Vettel relegated to fifth place
Button promoted to second and Raikkonen to third as Vettel suffers penalty for illegal overtake
Last Updated: 23/07/12 11:07am
Sebastian Vettel has been relegated to fifth position - and Jenson Button promoted to second - in the German Grand Prix after stewards imposed a 20-second time penalty on the World Champion for passing his McLaren rival from off the track on the penultimate lap of the race.
Vettel, having lost second place by Button through the final round of pit-stops, attacked his McLaren rival going into the closing laps and on lap 66, with his DRS overtaking device engaged, went for the pass into the turn six hairpin.
With Button defending the inside line, Vettel attempted to outbrake the McLaren around the outside, and although his rival held the inside line, the German accelerated out of the corner and across the run-off apron to gain the position.
"Having looked at it, I would absolutely penalise Vettel and put him back behind Jenson. But it is so inconsistent because we have seen incidents before where drivers have overtaken off the track and not been given a penalty."
Sky Sports F1's Martin Brundle Quotes of the week
The stewards immediately put the incident under investigation with Button insisting that Vettel had overtaken him from off the track. Sebastian and Red Bull took a different view with the World Champion telling Button in the podium holding area that he had gone wide as he was unsure if the McLaren had still been on his inside.
"Button's point was that 'Vettel would not have overtaken me had he stayed on the circuit," reported Sky Sports F1's Ted Kravitz.
After nearly two hours of deliberations, the Hockenheim stewards concurred, ruling that Vettel had gained an unfair advantage and imposed a 20-second time penalty against the home favourite, dropping him from second place to fifth on the timesheet.
As a further result, Vettel in effect loses eight more points to race-winner Alonso and now trails the Spaniard by forty-four points at the halfway stage of the 2012 season.
"Fact: Car 1 left the track and gained an advantage when he rejoined. The Stewards, having received a report from the Race Director, have considered the following matter, determine a breach of the regulations has been committed by the competitor named below [Sebastian Vettel] and impose the penalty referred to," the statement read.
Button is therefore promoted to second place with Lotus' Kimi Raikkonen inheriting the final podium position and Kamui Kobayashi moving up to fourth for Sauber.
Speaking to Sky Sports F1 while the investigation into the incident was still ongoing, Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner had suggested Vettel had been ahead entering the corner and Button then forced him wide.
"He goes to the outside. Gets clearly ahead and then Jenson runs him out wide and over the kerb. So I think it is unfair to say he got an unfair advantage from that, it was a racing incident," argued the Red Bull boss.
"If you slow the camera down to the point that Sebastian leave the track you will see clearly that he is ahead.
"Jenson is actually wheel spinning out of the corner, he has no grip. Sebastian has jinked around him. I think it would be very harsh to penalise him."
Sky Sports F1's pundits Martin Brundle, Damon Hill and Johnny Herbert agreed with McLaren's interpreation of events, however, and said they expected the stewards to impose a penalty on Vettel.
But Martin also added that there was some inconsistency on the ruling of such incidents.
"Having looked at it seen more of it, I would absolutely penalise Vettel and put him back behind Jenson," he said. "But it is so inconsistent because we have seen incidents before where drivers have overtaken off the track and not been given a penalty, including Vettel in Australia against Button.
"You'd hope that there isn't such a thing as penalty-free run-off area here at Hockenheim but he's actually gained the position by flooring it and using the run-off."
Sky Sports F1's Damon Hill Quotes of the week
"I don't see it as the same incident as Hamilton and Rosberg in Bahrain as Rosberg was defending very aggressively and running Lewis off the track - in fact they have now changed the rules on that. I think in that one Rosberg was being a little bit naughty."
The Sky Sports F1 pundit also suggested Hockenheim's copious run-off areas were encouraging drivers to run off the road.
"I think Jenson left him enough room to keep two wheels on the track, but, the problem is here, I have done races here before and it completely normal to overtake there, as it is in GP2 as it has been in Formula 1. It has become sort of an acceptable area and that affects your mind set," Martin added.
"But we are getting too much of this now, and because of the way they are developing tracks, getting rid of gravel and giving drivers this room to breathe they have to do something."