Explaining the controversy at the Mexican GP

What promised to be a rather dull grand prix turned out to be bit explosive, certainly towards the end and for a while after it too. Both Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen decided to cut of a part of the track (t1), the first at the beginning and the latter at the end. But what made the stewards decide to give Verstappen a penalty? And why wasn’t it the same for Hamilton? Then there was Vettel, getting caught up by a rule, which he, kind of, helped the FIA build. But even before that we heard him on the board radio making various bleep noises, some of which addressed directly to Charlie Whiting. Once again for one infringement there is a punishment and for the other there isn’t. 

All and all it seems like an understatement to say that the FIA had a rather busy Sunday. Not to say that certain drivers and parts of team management had a walk in a park. But their debates are not even near to the amount of debates seen all over these Internet fora and various social media types. Anyway I’m going to try to explain some of the ‘madness’ and why (or why not) the FIA decided to penalise. Follow me.

First things first, I’d say, so here goes: Turn one. Hamilton went, accompanied with a cloud of rubbery smoke, trough the grass and therefore cut off a big part of the track, which gave him a massive amount of advantage on Rosberg, who was in second place when this all happened. The gap after turn one did, however, gave a false confirmation of that. Why? Because Rosberg himself was tangled up with Verstappen and his Red Bull. But back to Hamilton, why did he escape a punishment when he clearly gained time by an unregulated manoeuvre? According to Whiting the Mercedes had cooled off brake discs at the front, which gave us the impression that Hamilton just braked too late. When in fact he did brake on time but it was his car that didn’t want to/could slow down. The reason Whiting states as to why Hamilton didn’t get a penalty for this manoeuvre is that they (the stewards) felt Hamilton didn’t gain anything by it. He was in front of Rosberg before it happened. Just like he was after it happened. –Now, I think this is a rather strange argumentation. Seeing what really happened to Rosberg, which I will cover now.

Turn one (bis) what took place behind Hamilton is this: Rosberg tried to make the turn, clean, and Verstappen needed a NASCAR-like rub to make it through. In doing so Verstappen pushed the Mercedes driver of the track. No big accident or anything just a shove and both of them loosing time. Stewards decide not to award a penalty as they felt, by seeing on-board footage, that young Max didn’t do it on purpose rather than loosing grip and simply sliding in Rosberg’s car. And, they felt, it wasn’t like Rosberg lost his second place. Even when the first comments appeared online, how Rosberg gained an advantage himself by choosing to take a short cut. However helicopter footage showed that the manoeuvre Nico did was purely to avoid a collision. A fair decision. -But now I ask you, did the stewards do the right thing by not taking this action in mind, in regards to Hamiltons case? Would Rosberg got up to p1 if the battle with Verstappen hadn’t happened? 

Turn one  (encore) in lap 68 the duel between Vettel and Verstappen came to its first outburst. An incident which looked the same as the one Hamilton had in lap one. At first glance, at least. Only this time it wasn’t due to a unresponsive front brake, it was down to a driver error. No biggie, can happen to anyone. HAS happened to everyone. Too late on the brakes, not making the corner, Max cuts through the grass and rejoins the track again, still in front of the Ferrari. Still nothing wrong here. Such an event can happen. But here’s the tricky part: this time Verstappen decided not to give his unfair gained advantage up, even after being told so by his race engineer. This time Max is going up against a rule that IS written down. A rule that’s in place for quite a long time now. Meanwhile on Red Bull’s pit wall Christian Horner is fiercely discussing with Whiting that a penalty would not be in order, seeing that Hamilton didn’t get one for the same kind of manoeuvre. He makes the case that it is, once again, Garry Connelly who is treating Max unfair. Like he tried to do in Suzuka. 

To this Whiting states that Horner sees it wrong because of the above mentioned reasoning to not take further actions against Hamilton. Also it was decided by the stewards that Lewis did give up a part of his advantage on Nico soon after it happened. Charlie, however, feels that if Max hadn’t done it the way he did, he would’ve lost out to Vettel, on track, in that particular corner. Thus gaining an unfair advantage, earning Verstappen a five seconds penalty, after the race. 

Meanwhile there’s a storm coming out of the helmet of the German Ferrari Driver. A storm directed towards Verstappen, for not doing the right thing. A storm directed towards Whiting, for not taking action. Pure frustration on Vettel behalf, perhaps the pressure at Ferrari is getting to him? Before all this happened I’d say his drive was one worthy of a champion but you see how quickly tables can turn. As, three hours after the race, the stewards lay an other penalty upon a driver. This time it was Vettel who had the honour. 10 seconds and 2 points on his ‘not-so-good-behaivor’ rapport card. He gets those punishments awarded for his action against Ricciardo in the braking zone. Something to which he was very happy to try and get a rule made out of it when Verstappen did it. A case of wanting to test if the rule works? Or just out of pure anger because Verstappen not only had a unfair advantage but also because Max backed furious Seb in to smiling Danny? I think the latter. 

Whiting states that the telemetry of both Sebastian and Danny shows that during that manoeuvre both were braking hard. Just like the footage showed how Danny gets pushed further and further to the inside of the track, which in turn caused the Red Bull’s front tires to lock up and resulting in contact with the Ferrari. Furthermore the Red Bull was already alongside the Ferrari. Unlike in Suzuka where Max made the move before Lewis could make one on him. According to the stewards Vettel ticked all the boxes as to why this action had all the rights to deserve a penalty. Was the manoeuvre dangerous? Yes. Did Danny have to take avoiding actions? Yes. Did Vettel change direction of an unnatural kind? Yes.

So it came to the strange coincidence that a rule build by the Ferrari drivers and colleagues to try to get Max to behave himself gets enforced on someone else as Max. I call this irony. Certainly because Horner came out after that, saying ‘A rule is a rule’. Now, I’m a Vettel fan, but this made me chuckle a bit. 

So now various rumours are emerging that Whiting and his stewards were acting like they did on Vettel’s destiny because of the way Vettel cursed inside his car. Seeing as he directed multiple bleeps towards Charlie himself. Some of them pretty clear words that would give you a red card and an early shower if it were a football game. But because Vettel apologised to Charlie immediately after, the latter didn’t think it was worth punishing. As he felt that this was a pure ‘during the heat of the moment’ action. Plus Charlie blamed Ferrari because they told Vettel, twice, that Verstappen got the order, by the FIA, to move out of the way but he didn’t listen. To see Max back you up in to Danny right after that should be the drop that overflows the bucket. But the order never came from the FIA. It was red bull who said it once, and when they asked Whiting if he should really give the place back Whiting said: ‘We’re looking in to it.’ Again poor management by Arrivabene…

Of course being the end of the race it brought an amount of chaos with it. Which all of us witnessed. The mobilisation of the masses online began and things got interpreted according to who’s tainted glasses the commenter had on.

Let us hope this article brought some clarification of it all. And don’t hesitate to let me know what you think in the comment section, but remember to keep it clean!

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