Vettel a Victim Of The Inconsistent and Interfering Stewards

Andrew MayesContributor IMarch 31, 2009

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 29:  Sebastian Vettel of Germany and Red Bull Racing is seen before the Australian Formula One Grand Prix at the Albert Park Circuit on March 29, 2009 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

A new season has begun and we have some of the most radical rule changes the sport has ever seen. New cars, new tyres and new aero regulations. Yet one thing remains the same. That is the annoying interference of the race stewards with more unfair, inconsistent and baffling decisions.

Vettel is on the wrong end of a penalty for his collision with Kubica. This was a collision that looked like a fifty fifty racing incident. Martin Brundle, one of the most respected pundits in Formula One described it as that, as have many others. Brundle also said both drivers probably could each have done a bit more to avoid contact.

Yet despite this Kubica goes unpunished and Vettel ends up receiving a penalty. If it was, as many have described, a fifty fifty racing incident, why the penalty for just one of the drivers involved? And in an incident where no clear blame can be attached , why do penalties need to be meted out at all?

Again this is another example of the continued lack of consistency and fairness being shown by the race stewards. If Vettel’s move was worthy of a penalty, then Barrichello’s antics in Turn One must surely also be worthy of a penalty.

There were examples of this unfairness and inconsistency last year. Massa was not penalised for an unsafe release from the pits in Valencia, yet in the infamous Singapore fuel hose incident he received a drive through penalty.

The other irritating aspect aside from the inconsistency, is the blame culture and mentality amongst the stewards. This is highly charged, high pressure, tough motor racing, where the drivers are desperate to beat each other. In this atmosphere, indeed in any form of motor racing, collisions will occur; cars will trip over each other and end up tangling.

Often it is not just one driver’s fault. It is a racing incident. Both drivers are pushing hard and unwilling to compromise much, so collisions occur without it being any one particular driver’s fault as shown on Sunday with Kubica and Vettel. In motor racing these things happen.

But it seems that every time two cars so much as gently tap each other, we have to have an enquiry, lay the blame fully at one driver’s door and then dish out punishment to the “offender”.

The stewards really need to change this mentality which would probably be helped by having input from ex drivers, who will understand that racing incidents occur and that when battling, drivers will trip over each other.

I agree that if a driver does something blatantly stupid, unfair or dangerous then a penalty should be handed out. But looking at the penalties in recent years many have been dished out for what are just racing incidents.

Vettel this weekend for example, Montoya in Malaysia 2002 and also in USA 2003, a penalty which had massive implications for the Championship race that year, are others that spring to mind.

The FIA want to encourage more daring, adventurous and gung ho racing with their proposed scoring revolution. But surely having this blame culture and penalties for racing incidents discourages the driver from trying a daring and aggressive move.

The drivers will think that they can’t try a daring move because if they so much as tap the other car they’ll probably be looking at an enquiry and more often than not face a subsequent penalty.

Fans often love to see hard, aggressive and daring racing. Many fans are also fed up with stewards interfering with the outcome of races and the grid positions of the next races with their often harsh and unfair penalties.

It would therefore be good if maybe the stewards could show more consistency and most of all a little bit more leniency in their decisions. You can’t always lay the majority of the blame for an incident at just one driver.