The French Grand Prix was no thriller, but Formula One’s weekend in southern France was perfectly representative of the 2019 season being bent to the will of the sport’s unstoppable force.
I have to agree with Michael Lamonato’s article about the incident between Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton at the Canadian Grand Prix.
But I would add that there’s a bigger issue at stake after the events in Montreal. The reaction of so many former drivers, including world champions, has been more than just disrespectful to the stewards.
Is this the example we want to send to our children who play sport? That if you disagree with the umpire, you can carry on like Vettel did? Who would want to be an umpire, referee or steward in any sport when you rarely get any praise but will always cop abuse if people disagree?
A common theme among some former drivers is that their needs to be more consistency from the stewards, therefore implying the decision was inconsistent with recent decisions.
May I point out that in the previous race in Monaco Max Verstappen crashed into Valtteri Bottas in the pits. It was deemed an unsafe release and Verstappen copped a five-second penalty. Considering the Red Bull Racing team had limited visibility to see other cars in pit lane, it could’ve seemed harsh. Some thought it deserved a stronger penalty while others thought it was just a racing incident. Everyone, though, accepted the stewards’ decision and moved on.
During the Canadian Grand Prix Vettel said on team radio that, “You need to be an absolute blind man to think you can go through the grass and then control the car.
“I was lucky I didn’t hit the wall. Where the hell am I supposed to go?
“This is a wrong world I tell you. This is not fair.”
I ask the question: if going off the track gives you an advantage, shouldn’t the position be ceded to the driver disadvantaged? Should Vettel have shown better sportsmanship?
Regardless of the fact Vettel admitted to making a mistake, he still blamed for the stewards for their decision. The main point is that the stewards didn’t push Vettel off the track. The stewards didn’t decide not to cede position to Hamilton. The stewards didn’t even decide to review the incident until Mercedes protested. So Vettel blaming the stewards at the end of the race is very disrespectful.
The stewards were handed a situation, and they had to deal with it according to the rules. As Michael Lamonato’s article shows, they enforced the rules as they saw it, as is their right to do. If Vettel never made the error, he wouldn’t have been at the mercy of the stewards.
Watching it live I thought no penalty should have been given – but my issue isn’t with the call; it’s with the reaction to it.
Toto Wolff from Mercedes summed it up perfectly: it was a 60/40 call depending on which side of the fence you sit. The race before they thought the decision to hand Verstappen a five-second penalty was wrong – even the commentators said it deserved a drive-through penalty, in which case the Dutchman wouldn’t have finished fourth. Did Mercedes carry on about it? No, they accepted the umpire’s decision and moved on.
This is an issue bigger than F1 or motorsport. So many former players who commentate give little respect to the umpires, referees or stewards. While the officials don’t always get it right and while we will always disagree with some decisions, respect has to be maintained.
So if you’re going to any type of sport this weekend, take some time to thank the umpires. It might just keep them turning up to support sport.