After the Japanese Grand Prix race stewards handed reprimands to Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso for respective infractions.
Vettel’s race could not get much worse after engine problems at the Suzuka all but killed off his title hopes, but stewards reprimanded him anyway for missing the national anthem before the race.
The German failed to turn up on time for the Japanese anthem, perhaps caused by the commotion around his car as mechanics hurried to fix a spark-plug problem.
The stewards reported: “Sebastian Vettel was not at the National Anthem ceremony at the time scheduled. This reprimand has not been imposed for a driving infringement.”
The non-driving reprimand for the rules breach, as opposed to one handed out for something that happened on the track, was his first of the season.
Vettel lasted only four laps of the race before the unresolved issue forced him to retire, a setback that left Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton 59 points clear at the top with four races remaining.
Alonso received two penalty points for not adhering to blue-flag rules correctly whilst being lapped by Max Verstappen who was chasing down race leader Lewis Hamilton late on during the race in Japan.
Alonso was in his own battle for tenth with Williams driver Felipe Massa, the Spaniard eventually finishing 11th and out of the points.
The stewards reported: “The Stewards examined video evidence, positioning data and heard from Fernando Alonso, the driver of car 14 and the team representative.”
“Alonso was shown a solid blue indicator light on his dash and waved blue flags between Turn 14 and Turn 15 on Lap 51. He also had received a flashing blue light informing him that race leader Lewis Hamilton was closing on him for over a lap before. Alonso let Hamilton pass during lap 52 at Turn 11.”
“The drivers have been told in drivers’ briefings that the provisions of the International Sporting Code, that they “must allow the following car to pass at the earliest opportunity” means that they should do this for lapping cars regardless of their current battle. Stewards concluded that Alonso did not do this.”
“Alonso noted in the hearing that there was an opportunity allow Hamilton to pass on the front straight, but not thereafter until Turn 11. The Stewards accepted that there are limited safe places to let a car past between Turns 2 and 9 which contributed to the length of time it took to allow Hamilton past.”
“In applying the penalty, the Stewards compared this incident to other similar incidents and considered that while a breach, this was less severe than others and that when he did move over he gave plenty of room, and subsequently to Verstappen. The Stewards therefore applied a Reprimand (Driving) and 2 penalty points.”
There are two types of reprimand, for driving and non-driving offences, with three reprimands in a season triggering an automatic 10-place grid penalty for the next race.
The penalty, however, is only imposed if at least two of the three reprimands were for a driving infringement.