Vettel Penalty: Who said what?

The penalty that Sebastian Vettel received in Canada has triggered a major debate in the world of Formula 1, as many lament the over-regulation of the sport as was so candidly exposed during what might have been a riveting race in Montreal until it was cut short.

The incident has kicked the proverbial hornet’s nest and deeply divided our community with world champions flinging barbs both ways and just about everyone including housewives with an opinion on the matter.


One could launch hundreds of reports with the feast of quotes that abound on just about every modern soapbox there is – including this site. Ferrari have signalled their intent to appeal and have until Thursday (13 June) to do so.

Therefore for the sake of housekeeping, we will keep updating this post with the soundbites of who-said-what in this saga:

Emanuele Pirro: “As a fan of motorsport and of Ferrari in particular, I am sorry that the race ended like this. As you can well understand, it is not easy to take certain decisions but the sports’ integrity must come before everything else,”

Sebastian Vettel:Where am I supposed to go? This is a wrong world, this is not fair. They’re stealing this race from us.”

Lewis Hamilton:I watched the slow motion, it’s obviously very tight, what I can say is that if I was a leader and I made a mistake and went off, I probably would have done the same thing. It’s happening so fast, and you’re just trying to keep the position, and when I say I would have done the same thing, I would have tried to squeeze it too. In the end, that’s what happened.”

Mattia Binotto:We are not happy. From our perspective, he could have not done anything else and he was even lucky to remain on track. No intention in what he did, he was still ahead and he tried to keep his position and simple as that. We disagree with the decision but we all may have our own opinion.”

Toto Wolff:The stewards up there need to be people that need to be supported. There is Emanuele up there, it doesn’t go any more professional and experienced than Emanuele. I think they’ve looked at the incident and that needs to be respected.
We shouldn’t ignite it even more. I think the five seconds was a bit lenient. We didn’t complain about it, you just take it. Sometimes decisions go against you, sometimes they go in your favour.”

Ross Brawn:I can understand how Vettel feels and I know Ferrari intends to appeal the decision. I also know what a difficult job the stewards have, as they have to reach their decision in a very short time, producing a verdict that can affect the outcome of the race. As such, I don’t want to give an opinion on the decision, because in my position it would be wrong to do so.”

Jackie Stewart: “There is certainly room for an appeal because it was a genuine error of judgment by Sebastian. You shouldn’t get punished for an error of judgement, unless you spin and damage the car. The decision by the stewards was rather severe.
When Sebastian came off the grass he had nowhere to go. His car was carrying a huge amount of speed. In my mind, I am 100 per cent sure that he wasn’t blocking Lewis. I am damn sure he didn’t even know where Lewis was in the milliseconds that the incident took place. He had no option but to do what he did.”

Mika Hakkinen: “The one thing I can say for certain about the Sebastian Vettel incident during the Canadian Grand Prix is that I would have done exactly the same thing. So would any racing driver. When something goes wrong, our instinct is to make a fast recovery and keep the other guy behind.
It’s completely normal, and what our competitors expect. However, I do think that the drivers, teams, FIA and Formula 1 itself need to work out how to let drivers race, recognising that sometimes you need to be realistic and think about the sport’s reputation.”

Mario Andretti: “I think the function of the stewards is to penalize flagrantly unsafe moves not honest mistakes as result of hard racing. What happened at #CanadaGp is not acceptable at this level of our great sport.”

Nigel Mansell: “Very very No joy in watching this race, two champions driving brilliantly, will end in a false result.”

Damon Hill: “My personal view is that he could have left more room, but we lost a great final few laps because of the penalty. There was enough doubt to let them carry on. Remember Dijon!”

Jacques Villeneuve: “It’s not a question of letting them race, because ‘let them race’ means people do dirty, stupid stuff. You should never do anything intentionally that forces another driver to back off or put him in danger, that’s one thing.
But you go across a chicane, you get back on the gas as hard as you can, even if it might be risking other drivers, because the guys behind know ‘this guy is in the grass, he’ll probably get sideways, the chances are I’ll be squished… OK, I’ll go for the inside.’ You know it. Lewis did the right thing, he managed to impose a penalty on Vettel. He’s very good at that!”

Jenson Button: “It’s disappointing when there’s a proper fight out on track between two greats, two multiple world champions, and then the stewards are able to come in and take that away from us. It’s a shame. For me, it’s a racing incident. Yes, Seb made a mistake – but you’ve got to realise he’s doing over 100mph here.”

“You can’t just stop the car and stay off the circuit. It doesn’t deserve a penalty, I don’t think. From a racer’s point of view – he had nowhere to go. You don’t choose to be on that part of the circuit and Seb doesn’t want to crash into Lewis either. He’s not in control coming back onto the circuit and it’s not his fault that he couldn’t slow down.”

Nico Rosberg: “He went right, right, all the way there and left hardly any space to Lewis. And so Lewis saw it as a dangerous situation because Vettel was coming more and more, so he had to back out of it. I looked at the replay many, many times.”

“Lewis would have been in the wall had he stayed there because right afterwards Vettel continued to move over more and more and it was so tight that Lewis would have touched either Vettel or the wall. So it is very, very clear that unfortunately, it was an unsafe return to the track. That is the rule. You have to return safely and that is the way it is. A penalty is deserved in that case.”

Max Verstappen: “I don’t think he deserved a penalty. The first mistake was that Seb went off the track but then, I think when he rejoined, he didn’t do anything. He was not purposely blocking Lewis. He did everything he could to do it in a safe way, so I think why they gave him the penalty was wrong. Of course, it’s Vettel’s mistake that he goes off the track – but he didn’t do anything weird coming back on because you have dirt on your tyres, and you come back on you’re sliding.”

“At one point you see him looking in the mirror but then the damage was already done, he recovered the car and there was no space. I think in general if you are going to give penalties like that why don’t you just put a wall there, because then if he makes a mistake the race is over for him.”

David Coulthard: “I don’t agree with their decision. Putting yourself inside the cockpit and I can just about remember what it is like at that corner. I have been across that grass. He made a mistake and the unforced error was there and Lewis got himself in a position to potentially take the lead.”

“But an unforced error in Monaco doesn’t mean that you get the lead because there is barriers. The unforced error led to the fact there was a concrete wall so there was no way past. I just don’t think five seconds is the right thing. Whatever happened to racing? We find ourselves subduing the racing with all these penalties.”

Jean Alesi: “At the beginning, I didn’t believe the five seconds penalty. I thought it must have a TV error when I saw the penalty. So it’s all wrong, you might as well go to the amusement park. They are killing F1. Vettel was wrong to go outside, but when he took the track again his only concern was not to hit the wall, not to drive into Hamilton. All the champions have ups and downs, it happens that you lose your car.”

Mark Webber: “Any of the stewards ever raced at the front in F1? Didn’t watch the race.. have now seen the “incident”. Mental penalty.”

Johnny Herbert: “Racing has become soft, wrong, wrong, wrong.”

Daniel Ricciardo: “I had an identical situation with Lewis in 2016 in Monte Carlo. He had to go through the emergency exit and almost pushed me into the wall on his return. With me, it was tighter than now with him. He didn’t get a penalty. That was a good thing. It was hard racing.”

Martin Brundle: “It was a poor decision from the stewards to hand an in-race five-second penalty to Sebastian Vettel in Montreal. I don’t believe a penalty was due, but even so they could have investigated it after the race with the benefit of more time and data, and after speaking with both drivers.”

Karun Chandhok: “Personally, I too believe it was unjustified. This was an incident where a driver simply made an error, bounced back into the path of another car who, yes, had to take avoiding action but that was always a gap that was going to close. That is simply the nature of racing on a street track where the walls are close – sometimes you have to take avoiding action when a car in front has an incident.”

Alan McNish: “Not really sure what VET could have done differently when rejoining….with the momentum he had he was always going to end up where he did….tough decision for VET.”

Giedo van der Garde: “So close. Closed it well by Vettel, to me that’s racing. No penalty. End of message. #CanadianGP.”

Jolyon Palmer: “Where Vettel ended up being genius was with his diversion tactics after the race – the pantomime smoke and mirrors of the tantrum, the meltdown, and then the eventual cheek of switching the final position markers with Hamilton in parc ferme.
It endeared him to the crowd, most of whom were Ferrari fans in Canada, and were disappointed the penalty had decided the outcome of the race. Everybody was. But Vettel’s actions ensured the talking point was the penalty, rather than the reason for it – the error from Vettel.”

Max Chilton: Tough result for F1. I can see it both ways. FIA are following the rule book that you can’t rejoin by going straight to the racing line but poor choice for the sport. All drivers know Vettel could have not gone back to power and joined safely on the inside.”

Alex Wurz: “My observation on Vettel rejoining: his helmet moved to look into mirror only after steering correction! that he slid that far is laws of physics. No space for Lewis is name of game with street tracks. What happened to #LetThemRace? Was it sketchy? Yes! A penalty? Not in my view.”

Jimmie Johnson: “I’m glad we don’t have stewards in @nascar. #BS.”

Felix Rosenqvist: The podium ceremony showed how no one was happy to be up there, as a result of this stupid penalty. It ruined a great race for all us fans… Kudos to Vettel for not having it, and to Hamilton for being a great sportsman

Daniel Abt: “This penalty is bullshit….”

Jason Plato: “Terrible just terrible decision by the F1 Stewards. Just loved Seb swapping place boards around.”

Helmut Marko: “Sebastian did nothing wrong He had his hands full trying to keep the car on track, Hamilton could have passed on the inside or just brake – he also had a duty to prevent an accident but he was aware he could get an advantage, therefore, he also complained over the radio. The penalty for Sebastian is unfair and leaves a bad aftertaste.
The rules need to be changed urgently. Unlike in football, the race stewards have plenty of time to weigh up a situation in a race, also to take into account previous cases like this. This is how you break the sport, the fans, especially the young ones, want to see tough fights between the best drivers in the world, like the duels between Gilles Villeneuve and Réné Arnoux in 1979 in Dijon. Those are what made the sport what it does.”

Casey Stoner: “F1 that is the worst decision you have ever made. It’s times like these we miss Charlie Whiting in F1.”

Matt Bishop: “The stewards will come up with a load of evidence that says they applied the law correctly in imposing a 5sec penalty on Seb. But sometimes, as we know, the law is an ass. Sadly, #F1 law is making an ass of F1 these days. To the stewards’ defence of their decision, I say: not interested. I’m not interested because almost no-one else is interested.
We – #F1 fans, media, insiders, drivers even – fell in love with racing for reasons that we recognise primordially but find hard to articulate… But I’ll try: just as we want #F1 technical regs that produce beautiful, loud, fast, scary cars that race close to each other, so also we want F1 sporting regs that allow our heroes to race mano-a-mano without silly penalties that no-one likes and almost no-one understands.
So to Ross Brawn I say: framing the 2021 #F1 technical regs must be a reverse-engineering exercise that starts with the objective of delivering beautiful, loud, fast, scary cars that race close to each other… but the 2021 F1 sporting regs must also be reverse-engineered.
They must be reverse-engineered with the objective of making a recreation of Dijon ’79 not only permissible but also safe, which it would be with the strong cars & big run-offs we now have. Look at this clip in the context of Canada 2019… & weep.”

Leo Turrini: “Me, Andretti and Mansell (too much honour, what a company!) Are we enemies of modernity? I really do not think so.
Quite simply, I believe that in Montreal the commissioners made the wrong decision, thus distorting the competition and taking away from the fans the pleasure of an infinite spasm, to the last meter, son of a duel between two great champions. Is it safe to think so? Yes.
It is no coincidence that Ross Brawn, I imagine on behalf of Liberty Media, said that such decisions (even here, I translate to good) should be better motivated and explained in a transparent way to enthusiasts.
The subtext, not explicit but very clear, is obvious: something has happened that does not protect the relationship of trust between the spectator of the event and the event itself.”

Joe Saward: “You can blame the rules if you like, but they were written that way for a reason and while one can understand that people felt it was harsh, the bottom line was that Vettel had made a crucial mistake – again – and lost the race as a result. You cannot have things both ways. If one creates a rigid rule structure, without the possibility to be interpreted in different ways, one is condemned to have some decisions that are too harsh or too lenient because one does not have flexibility.
Not allowing the stewards to interpret the rules and issue punishments that perfectly fit the circumstances means that this sort of thing is inevitable. It should perhaps be added that Vettel was quite fortunate to avoid any punishment for his daft theatricals after the chequered flag as in previous ages he might have been heavily punished for his disrespect of the sport.
For me, the most important thing that happened in Montreal was the fact that Ferrari showed that Mercedes can be beaten. Now, all we need is for them to stop falling over their own bootlaces and do the job properly.”

Paul-Henri Cahier: “Emanuele Pirro and the rest of the stewards are going to need police protection to leave the Montreal circuit. They deprived us of some great racing, and we’ll never know who should have won the Canadian Grand Prix! So stupid.  What’s wrong with the stewards of the race, what goes on inside their brains?
My final take on the Canada/Vettel incident: every single driver who voiced an opinion said that they would have done the same as Vettel: get the car back on track, and stay in front of Hamilton. They are all racers! Hence, either the rule is stupid, or it was wrongly enforced.”

Paul Velasco: “Before they decided to give the penalty, in the interests of the race why did stewards not radio Ferrari to tell their man to cede the position to Lewis within two or three laps? If Seb refused then slap him with the five seconds.
The penalty was correct but they could have kept the race alive, if not fire it up even more, but instead they immediately killed it as a contest. No wonder they were boo-ed in the aftermath. It was an avoidable embarrassment. If warning or option such as this is not a rule in F1, then it should be. And they might’ve written it into the book this weekend in Montreal.”

Ben Stevens: Even taking into account Lewis Hamilton’s proximity as Vettel re-joined the track, it’s hard to see how the latter could’ve handled it any differently, short of trying to stop his car entirely, which would’ve been an unreasonable expectation for a driver who was still in the race. If he’d spun to a stop, then put on the throttle without waiting for Hamilton, the stewards would’ve had a case – alas, he didn’t, and neither did they.
Unfortunately, the damage is done (for now), which is a shame not just because we were robbed of a potentially thrilling conclusion, but because Vettel’s error deserves more attention in and of itself. Penalty aside, the error provided a fascinating contrast between the ‘good Seb’ we saw on Saturday, and the ‘bad Seb’ who once again, struggled for composure in a high-pressure race situation. The meat of this race was ready for everyone to tuck into, we didn’t need the stewards to overcook it.”

#MsportXtra: “There was no contact, also because Hamilton braked to avoid any. I don’t believe Vettel rejoined the track at that spot on purpose but purely because the car slid that way. To me, it was a case of ‘no harm, no foul’ but since F1 is over-regulated, something had to be done.”

Note: This report will be updated until the furore blows over.

Vettel: People shouldn’t boo at Lewis