The race stewards in Texas knew no mercy: Three places back for Sebastian Vettel after not slowing enough under red flags causing much consternation for the driver, and split opinions amongst fans and pundits alike.
Vettel was irritated, seeing his hopes slip even further away whereas FIA race director Charlie Whiting see’s it as clear cut.
“The rule is quite simple”
So embarassed by my sport. "So he had to slow because there was some gravel on the track? No, it was for a red flag to get the gravel removed" "But he slowed a lot? Well yes but not enough" "But this was just in practice, is there no common sense applied? Oh no, rules are rules"
— Tiff Needell (@tiff_tv) October 19, 2018
Grand Prix stewards Gerd Ennser (Germany), Dennis Dean (USA), Silvia Bellot (Spain) and Derek Warwick (England) applied the penalty according to the letter of the law: ‘keeping consistent’ to earlier penalties, Sebastian Vettel was relegated in Texas by three places. The second fastest in the Austin qualifier the German registered as a time started him from fifth on the grid – the driver then finished the race fourth with Hamilton third.
"I think it's wrong"
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 20, 2018
The stewards deemed Vettel’s slowing under red flag conditions not sufficient, giving them no choice in their eyes.
The driver remonstrated to the press claiming:
“The red flag came out, and I’m off the accelerator – but in the eyes of the stewards it wasn’t quick enough or for long enough.
“In their opinion, it took me 27.7 seconds to get off the throttle. The distance to the car in front has grown during this time, but it also depends on where you are on the track.
“This system has its flaws and gaps. In addition, there were probably problems with the measuring loops in the morning.
“But for the stewards, the case is pretty clear, hence my penalty. ”
“I am convinced that I took enough speed off. Clearly I saw the flags, clearly I went off the gas, then I looked out, because I expected that somewhere a car stuck in the wall, that was in the area of the curves 9 and 10.
Has a difficult job just become impossible?
— Formula 1 (@F1) October 19, 2018
“Of course I know the rules in such a case, so I slowed down. In my eyes, enough, in the eyes of the stewards not. They thought I had waited too long. ”
“The interpretation of the rules should be acted with common sense. It should not be around 27.7 seconds.
“That’s wrong. I slowed down, I looked around. I should have slowed to 30 km / h to reduce my speed, then I would have done the rule.
“But then maybe someone behind would crash into my car. That can not be the point of this rule.
“I think I have done enough. The commissars disagree, there’s nothing more to say about it. ”
Charlie Whiting response: “The regulation is crystal clear”
Charlie Whiting thinks : It’s pretty easy to adhere to the red flag rules, even for a four-time champion.
“The regulation is crystal clear, every driver knows it, that was just a driver error.”
“We have now had three cases in which drivers did not comply with the rules.
“Once Daniel Ricciardo in Australia, once Esteban Ocon in Japan and then Vettel in Texas.
“If we have a virtual safety car phase in the race, then the drivers stick to the speed standard.
“Why does not work with red flags from time to time, is beyond me. You can not miss it, all the video boards around the circuit are clearly red.
“Vettel just did not pay enough attention in America. ”
“We will stick to this – not slowing enough under the red flag, that’s not a trivial offense for us.
“The drivers can talk themselves out the way they want, it just will not work.”