FIA’s race leader Charlie Whiting had a heated driver meeting today, in Bahrein. And with him Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. Vettel had to listen to a lot of criticism about his starting position on the grid of Shanghai.
Sebastian Vettel put his Ferrari, at the start of the Chinese Grand Prix, approximatly one meter outside his start box. According to him because he suspected better grip there. Vettel did not think he did anything wrong since Daniel Ricciardo had done the same during the start of the Japanese Grand Prix of 2016, and he was not punished for it.
But he forgot that back then there was a roast of Ricciardo at the next driver’s briefing in Austin. Once again, same as back then, Whiting read the regulations of the start to the drivers today. These are: The driver must make every effort to go into his start position. But what exactly is a starting position? There is nowhere written how far left or right you can place your car. “Theoretically one stands in his start box, as soon as only one wheel is placed in it” says Force India-Teammanager Andy Stevenson. “This is not, of course, the way they meant the rule when they crafted it.”
At the driver’s meeting in Bahrain, Sebastian Vettel had to listen to his fellow drivers complaints for 22 minutes. Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa where the ones who had the most critique on the Ferrari driver. They wanted to know from Charlie Whiting why the action was unpunished last sunday, and whether everyone would be able to put his car where they wanted, in the future.
The answer to the second question was a firm ‘No’. The FIA expects all drivers to place their cars as precisely as possible into the start box. Anyone who is as far off as Vettel in Shanghai, will be a case for the stewards. And they won’t always come to the same mild decision as in China.
During todays meeting it also surfaced that Whiting has admitted that Vettel escaped a pit lane start. Whiting wanted to cancel the start, because of his start position. That would have meant for Vettel that he had to start the race in the pit lane, indisputably! But according to Whiting he didn’t went through with it because he felt that this punishment would not fit the crime. So he referred the case to the stewards. Of course not everyone at the meeting felt the same way. “Either he did something wrong or he didn’t. Half wrong is not a possibility. So he should have felt the consequences.” replied Renault’s Alan Permane.