One of the main talking points of the 2012 Italian Grand Prix was the drive-through penalty handed out to Red Bull’s defending world champion Sebastian Vettel by the stewards for allegedly forcing Ferrari‘s Fernando Alonso off the track at Curva Grande. With a strikingly similar ‘overtake’ taking place last year at the same turn involving the same two drivers but with the roles reversed, there were opinions that Vettel had been treated harshly by the stewards this time around. A comparison of both incidents might give us an idea.
First, let us take a look at the ‘overtake’ by Vettel over Alonso during the 5th lap of the 2011 Italian GP.
Simply put, Sebastian Vettel pulled off a miraculous overtake at one of the toughest corners in F1 over Fernando Alonso. The video clearly shows that once Alonso knew that Vettel was taking the long way around at Curva Grande, he just moved a little towards his right and allowed just enough space for Vettel to maneuver. Vettel himself admitted in the post-race interview that he knew he wouldn’t be able to overtake Alonso by taking the inside line at Curva Grande and hence opted for the other way around.
Switch to 2012. Lap 26 of the 53-lap race. Vettel was driving ahead of Alonso who was trying to pass him for a while. It was at Curva Grande that Alonso tried to give Vettel a taste of his own medicine by taking the outside line. Alonso couldn’t make the move stick or rather Vettel didn’t allow him to do so, and the rest is history.
Here is a piece of video of this year’s incident from Vettel’s cockpit. It clearly shows that he has was aware of Alonso coming towards his left as he had a look in his left mirror just for a second. And yet, he kept his line without allowing a car’s width for Alonso. This justifies the decision of the stewards.
Vettel looks into his left mirror just in time but doesn’t care to leave room for Alonso to pass. Here’s another video that compares both the incidents and nails the culprit.
The stewards have to be lauded for taking the right decision within the rule-book. Moreover, it has to be noted that the rule of leaving a car’s width to facilitate overtakes wasn’t applicable last season. Despite of this Alonso showed excellent sportsmanship by not shutting the door on Vettel when he tried an adventurous move. It’s a pity that Vettel did not return the favour, this time around.