Sebastian Vettel started Japanese GP in pole-position along with his teammate Charles Leclerc in the front row. The German moved the car too soon before the lights went out and this means he got under investigation soon after for a jump-start. The stewards investigated the race, reviewed the video, and decided not to proceed with a penalty.
This would normally be good news, as FIA is often criticized for being too though with penalisation but there is a difference in the judgement. Only few days ago, during the previous GP in Russia, Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Raikkonen committed a jump-start too and was penalised with a drive through.
The stewards reviewed the two video and saw a little difference that allowed call Ferrari driver’s jump-start “within tolerance”. They reviewed the video based on the information provided by a transponder fitted to each car and saw that Vettel moved and broke before the lights went out so he stopped before the race officially began.
“Whilst the video shows some movement that movement was within the acceptable tolerance of the F1 jump start system which formerly defines a jump start per Article 36.13(a) of the FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations.”- they declared.
“Probably the best analogy would be Valtteri in the Austrian GP a couple of years ago. It was within that and that’s why it’s the approved method within the regulations for it to be determined if it is or if it isn’t a jump-start”- Michael Masi, director of the race, explains.
The article provides a 10 seconds penalty or a drive through if the car is actually moving when the lights went out: Vettel’s was not and Raikkonen’s was. This is the reason why one was considered “within tolerance” and the other did not, even if any of the drivers took any advantage of the jump-start.
When asked if he expected a penalty or not, Sebastian Vettel said that it would not make any difference as the start was not good and he felt he could not win the race.
It is, however, a hard decision. In any case, either Vettel or Raikkonen gained an advantage by a jump-start and it would have been fairer not to penalise Raikkonen as well. There is a proper instrument due to control if there is a jump-start. If there is, FIA may start the investigation and only if the driver is judged to have gained an advantage he has to be penalised, as it is done with crashes and overtakes.