2019 Japanese GP: Vettel’s false start

The stewards present at the 2019 Japanese Grand Prix had a terrible day in Suzuka. The lack of consistency seen in the enforcement of the rules was present again on Sunday. Did Sebastian Vettel deserve a penalty for a false start? Let’s analyze the facts.

The decision

The Stewards reviewed video evidence and the jump-start report based on the
information from the FIA approved and supplied transponder fitted to each car.
Whilst the video shows some movement that movement was within the acceptable
tolerance of the F1 jump start system which formerly defines a jump start per Article
36.13(a) of the FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations.

The Stewards

The decision is pretty clear. The stewards acknowledged that there was movement, but that apparently it was within the acceptable tolerance of the F1 jump start system. They quoted the Article 36.13(a) of the FIA F1 Sporting Regulations as a source for their decision.

Either of the penalties under Articles 38.3c) or d) will be imposed on any driver who is judged
to have :
a) Moved before the start signal is given, such judgement being made by an FIA approved
and supplied transponder fitted to each car, or ;
b) Positioned his car on the starting grid in such a way that the transponder is unable to
detect the moment at which the car first moved from its grid position after the start
signal is given.

FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations - Article 36.13

The rule is quite vague, as usual with Formula 1 rules. While the article states that the judgement would be made by an FIA approved and supplied transponder fitted to each car, it doesn’t say anything about an “acceptable tolerance”. To make things worse, the article is completely nonsensical. The judgement cannot be made by a transponder, only by the stewards, based on the data provided by a transponder.

The video

I’ll let you be the judges here. The video of Vettel’s start is quite conclusive. Sebastian definitely had a false start, moving approximately 280 milliseconds before the lights went off.

Some people speculated that a false start penalty was not givem because Seb stopped before the lights went off. That is completely false. The video shows that Vettel’s car kept moving for another 280 milliseconds after the lights went off, before coming to a complete stop.

Even if that were the case, it makes no difference. Rules say absolutely nothing about moving and stopping. The rule says that a penalty will be imposed on any driver who is judged to have moved before the start signal is given. To my understanding, this means that if a driver moves before the lights go off, then that is a penalty.

Final remarks

An incredibly poor day of officiating we just saw in Suzuka. Even if we not consider all the other controversial decisions made by the stewards, just this false start is enough to say that they did a very poor job on Sunday.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that people like Tom Kristensen are highly capable, but their job on Sunday was completely unacceptable.

Having extremely vague rules just adds to the controversy.  A false start, for example, is a black or white type of decision. Either the driver moved the car before the lights went off, or he didn’t. There should be no in between. In fact, there is no in between. There’s no such thing like a “partially false start”.

If the transponder is so insensitive that it cannot detect movement that is clearly visible while looking at the video, then they should get a better transponder, one that actually gets the job done.

I hope that you have enjoyed this article. Let me know if the video and analysis makes sense to you. If you have any questions or comments, just let me know in the comments section below.

2 Comments

  1. Joselo

    You also have to realize that while he DID move before the red lights – his car came to a full stop and we could argue that he rolled backwards just very very slightly. So whatever advantage he had was lost.

    This isnt Maldonado on Spa 2012. He lost the position to Bottas in the first 120 meters and he didn’t have THAT good of a start.

    So why penalize him? He awarded a penalty himself, that’s maybe why the FIA says “.. the video shows some movement that movement was within the acceptable tolerance of the F1 jump start system”

    The movement could arguably be “outside” of FIA limits, but he was on a full stop while everybody else was moving.

    Reply
    • admin

      Hi Joselo

      My issue is not that he gained, or didn’t gain, an advantage. My main problem is that there is a lack of clarity regarding the rules. In this case, the rules do not say anything about the tolerance or how much movement is tolerated before the lights go off. With Kimi, apparently the movement was outside the limits, while with Vettel it wasn’t.

      People say that Vettel’s case was different because he stopped before the lights went off, but the video clearly shows that this is not true. In this case, we have to assume that the only difference is the amount of movement that the car had before the lights went off.

      Vettel may have hurt himself in the process, but the lack of clarity in the rule makes people wonder about the legitimacy of that certain rule. With these ambiguous rules, it is easy to understand why people distrust the FIA and their decisions. The lack of progress regarding the application of the rules is still concerning, and in my opinion, this is unacceptable after the amount of time and money that is invested in the sport.

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Send this to a friend