The bitter taste of champagne


The race in Montreal completed a third of the season. The fight for leadership in the championship continues between both Mercedes drivers. Although, many people had hoped that this season Sebastian Vettel from Ferrari could show his all of his strengths and have an equal fight with Lewis Hamilton. How realistic is that?

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Ferrari didn’t bring the 2019 season very confidently, but Sebastian Vettel did appear on the podium from time to time. During the Formula 1 race in Canada, the seventh in a row, Ferrari’s progress in practice was the same as in Bahrain. Is this the return? Is that an application for the podium?

Saturday’s qualification brought many impressions and surprises for Formula 1 fans, and Ferrari fans experienced a special joy because Sebastian Vettel took the pole position, which was the first for the German driver this season, and the second for the team.

Drivers fought a fierce battle in the third segment of the qualification. Hamilton was faster than anyone else was, even two-tenths faster than Vettel, but the German driver set a new record and took the pole.

Vettel noted: “I’m full of adrenaline! It’s so cool when it all works out – you feel the car, you fight for pole. It’s a real pleasure! It’s clear that Mercedes will fight, but we will try to get ahead of them.”

It’s also clear that after such a great qualification everyone hoped to see the same exciting race. The battle between Mercedes and Ferrari definitely had to take place, because, according to the pace of the drivers, both World Champions seemed very strong.

Seb started very well, he kept the lead throughout the race and looked just fine. Throughout all 70 laps, the German driver was confident in his long-awaited victory. Lewis Hamilton was behind the whole time, and Charles Leclerc closed the top three from time to time showing the best time.

But the key point of the race for Vettel occurred a few laps before the finish. He made a mistake, and found himself out of the track, almost bumping into Hamilton. Lewis managed to slow down and avoid the accident, but later the stewards gave a five-second penalty to Seb, considering that he returned to the track in an unsafe way, to put it mildly.

If you think the rules aren’t perfect and we need tougher races, feel free to sign me up as one of your supporters.

Toto Wolff

Thus, the winner of the race was the British driver, despite the fact that he was not the first one to cross the line. As if this wasn’t enough, Vettel received two penalty points. Some called it a controversial end to the race, others stated that this was an appropriate outcome – call it what you like, it sure stirred up the Formula 1 pot and gave us a few well-deserved conversation topics. Let’s look at a few.

Many drivers, journalists, and fans stood up for Vettel, saying that the penalty was not fair, and they gave examples of many similar cases in different years. Most of those people have noted that Formula 1 rules don’t allow drivers to race and fans can’t see a really interesting race.

Australian driver Daniel Riccardo expressed the opinion that the stewards of the Canadian GP acted inconsistently. Riccardo recalled that three years ago at the Monaco Grand Prix Lewis Hamilton didn’t receive a penalty despite his very similar actions: “Lewis didn’t have much room, but still enough. I had an identical situation with Lewis in 2016, in Monte Carlo. He had to drive on the side of the road, I was right behind him, and he almost pushed me into the wall. In my opinion, that situation was more dangerous than what happened today. Then, he didn’t get any penalty. But it was normal, just the fight was tough.”

Jenson Button, Formula 1 World Champion of 2009, said: “Two great champions fought on the track. And then the stewards took it away from the audience. After this, it is impossible not to feel sadness and disappointment. I’m sorry about what happened. In my opinion, there was an ordinary racing incident. Vettel made a mistake, but in this situation, it is impossible to stop the car. I don’t think Sebastian deserved a penalty. But the stewards made a decision based on the rules.”

Someone thought the judges were right.

Nico Rosberg, who won the championship in 2016, stated in his blog: “Is Vettel guilty? I am sure that someone will not like my opinion, but I will say the following: I want Vettel to do his job perfectly, and I wish him victories and an interesting fight with Lewis for the title because we all want to see it. I wanted Vettel to succeed – that would be great. But it turned out as usual. When Vettel fights with Hamilton, and he feels the pressure, this leads to mistakes being made. In Canada, he made a mistake again. The pressure was getting stronger with each lap – and Sebastian flew off the track, and then returned to it. He shouted on the radio: “I have dirty tires! I can’t control the car! Where could I go? I never saw Lewis!” All right. He knew Lewis was there. The rules are: when the driver flies off the track, he must return there without posing a threat to his rivals. And Vettel went diagonally! In this case, he deserved a penalty.”

Toto Wolff, CEO of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, said: “It is clear that we would like to win on the track [and not in the stewards’ office]. But, in my opinion, it is very difficult for them to make decisions that would suit everyone. It is not necessary to put pressure on the stewards, as thus we will only complicate their work in the future. They must be supported. Sometimes the decision is in your favour, sometimes against you. We have also been punished in the past.” He then added: “I think the penalty was in line with the rules. And the stewards ruled on the law. If you think the rules aren’t perfect and we need tougher races, feel free to sign me up as one of your supporters. Then they will make other decisions. Let’s work on the rules in anticipation of their changes to the season of 2021.”

It’s not difficult to guess how Sebastian Vettel reacted to his defeat. After a lost victory due to a penalty, he refused to park his car under the podium and be part of the traditional interview after the finish. Instead, the German driver stopped at the entrance to the pit lane and hurried to the motorhome of Ferrari. He went to the room of stewards to express his dissatisfaction. But after all this, he came to the podium and called the fans not to boo Lewis Hamilton.

“This has nothing to do with Lewis,” Vettel explained. “Of course, I understand that people were unhappy, and I was not happy with this decision. But it has nothing to do with Lewis. It’s just not nice to have people booing at you, so I stood up for him. I think we respect each other, and he had nothing to do with it.” As for the race, the driver said: “First of all, I liked the race and the fans. I believe that today we deserved to win. That is our opinion, but not everyone thinks so. The race was great. I was supported on every lap. In the second turn, I had no time to look around, but in the tenth turn I looked at the stands – there were so many fans in red! I am very pleased with this support. We want our sport to stay popular, don’t we? And such decisions… the audience wants to see our fights. I hope the audience will come again to the race. This is important. We can build these amazing machines and put on a show. It is a pity that there are such strange solutions.”

During the weekend of the Canadian Grand Prix, it became clear that the situation with the harmonisation of the rules of Formula 1 for the season of 2021 is far from the settlement. It has been complicated by the fact that not all teams agree with the postponement of the approval of the regulations. Such a delay was initially expected only in respect of technical issues, but it became known that the participants of the championship are asked to postpone decisions on other issues related to sporting and financial rules.

Therefore, the FIA will convene another meeting of the teams to agree on the Formula 1 regulations for 2021.

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