The Tifosi descended on Monza as they always do for the Italian GP and on Sunday the newly crowned king (as written on an Italian banner in the main grandstand) Charles Leclerc was victorious in front of a jubilant crowd as Scuderia Ferrari hit the headlines once more. Also in the headlines was the teammate of the victor – Sebastian Vettel. The 4-time F1 German World Champion had spun off the circuit in the high-speed Ascari complex, which was a bad enough error, until he then re-entered the track by driving across the racing line in front of Stroll, who unsurprisingly collided with the Ferrari driver through no fault of his own. These errors may prove to be very costly indeed.
"I lost the rear, couldn't catch it…As simple as that. I'm obviously not happy and after that the race was obviously gone. I struggled a couple of times to get the car going and struggled to get in the right direction so I couldn't see him."
This was the case Vettel made to the media to explain the on track event.
This incident, like many in recent months, resulted in the race stewards giving Sebastian Vettel a 10-second stop-and-go penalty for the collision – plus three penalty points on his superlicence. Such a situation has now left Vettel with 9 points to his name and just 3 points from a race ban.
However, this scenario is somewhat familiar. In June 2017, Sebastian Vettel was awarded three penalty points on his superlicense following his infamous incident with Lewis Hamilton during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. In this race the 4-time world champion was punished for his ‘dangerous driving’. This punishment gave Vettel nine active points on his superlicense. If a further three points came his way in a 12-month period – so would a one race ban.
Therefore, this shows that Vettel has been in this scenario before and survived it. Unfortunately, in 2017 this outcome of receiving such a race ban looked unlikely whereas in 2019 there are now many who see a race ban for Sebastian Vettel in 2019 as inevitable.
The reason headlines of this nature are being written is because Sebastian Vettel must complete the next three Formula 1 races without accumulating three points or more. This may be a challenge due to recent events on track – namely the collision with Max Verstappen during this year’s British Grand Prix and previously to that the controversial outcome involving Lewis Hamilton in Canada.
At Silverstone, this incident was caused due to Vettel responding to having lost a position to the main man of Aston Martin Red Bull Racing due to a wonderfully timed move by Verstappen at Stowe. Unfortunately, with adrenaline flowing, the bright red Scuderia Ferrari was then seen colliding with Verstappen under braking at the Vale chicane. This rookie error (by a 4-time F1 World Champion) resulted in Verstappen momentarily turning his F1 car into a more aerial form of transportation as it soared over the kerb and into the gravel. 2 penalty points soon followed.
Prior to this, in Canada, the Scuderia Ferrari driver had been given a five-second time penalty for forcing Lewis Hamilton to take evasive action when he drove onto the racing line of the reigning F1 World Champion due to the way he returned to the track having come off momentarily at turn three. This punishment of the time penalty took away the victory and then the delivery of 2 penalty points just rubbed salt into the wound.
It is over a year since Sebastian Vettel’s last race victory having last tasted victorious champagne at Spa-Francorchamps in 2018. His teammate won Spa last time out and Charles Leclerc showed on Sunday that he is up for a tussle on track with anyone. Viewers of Sunday’s spectacle had already seen the black and white flag being shown to Charles Leclerc as a reminder to be mindful of his driving due to the way he ‘kept his elbows out’ as Lewis Hamilton attempted a maneuver.
However, despite the fact that penalty points were distributed to Vettel, the stewards officiating in Monza have made clear that they never considered showing a black flag to Leclerc’s teammate, a flag which would have disqualified the 4-time F1 World Champion after the race (if an appeal was unsuccessful). This revelation came from FIA Race Director Michael Masi.
Despite not being a steward at the race, Masi said, when asked of the possibility of excluding Vettel from the race results: “Not to my knowledge and it wasn’t something the stewards brought up.” So at least Sebastian Vettel can breathe a sigh of relief at that.
Sebastian Vettel is a supreme racing driver but he is still a human being and humans make errors. Vettel’s errors are becoming frequent and for reasons that are unknown to lots of us. Therefore, it is up to him to make this a footnote in the history of his racing and not an entire chapter.
If such errors continue it could may well be the final chapter of his Ferrari story…at the very least.