Ferrari now team to beat

2012-07-28 15:02

The Formula One fraternity is in Hungary today for the final round of the championship before the month-long summer break.

It’s an appropriate time for a half-time analysis of the season. Jenson Button’s second place at Hockenheim last weekend may have eased the pressure on McLaren but the team are still way off where they’d like to be mid-season.

There is a tough development battle going on. Right now you have to say Ferrari is the most improved and looking like the team to beat.

Fernando Alonso did a great job in winning Hockenheim and cementing his championship lead.

Red Bull improved too, with Mark Webber clinching Silverstone for his second win of the season, with Sebastien Vettel a constant threat.

However, Vettel’s home race turned into a nightmare just hours after the race, when he was handed a 20-second time penalty for his illegal pass on Button during the closing stages of the race.

Vettel had finished the event in second, but the addition of the penalty pushed him to fifth.

Stewards have the power to impose penalties on a driver if he commits any of the following offences during a race:
» Jumping the start;

» Causing an avoidable accident;

» Unfairly blocking another driver;

» Impeding another driver when being lapped;

» Speeding in the pit lane; or

» Gaining an advantage by leaving the track.

Vettel was found guilty of the last one, but the stewards found it difficult to decide on a fair sentence to impose.

The two most common types of punishments are a drive-through penalty or a 10-second time penalty.

For the former, a driver must enter the pits, drive through the pit lane at a designated speed limit and rejoin the race without stopping.

Depending on the length of the pit lane, this can cost a driver significant time.

More severe is the 10-second time penalty (commonly known as a stop-go), where the driver must not only enter the pits, but must also stop for 10 seconds at his pit before rejoining the race.

During this time, the driver’s team is not permitted to work on the car. In both cases, a driver normally has three laps from the time his team is notified to enter the pits or face seeing a black flag and disqualification.

The only exception is when the penalty is awarded during the final five laps of the race, which was the case with the German when he gained an advantage after leaving the track at the exit of the hairpin while attempting to overtake Button in lap 66.

In this case, the driver may continue and complete the race, but a penalty will be added onto his total race time, which may hurt him considerably in the final race standings.

The stewards in this case elected to give Vettel a drive-through penalty, which translated to those 20 seconds.

» Follow me on Twitter @zwelethunondumo

Hungarian Grand Prix

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