[Updated] For the past few days there has been some debate – on this site and others – as to whether the FIA should review the result of the Brazilian Grand Prix and with it the world championship, as there is video evidence suggesting that Sebastian Vettel made a pass under yellow flags three laps into the race.
An on-board video clip presented on one of the Sky subscription channels and reposted on You Tube by a fan, shows Vettel passing Jean-Eric Vergne on the Reta Oposta straight before Turn 4, while yellow lights are still visible on his dashboard and he had recently passed a yellow light on the outside of the straight.
There have been extensive analyses of the video and on the face of it, it looks pretty clear cut.
It all happens very quickly and through a camera lens which is spotted with rain.
However, it’s not quite as clear as it appears to be.
An examination of the on-board video in slow motion, shows that Vettel passes a flag marshal’s post-tower on the left before he passes Vergne and a marshal can be seen on the tower, waving a green flag, meaning that the danger zone is ended.
So there appears to be some confusion over signalling; the lights and the flag do not synchronise.
In this case the first signal is the important one; the green flag tells the driver that the yellow flag zone is ended, even though the yellow warning lights are still visible on the dashboard.
This flag is what Vettel would have acted on and for that reason, it is very unlikely that this will be re-opened.
If the FIA were to decide to re-open the case – and they could without Ferrari or anyone else being required to protest – this confusion over signalling (flags versus lights) might form the basis of Red Bull’s defence, along with a telemetry throttle analysis which would probably show that Vergne backed off on the straight, as he certainly appears to do, which causes Vettel to pass.
It is important to clarify the protocol, because the FIA Sporting Code calls for the Race Stewards to re-open any matter arising in the race if new evidence comes to light. In this case, were they to find beyond doubt that Vettel had made a pass under yellows, he would have 20 seconds added to his race time and that would cost him positions and ultimately the world championship.
Had it been judged an offence at the time and he had been given a drive through penalty, this would have occurred before the Safety Car, so his 20 seconds penalty and resulting lost places would be academic. But as that did not happen, all the stewards would be able to do would be to retrospectively, is to add the time penalty.
As several days have elapsed since the race, this would generate headlines around the world and would reflect very badly on the FIA’s policing of F1. I sense that there is nothing here, as the green flag stands, as the first signal.
Ferrari are known to have studied it carefully, but not approached the FIA on it.
The FIA obviously will be looking at it internally. The deadline for opening up the case is November 30th, but my sense is that nothing will happen.
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