While leading the race, Vettel made a slight mistake at Turn 3 and had to run across the grass. Upon rejoining the circuit, Lewis Hamilton had to take avoiding action and came on the radio to complain that the Ferrari driver had rejoined the circuit unfairly.
However, the onboard footage revealed that Vettel was still fighting the car as he came back onto the circuit and that, realistically, there was nothing more he could have done. It was a clear racing incident and yet, the stewards took the decision to issue Vettel a five-second penalty for an unsafe rejoin.
That meant that although he crossed the line first at the end of the 70 laps, he was demoted to second as Hamilton took the win, much to Vettel’s fury. After saying “you need to be an absolute blind man to think you can go through the grass and then control the car”, Vettel decided not to drive to parc ferme and instead stopped at the beginning of the pit lane and went back to his motorhome, seemingly intending on skipping the podium ceremony as a protest. The, realising this could result in further penalties, he reluctantly made his way to the rostrum – but not before heading to parc ferme, putting the P2 board in front of Hamilton’s car and the P1 board in front of the empty space where his car should have been.
It was an incredible piece of drama, but it doesn’t change the fact that the stewarding decision not only destroyed what had been a very good race, but was completely and utterly wrong. That’s not just the opinion of Vettel or indeed this writer, but of the vast majority of fans, pundits, and racing drivers. A quick scan on Twitter reveals the extent to which many disagreed with the decision.
Hamilton almost looked embarrassed to have won the grand prix in such a way, while Vettel actually dealt with his fury in an incredibly mature way, repeatedly making it clear that any negativity should be directed to those who make the decisions and not those who benefit from them.
Sebastian may have lost the race, but the biggest defeat is surely the one the sport has inflicted on itself with a bad decision at a time when it could have really used a win.
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