2019 Canadian GP: Vettel’s incident – Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Thank you everyone for your nice (and not so nice) comments. Your encouragement helps me to keep this blog going, and I appreciate your criticism since it helps me to keep improving.

I decided to do a frequently asked questions about the incident from Sunday. The idea is to answer some of the most common questions, this time not about the rules, but about car speed, handling, among a couple of other things.

Before you start reading, the telemetry images are at the bottom of the page. Some of the information from the FAQ allude to the images, so take a look at them when pertinent.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

  • ┬áDid Vettel took the corner faster than during previous laps?
    • Yes, but not by much. I do not have the data for the entire race, but I analyzed lap 46, lap 47 and lap 48 and saw minor differences. In lap 46, Vettel was going at 245 km/h before starting to slow down, while in lap 47 he was doing 247 km/h. In the fatidic lap 48, he was doing 248 km/h.
  • Was Vettel wrong to keep pressing the throttle when he left the track in lap 48?
    • This is a little bit harder to answer. Normally when going into a curve, braking hard will move the weight towards the front of the car. This means that front tires will have more weight on them, but also that rear tires will have less weight. This phenomenon can cause either understeer or oversteer. In Vettel’s case, the rear tires were too light, and they lost traction with the track.
      In this case, lifting the foot off the throttle completely, could result in more weight moving towards the front of the car, and therefore, making the rear of the car even more unstable.
      As you can see by the telemetry, Vettel was not gaining speed while going through the grass, he was losing it, even though he was slightly pressing the throttle. So no, he did not make a mistake by slightly pressing the throttle down while he left the track.
  • Then there is no mistake, he did the right thing. Is that correct?
    • Well, not really. Losing the car into turn 3 was a mistake. The car played a role, no doubt about it. Perhaps the tires had slightly less grip than the previous lap. Perhaps that extra 1 km/h that Vettel was carrying made the difference. Or maybe he pressed the brake pedal slightly later than usual. The point is that getting out of the track was indeed a mistake.
  • What about when he rejoined the track, was he still doing the right thing?
    • He did the right thing while he was on the grass. The issue that he had is that once he rejoined the track, the car went over the kerbs, which caused instability.
      While going over the kerbs, the front tires lost traction for a second. This was no problem, Vettel managed to keep the car in the correct direction. However, once the rear tires went over the kerbs, they “jumped” for a second. When that happened, the rear tires completely lost traction, but they were still spinning. Once they regained traction, they were spinning too fast (remember that Vettel was still pressing the throttle down), and caused the car to snap. Vettel had to correct by using counter-steering, but because of this, he ended up right on the racing line. Keeping the throttle down while “jumping” over the kerbs was not necessarily the best action.
  • Why did Seb lost control of the car once he rejoined the track, was not he managing the balance of the car?
    • Yes, but it all changed once he went over the kerbs. In this case, keeping the throttle down actually was worse for the balance. The car went from having no traction in the rear wheels, to having traction instantly, and the car went from not accelerating (remember, he was losing speed) to suddenly accelerating and having a sudden burst of speed.
      You can clearly see in the last image what happened. Around second 5, Vettel rejoined the track. This caused a sudden burst in acceleration and speed, which caused the weight to shift towards the front of the car. Consequently, this caused rear instability, a snap of oversteer, and him having to brake and do counter steering maneuvers in order to correct the trajectory.
      Unfortunately for Seb, keeping the throttle down to 25% while jumping the kerbs, was not the right decision.
  • So, is Seb then a bad driver as many people are saying?
    • Not at all. In my opinion, Vettel is one of the best drivers of the planet. He is a 4 time F1 champion, a legend of the sport. What happened in Canada was extremely hard to manage, even for a driver of Seb’s caliber. Losing control of the car, going onto the grass, jumping over the kerbs, and rejoining a track, all while trying to maintain position, is extremely hard. Sebastian did a great job just by keeping the car away from the wall and preventing it from spinning around.
  • What was the exact argument for a penalty?
    • The stewards wrote the following in the Stewards Decision Document #42: “The stewards reviewed video evidence and determined that Car 5,left the track at turn 3, rejoined the track at turn 4 in an unsafe manner and forced car 44 off track. Car 44
      had to take evasive action to avoid a collision.” This was the official argument given by the stewards when awarding the penalty.
  • What about the slow-mo review that Motorsport reported?
    • Well, this is information reported by a journalist, Jonathan Noble. He reported, among other things, that “A further reason the stewards established was through the use of an extra CCTV camera view of the incident, which was not broadcast on the international feed, showing Vettel’s head looking in the mirrors at where Hamilton was during these moments when he was releasing the wheel to the right.”
  • So, the stewards then determined that Vettel did it on purpose. Do you agree with that?
    • I do not know if that report is true or not. It is not what the stewards wrote in their official document. If the report is accurate, then no, I do not agree with that decision. I cannot say for sure whether he impeded Hamilton on purpose or not. I wish I could, but with the data that I have, which admittedly, it not the same data that the stewards have, I cannot agree with that statement.
  • So, to summarize, was the penalty rightly awarded?
    • In my opinion yes. Not because Vettel blocked Hamilton on purpose, but because the end result ended up being the same regardless of the intention. Vettel did end up blocking Lewis, and if it were not for Lewis’ reactions, they would have crashed. This is a textbook example of rejoining the track unsafely.
      All that has been said about the slow-motion, Vettel looking at the mirrors, among other things, is something that I do not agree with. If the stewards awarded the penalty because they think that Sebastian blocked Lewis on purpose, then I think they got the decision right, but for the wrong reasons. If they awarded the penalty just because Seb blocked Hamilton, regardless of intention, then I believe they made the right call for the right reasons.


Final remarks

I hope that I have helped you to understand some of the things that happened during the incident, and why judging and making decision on these types of incidents, is so hard.

As I have said, I do believe that the penalty was awarded, since rejoining the track unsafely is indeed against the rules. The intention in this case is not relevant, the end result is the same.

As others have said, perhaps these types of penalties go against the spirit of the sport, but at the end of the day, it does not go against the spirit of the rules. The people that make the decisions in F1 must carefully balance both, and this is not an easy task. Hopefully, they will be able to reach a middle ground that satisfies both drivers and spectators alike.

Let me know what you think in the comments below, and once again, thanks for your support.


  1. Stf

    The problem is: why in monaco 16 the decision was different?

    • admin

      Hello Stf

      It is a pretty different incident if you ask me, for a few different reasons.

      1) In Canada, Vettel left the track, and rejoined the racing line by the time Hamilton was about to overtake him. The stewards penalized him because he, and I quote, “rejoined the track at turn 4 in an unsafe manner and forced car 44 off track. Car 44 had to take evasive action to avoid a collision.”
      In Monaco, Lewis left the track, and immediately rejoined it. By the time Ricciardo was in position to overtake, Lewis was already over the racing line.

      2) The rules state, and I quote again, “Unless it is clear to the stewards that a driver was wholly or predominantly to blame for an incident no penalty will be imposed.”
      In Monaco 2016, the conditions were quite bad. Monaco is really hard just because of the way it is, and with a wet track, the stewards will usually be a little bit more passive with handing penalties out.

      I believe that this incident in Canada is a lot more similar to the incident with Verstappen and Raikkonen in Suzuka 2018.

      In that race, Verstappen lost the car in turn 16 I believe. At the moment he rejoined the track, Kimi was already there, and had to steer away from Max in order to avoid a collision. In that incident, Max was also awarded a 5 second penalty.

      The main difference is that in Canada and Suzuka, the incident was of a driver rejoining the track unsafely, while in Monaco, the incident was one of a block, not necessarily an unsafe rejoin. A blocking move is a lot harder to judge than an unsafe rejoin, at least in my mind. I have to guess, and this is pure speculation, that the stewards considered the poor track conditions in Monaco as well, and because of this, it is not that hard to see why he was not awarded a penalty.

      Have a nice day.


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