F1 must be first to set an example

Sky Sports F1's Martin Brundle on why it was right for F1 to set an example by penalising Sebastian Vettel after the German GP, why the podium ceremony had to go ahead immediately, and why Fernando Alonso's lead is beginning to look ominious for the rest of the field...

Last Updated: 23/07/12 2:52pm

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There will have been hundreds, probably thousands, of overtaking moves completed in all categories of motor sport on the run-off area at the exit of the turn six hairpin in Hockenheim since the new track layout was completed in 2002. It has become an accepted piece of race track to be used, just like when all the drivers swoop in and out of the pit-lane in Sao Paulo, or more recently the wide exit area into the new Club corner on the Silverstone Arena GP circuit.


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The bottom line here is that there must be a totally new, strong, and consistent initiative to control the use of increasingly generous run-off areas throughout the whole of motor sport. Starting with F1. The drivers, fans and media need to know where it all stands.

Opinions are like noses, everbody's got one. Vettel's post-race penalty has inevitably raised many different views. My immediate one in commentary, knowing the corner from behind the wheel, was that he would get away with it, just like when he completed a move in Melbourne by running wide between turns four and five. But with more time, thought, camera angles and information I agree with the penalty decision.

As soon as Vettel was able to open the steering angle and apply the throttle earlier (for me the comparative condition of their tyres was irrelevant) then Vettel had an unfair advantage because he clearly intended to run off the track. Button didn't force him wide and did leave enough space for him to keep two wheels inside the white lines although traction there would be limited by kerbing.

As Sebastian and Red Bull began working on all the reasons and excuses for the move, they would have been better yielding the position and maybe grabbing it back before the end. If they had only been penalised just enough to reverse the positions this wouldn't have been a real penalty, rather simply ensuring it's always worth taking the risk as there is nothing to lose.

I've had many tweets asking why the podium procedure wasn't delayed until we knew the answer from the stewards' investigation. Global TV schedules - only SkyF1 has a dedicated channel - mean that you would certainly have missed it live. The podium must immediately follow the race as 99% of the time there is no issue, and the Stewards must have time to properly assess the situation and use all of the data and footage available. Rushed and challenged decisions would be even worse.

Other tweeters have asked 'what happens to the trophy?' If we think back to Brazil 2003 when the race result was overturned, Kimi Raikkonen gave his trophy to Giancarlo Fisichella at the next event. I wonder if we will see another photo call this weekend to redistribute second and third place trophies.

Lewis Hamilton was not 'stupid' to try to unlap himself. If he has the speed he is perfectly entitled to, and with any subsequent safety car he would be right back in the race. If Lewis had then played games and backed people into team-mate Button it would have been a different story, but the blue flag rules would take care of that. In different circumstances, it's not at all unusual for a leader cruising to victory to let back markers through and not to get involved in unnecessary risk.

The Red Bull software issue is so complex that my normal cerebral sources in the paddock struggled to explain it in a bite-sized piece. There were significant additions to the 2012 technical regulations to get rid of exhaust blown diffusers and using the engine gases to alter the aerodynamic performance of the car or to effectively give the driver traction control beyond his own skill and judgement. With today's technology and software the opportunity for different interpretations and applications is immense. The teams will push the boundaries to breaking point and the FIA must find them. Then the regulatory and possibly legal process begins, although it doesn't seem at all smart for Stewards to be debating such complex issues on race morning. Problems like this won't go away, they are part of the intensely competitive nature of F1. They can only be minimised by the FIA or other teams pointing fingers.

The good news is that, at least in the dry, McLaren's upgrades seem to have worked very well. The bad news is that Fernando Alonso is now 34 points clear and looks strong on any track layout in any conditions. If Felipe Massa ever gets up to full speed to be his rear gunner and take points off the challengers then it could be game over.

There is a clearer pattern emerging with Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren as the pace setters, but Mark Webber showed, just two weeks after his great victory at Silverstone, that it's still possible to get it horribly wrong on race day in terms of switching on the tyres.

Let's see what Hungary has to offer us before the summer break. Another victory for Alonso would be ominous for his rivals.


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