Controversial Penalty Costs Sebastian Vettel Victory in Canada

Lewis Hamilton equaled Michael Schumacher’s famed 7 victories at the Canadian Grand Prix Sunday after FIA stewards awarded Sebastian Vettel a 5-second penalty for an unsafe return to the track after a mistake put him four wheels off. Vettel, who qualified on pole, was leading at the time of the incident with a closing Hamilton pushing him to run flat out. When the penalty came, the wind was out of everyone’s sails and the remainder of the race was a boring slog of a procession.

The racing was somewhat exciting at times, especially across the pit stop strategy in the first half of the race, though it was clear that Hamilton maintained the faster car through all stages. With Vettel’s forced error, he returned to the track still on full opposite lock, skidding back in front of Hamilton.

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Shortly after the incident came a complaint from Lewis about the German unsafely returning to the racing surface as if he had some kind of choice about the eventuality of where he ended up. Within seconds of this radio call, the event stewards said the incident was under review. I never in a million years believed it would amount to anything, and went slackjawed when the call came up that Vettel had received a 5-second time penalty to be tacked on at the end of the race.

This is the second penalty in as many Grands Prix that I have staunchly disagreed with, and both have been levied in Hamilton’s favor. Where the hell was Vettel supposed to go? What was he supposed to do? An error is an error. Vettel was doing everything he could to avoid contact, and Hamilton could just as easily have touched the brake pedal to stay out of contact range with Vettel.

Following the incident Hamilton faded back from Vettel before calling the team to ask for more horsepower from the Mercedes mill. He closed to within half a second of Vettel at the end of the race, but never would have risked a pass for the lead on a car that he was already going to place ahead of anyway.

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I’m not usually a fan of Vettel or Ferrari, but I laughed my head off when he first skipped parc ferme, refusing to park his car in the #2 position. When he finally went to the weighbridge and swapped number boards (below) between Hamilton’s car and the empty space where Vettel’s car should have been, I was rolling.

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Hamilton made a big show of disagreeing with the stewards call, saying that he didn’t want to win like this, and that he was sorry for how Vettel’s race went. I don’t believe that for a second. Hamilton is a shrewd player and will take a win however he can get it. He may have been giving the sad boy act on the outside, but internally he was having fucking kittens.

With Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas finishing all the way down in fourth, behind both Ferrari drivers, Lewis has carved out a clear points lead leaving Canada. The pair are still significantly ahead of any trailing points contenders. It will take a miracle to do anything to take either of them down.

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Ferrari ran Charles Leclerc on a strategy that made no sense to me, keeping him out on the tires he started the race with for far too long. The only way this would have possibly made sense is if they were attempting to wait out a safety car. While the Canadian Grand Prix is usually one you can count on to have a bit of yellow, this race went off with no cautions. The Ferrari team could have had both cars in contention for the lead here, but chose to put their younger driver on an alternate strategy that saw him finish a few seconds back in third.

Ricciardo managed to run a decent race following his near-hero qualifying in fourth. He finished the race in 6th, behind both Mercedes, both Ferrari, and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

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Lance Stroll ran an excellent tire strategy to finish 9th for Racing Point, saving his tires for late in the race and absolutely dunking on Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat as the race wound to a close.

As it relates to the penalty levied against Vettel, I will personally catapult the stewards of the Canadian Grand Prix directly into the sun.

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About the author

Bradley Brownell

Jalopnik contributor with a love for everything sketchy and eclectic.