It’s rapidly becoming clear that the best possible way to incur the wrath of the Formula One stewards is to do something to cause Fernando Alonso’s pulse rate to rise.
Hot on the heels of Romain Grosjean’s suspension for his part in the first corner carnage at Spa, this week it was Sebastian Vettel’s turn to suffer a penalty because he didn’t pull over to scatter rose petals beneath the wheels of the pampered Ferrari driver when he wanted to pass.
While the Grosjean incident almost saw Alonso rendered six inches shorter, and with no further need for a helmet, the Vettel incident was innocuous at best.
The incident occurred as Alonso decided to pass around the outside of Vettel, around Monza's Curva Grande, while Vettel stuck to his normal racing line. Alonso, feeling he was being squeezed, took to the grass and made things look much worse than they needed to be.
As is Alonso’s—and Ferrari’s—style, there was a typically whiny radio message so that the stewards were in no doubt whatsoever that Alonso thought that he’d been wronged.
The stewards got the message and duly handed out a drive-through penalty to Vettel.
The incident was identical—absolutely identical—to what Alonso did to Vettel during last year’s race without penalty.
While the rules have been strengthened since last year, Paul di Resta ran Bruno Senna off the road in the first chicane in this race and the incident wasn’t even investigated.
The full verdict of this incident has yet to be released, but there was a very interesting line in the Spa judgement as reported in TheF1Times.com.
"It eliminated leading championship contenders from the race."
It suggests that the important thing is not whether there’s an infringement but whether contenders are affected.
Was Vettel's penalty justified?
We can probably simplify it further to just say if Alonso is inconvenienced then a penalty applies.
Fortunately, the penalty was a non-issue as Vettel's Red Bull machine lost interest and decided to pull over to the side of the road for a rest, but the penalty could conceivably have affected the outcome of the championship.
While Lewis Hamilton disappeared into the distance to secure a very easy victory over a fast-finishing Sergio Perez, Alonso cruised home in third position but managed to extend his lead in the championship.
It’s looking increasingly likely that Alonso will just go on to take out a surprise championship.
The stewards will just make it a little bit easier.