA, while in turn Vettel referred to “dirty tricks.” It could now get very messy.

Clearly Ferrari should be 100% sure of its case before doing anything, but whatever the outcome, taking the matter further could be a PR disaster for the Italian team and for the sport as a whole. Even if it does nothing now, the comment to the BBC and the furore that has erupted will already have cast a shadow over Vettel’s win, which is a little unfortunate. But that may have been the intention anyway…

Of course it could be that the FIA and/or Ferrari state sooner rather than later that no further action will be taken, and the matter closed.

Ironically had a pass under yellows been picked up during the race, Vettel could well have overcome a drive through penalty. It would have compromised Seb’s race, but he would have regained lost ground at the first safety car and still had plenty of time to get himself in a position where he won the title by finishing higher than eighth.

His pal Schumacher was always going to make his life easy, and if necessary RBR also had the option to slow Mark Webber, who finished fourth, to give him an extra place.

This clip shows the green flag which ends the yellow zone…


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25 responses to “Yellow flag controversy casts shadow over championship

  1. Michael S

    That is funny because I found some “strange decisions” like the one where Alonso says on the radio when he is nearly 1 minute down, “there is a lot of debris out here” then bang a safety car. He had no complaints the first 30 + laps. Then when Hulkenburg clearly has a racing incident with Hamilton but gets a drive through to drop him behind Alonso. Sorry Fernando, but you can’t have the FIA baby you and need your faster teammate the last 2 races keep moving over for you and yet still complain about a phantom yellow flag. You lost, be grateful and go away until next year and try again then.

    • David Myers

      He wasn’t the only person who mentioned the debris on the track, and the fact that Rosberg picked up a puncture after running over it more than torpedoes your argument.

  2. ferrari show some class
    Take that anger and develop a faster car for 2013

    Massa and Ferrari earned my respect when Lewis won the title in 2008
    The Fernado era with teammate orders, gearbox changes strikes one as desperation.

  3. John fryer

    Guys, red bull have more power than any team on the grid due to Renault engined cars, every team running engines from Renault pull over for SV, Webber isn’t allowed to race him and when he does his cars breaks, funny that… So before anyone jumps on about Ferrari take a stock f redbull and Renault, they pull all the punches.

    • andrew

      John Fryer, thanks for bringing some sense to this thread. Team orders have always existed, with Ferrari as with Red Bull, and that’s not under discussion in this article. Everyone’s doing it, because it makes sense.

      Ferrari should definitely protest. 1) On the Kobayashi overtake, the footage clearly shows a YELLOW FLAG ABOVE the RED AND YELLOW one. And flags trump lights as per rules (although the lights were yellow, and red & yellow also).
      2) On the Vergne overtake. I can’t see a green flag, can you?
      3) Possibly even on Vettel driving into Senna.

      The sports world seems to collectively be feeling like this is a return to the Senna & Prost days of favouritism from the FIA (and Bernie) towards one driver, and it would be best for the sport of F1 if these obvious violations were taken into account and investigated, before even more fans are lost.

      I’m a Hamilton fan, but it’s pretty sad to watch Alonso being robbed of a championship, purely due to office politics.

    • So so so true John! A quarter of the field were ready to move over for Seb on Sunday. Further, he should have been penalised for cutting on Senna on the opening lap anyway. Anything but a Newey machine would have broken right there. He was LUCKY he made it any further in the race. And very fortunate to not get a drive through. Two other blokes races ended right there.

    • Ferrari have the most power on the grid, don’t kid yourself otherwise.

      RE: Webbers car breaking, Vettel suffers with the same issues, it’s just that Vettel often has his issues in practice sessions rather than the race. It’s luck of the draw. Red Bull clearly gave both drivers equal equipment this season (again) and they were allowed to race each other. Even at the start of the final GP Webber squeezed Vettel into turn 1. If Webber got anything less he’d have left, he made it clear he wanted equal equipment and an equal chance to win. He’s got that, but his team mate is a faster driver, that’s why he wins more often.

      RE: Yellow flags:
      On Kobi: Pass made when the static yellow slippery track light was on. LEGAL.
      On Vergne: Pass made after a marshalls waved green flag. LEGAL.

      End of story.

      • If you really think Ferrari have the most power on the grid instead RBR, I don’t know what kind of F1 championship have you been watching.
        All the reprimands to Vettel were a joke, I’m shamed about the FIA decisions. The F1 is not a sport, is just business and RBR is FIA’s greater sponsor.

    • Just to add to my post; wasn’t it a Renault powered Williams that hit Vettel on the opening lap? I believe your myths are debunked.

    • Michael S

      “Webber is not allowed to race” hmmm let’s go back 3 races when he was second on the grid and in line for an easy victory until he messed up the start for the 1000th time, and got passed by Alonso, and Button during race, then caused 2 wrecks during the race. I love when people like you claim RB would sabatoge one of their cars? Every point counts and their in not a team on the grid that would ever send a driver out hoping his car would break down. Webber fans love to hold on to the hope that their man is tied down and not allowed to win the title. The reality is Mark is a good driver, but has a great teammate.

  4. Ferrari is trying to lose any glimmer of respect. No matter what, we don’t decide the championship after the checkered flag has waved – that would be insane.

  5. Allan

    The screen capture above does not really show whether the flag being waved was actually green or yellow. It looks grey to me.

  6. John Costello

    Come on everyone, this is the way of f1. Every time there’s a possible infraction, the other teams are falling over each other to notify the officials, it IS part of the game. Like John Fryer mentions above, there are numerous convoluted relationships in play all the time. Seb plays backgammon with Bernie, that one raised my eyebrows!
    They all push the rules past the limit, this year Newey won on his blown diffuser idea & lost on his engine mapping. In my mind he’s won more than he should’ve, but I’m a Ferarri fan, haha

  7. P.

    Michael S, , Alonso was not the only one asking for SC in radio. Vettel did too.

  8. muzzytt

    I dont get why you seem so upset at the endof the day its the FIA fault not Ferrari! Ferrari are well within there right to appeal we don’t whant a cheat as a F1 champion! The video grab you show is only part of the whole lead up to the incident to the rightofthat image is a big flashing yellow light

  9. David Myers

    At the end of the day, some footage appeared on the internet and Ferrari said to the BBC (who are bound to have asked the question in the first place; why would Ferrari go out of their way to speak to the BBC?) that they are ‘looking at the footage.’ Nothing more.

    As for ‘strange decisions’, don’t you think Alonso was referring to Vettel’s absence of a grid penalty for blocking him in qualifying at Suzuka? Others were penalised for similar offences. Similarly, Vettel’s fastest lap in Abu Dhabi included times when he was running outwith the limits of the track in the final corner (which is against the rules). Again, no penalty.

    Whether Vettel did anything wrong in Brazil and loses the title as a result or not, there were a few strange decisions where he got away with a few things. Fair enough. But this is a classic case of 2+2=5 from what I can see, so the overblown indignation is a bit much.

  10. Chris Yu Rhee

    Just minutes ago the FIA ruled it a legal pass. Thank goodness.

  11. Lots of Ferrari fans! It’s entertaining.

  12. John Costello

    FIA have until Nov. 30 to conclude any investigation (of any race this season, I believe?), unlikely, in my opinion, that they’ll take a decision that would alter the WDC results but it is within their authority & they are obliged to (meaning they must) investigate any & all possible infractions, no matter how it has come to their attention!

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