F1 controversy: Hamilton just as much to blame for Vettel’s penalty?

Image: Mark Thompson/Getty Images
Image: Mark Thompson/Getty Images
Mark Thompson

Could the penalty that's marred the 2019 Canadian GP have been avoided? Wheels24 correspondent Charlen Raymond reflects on the controversial penalty.

The 2019 Canadian GP delivered so many talking points; no less the one regarding Ferrari ace Sebastian Vettel’s controversial penalty.

By now everyone should have a clear indication or idea on what’s transpired and that many believe the Ferrari driver was "robbed" of victory after rejoining the race in what was deemed an unsafe manner according to race stewards.

Perhaps to a degree it was unsafe but could the actions of a fellow racer have prevented the race from being a huge controversy?

And yes, I am referring to Lewis Hamilton who ultimately grabbed Mercedes' seventh victory on the trot this season thanks to the penalty imposed on Vettel. And the irony of it all? Hamilton could have possibly passed Vettel on the racetrack after the incident, taken pole position cleanly, and traded all the boos and jeers for cheers and ‘Lewis! Lewis!’ chants.

Both drivers had their own part to play in the now politically driven outcome but a simple action, one thought-out moment could have ended the race under a cloud of sportsmanship.

Vettel loses it

On the 48th lap of the Canadian Grand Prix Hamilton was putting pressure on Vettel. Vettel lost the rear of his car for a brief moment. This meant he had to take evasive action across the grass and rejoin the track.

But when he rejoined, Hamilton was next to him and the two drivers narrowly avoided a collision. Vettel retained first position ahead of Hamilton but the Mercedes driver was immediately on the radio telling his team that Vettel rejoined the track in a dangerous manner. Soon after Vettel received a notification that he has been handed a five-second penalty.

Unsurprisingly, race-leader Vettel was furious! 

READ: Ferrari pushing ahead with Vettel penalty appeal

After the race, finishing in second place behind Hamilton due to the penalty, Vettel left his car in parc ferme, and stormed off towards the race stewards’ office demanding answers. He did not participate in post-race interviews but he did share in the podium celebrations. Not that there was much to celebrate. Oh, and in his anger he walked over to Hamilton’s car and swapped the first place sign with the second place sign where his car was supposed to be.

And yes, the crowd loved it.

What about Hamilton?

Did Hamilton force Vettel into an error? Did you put pressure on his rival and force him to lose control of his Ferrari? Maybe or maybe not - Hamilton could have avoided all the drama if he been more cautious.

When he saw Vettel leave the track, Hamilton opted to push the throttle a bit more and go through corners at speed. Now, if we apply real-world conditions and had the incident occurred on a public road, a clear-thinking driver would have let up in an attempt to avoid a potential crash. I get it: racing is racing, aggression is part of the sport. Hamilton however knows that Vettel is just as competitive as he is and just like his rival would not give up the position that easily.

Instead, what Hamilton should have done, was to lift off the throttle for a brief moment, and then take the inside line to pass Vettel. The incident would have left Hamilton less than 0.4 seconds behind Vettel and with the help of the two DRS zones he would have been in a prime position to pass the Ferrari driver along the long back straight.

READ: F1 remains split over Vettel penalty controversy

Hamilton would have stuck the move, passed Vettel cleanly, and been praised for his "race craft and ability to see an opportunity and take it". But racers don’t always think like that. If there’s a gap to be taken... they're going to take it, regardless of the danger. 

The aftermath of the 2019 Canadian GP is still with us as Ferrari hopes to overturn the decision and the jury (the public, F1 pundits) are still at odds at to whether or the penalty fair. Fact is, had Hamilton bide his time, the headlines would have painted him as the de facto 2019 champion.

We asked our readers what they thought of Vettel's penalty below:

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