Everybody likes a Ferrari win. It’s special when a Ferrari wins. We’ve seen the glory days of Alain Prost, Niki Lauda, and Michael Schumacher. And if one were to rewind to the more recent times, then the days of Kimi Raikkonen, still the stable’s last world champion and, Fernando Alonso, who during the 2010-13 seasons, gave Ferrari’s number one rivals, Red Bull a run for their money come to mind as sizzling highlights.
But what about the prancing horse in the 2019 season?
It wasn’t too surprising when a few hours ago, given how rare has been the occurrence of a Ferrari race-win in the recent times, nearly everyone was in for a shock when Vettel was penalized only for Hamilton to win.
He had the pole, had kept the most dangerous driver on the grid in Hamilton in his mirrors for the better part of race, and had been running in contention to win at Canada, the venue of his 2018 win.
But it wasn’t to be.
To give you an idea of how critical was this win going to be, it had been 15 full races since anyone hoisted a Ferrari flag from the very top of the podium.
But instead, what did we see?
What seemed a racing incident during the closing stages saw Vettel being relegated down to second, as a result of a five-second penalty, meaning that his archrival Lewis Hamilton would take the win.
Somber eyes, upset fans, and gutted supporters of Ferrari, few, it could be said, weren’t “mourning” Vettel, the driver appearing forlorn as Mercedes clinched yet another win.
Furthermore, what made hundreds of thousands protest the eventual result was the simple core truth that the last Vettel dominated Mercedes was a 15 full races ago. The win at Belgium now seems a wrinkle in time.
It’s incredible to note that in another couple of months down the line, the German’s dominant victory of 2018 would’ve completed one full year. Does that say something about the German’s plight?
When you combine that reality with the unshakeable form that Mercedes have been in, it’s little surprise to understand why Ferrari have appealed to the FIA to reverse their ruling, one that made Vettel occupy the second step on the podium.
As it is, in the last quarter of a year, several parallel narratives have been running in Formula 1 alongside Ferrari’s failure to win.
The rise of Charles Leclerc, yet to win, notwithstanding, Lewis attacking as only he can, with Bottas raising his game as none had expected him to has made Ferrari’s struggles even more evident.
But a point has to be asked. While the huge outcry surrounding Vettel’s impediment is understood and does make Ferrari’s plight even gloomier than before, is the penalty really unfair?
Wasn’t Sebastian Vettel, an experienced driver with four-world titles against his name, in the wrong in that move that saw him unfairly hold ground ahead of Hamilton?
Furthermore, what is to become of the standing of the eminent FIA if every move of it, regardless of it coming in decisive stages, such as the ruling on Vettel’s move, nearly toward the fading stage of the 70-lap (Canada) contest, were to be protested?
That Sebastian Vettel went off the track limits and cut a significant part of the track to hold his lead over Hamilton can be seen and subjected to multiple repetitions. It’s all out there and is everywhere on social media.
That Hamilton, who despite worn out tires was holding strong and not too further behind the German, is known and can be seen as well.
Lastly, what augurs well in FIA’s ruling, whether one considers it fair or not, is the fact that it’s reprimanded several drivers in the past whenever a similar incident has occurred.
While surely the Ferrari fans may be scratching their heads to see Lewis undergo the same plight as his German counterpart, what cannot be denied is that if there’s a driver who’s suffered several penalties on account of erroneous driving then it’s Max Verstappen.
The 2017 US Grand Prix that saw Mercedes win yet again, was an event where Max Verstappen made a bold and daring last-minute move over a familiar opponent, Kimi Raikkonen. Toward the closing stages of the contest at COTA, the Dutchman came from further behind Kimi, got a great, visibly quicker run from a corner and passed the Iceman, albeit with his four wheels off the track limits.
Even as Verstappen climbed on third, his move was reversed and Kimi was showed the way to the podium. A five-second penalty was imposed for it was due.
The replays captured that.
Ferrari fans did get a sense that justice had prevailed.
So why not now when a similar faulty move has earned the wrath of the FIA?
The highlights, after all, had it covered back in 2017 in the Kimi-Max incident and also in the 2019-episode.
Now, let’s think about Vettel’s move.
Did Vettel not run out of the track and on the grass as he’d cut a major part of the turn to maintain his lead over Hamilton?
But that said, the Verstappen and Raikkonen skirmish would return again, one year down the road. Back in Suzuka, in 2018, Verstappen, in a bid to pass the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen, perhaps did exactly that which got Vettel penalized at Canada.
Executing a rather abrupt move that saw the Dutchman lock up his four wheels, in a botched up attempt to pass the Ferrari of Raikkonen, Max Verstappen went on the grass, his four wheels out of the track when he steered clear of Kimi’s car. Later on, he was reprimanded and rightly so.
This leads us to a question. If Max can face the stick of the FIA not once but twice in what was clearly a flawed move, why wouldn’t Vettel’s incorrect move on Hamilton that fundamentally saw him retain his lead be called out as unfair? Who really is in the wrong now? Isn’t it the German driver?
While the passion of Sebastian Vettel to win cannot be discounted, it remains to be seen whether his means to achieve a victory can be called fair? To any unbiased spectator’s eye, the 2019 verdict, one of the seemingly harshest calls in a long time, doesn’t really seem all that unfair-does it?
F1 is still about as enthralling as it is nervy in its inception. This is a contest where the fastest doesn’t always win. Central to winning is a combination of guts, character, and principles, in the end.
Finally, to quote James Hunt- more important than the fear for life is the will to win– one thinks, Vettel will come back even stronger with an even greater will to win in the imminent future.