Defending Vettel…was a penalty really needed?

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Ultimately many fans can be forgiven for equating Germany’s Sebastian Vettel to the veteran countryman Michael Schumacher. He is young, quick and German and so was Schumacher at one time in his career. That combination didn’t do too bad for Schumacher did it?

The accolades and comparisons have always made Vettel a little uncomfortable but it’s easy to see why people make them. It’s also becoming increasingly clear that Vettel is also gaining the criticism and derision Schumacher has endured most of his career.

Sunday’s incident with McLaren’s Jensen Button has prompted more outrage and accusations at the young German with words like mistake-prone, too immature, not a very good driver and overrated. How does one defend those accusations? Are they fair?

Red Bull boss Christian Horner has come to Vettel’s defense, like a good team boss should. His defense, which can be found at AUTOSPORT, is just another in a long line of defenses for the young German driver’s on-track incidents this year which culminated in taking his own teammate, Mark Webber, out at the Turkish Grand Prix. Luckily Webber was able to finish on the podium after being clouted by Vettel in a passing attempt. The same thing that has caught Jensen Button out at Spa on Sunday.

“It was difficult for him. You have to make split second decisions and I think he made one mistake when he was racing Jenson.

“Jenson, braking where he did, just took him completely by surprise. In trying to avoid him he got himself into a spin that ultimately collected Jenson in very, very difficult conditions. He is a great racing driver, he is still a very young guy and it is easy to be very critical on somebody who is relatively inexperienced – but for sure he will learn a lot from what happened.”

Is Horner right? Has the criticism been over the top? Does the F1 fan base just need a new Schumacher to hate? Is Sebastian Vettel the Anakin Skywalker of the F1 paddock? A terrific talent who has been thrust to the dark side due to some mistakes and will now take up the mantel of the aggressive, hated German driver picking up where Schumacher left off?

How would you characterize Vettel’s situation? Is he just young and learning from mistakes? I saw several comments on Twitter that has Vettel rendered to a no-talent hack but let’s face it, the young man has talent and that’s just emotional rhetoric and fanboi-ism.

In my mind, I think the penalty was uncalled for. Racing is racing and lest F1 become a nanny state for the world’s top echelon of motorsport, then I think Vettel’s accident provided it’s own reward…lost points and a real chance at losing the title.

But what about Button? Well, that’s racing. You’re in the wrong place at the wrong time. I doubt seriously that Williams F1’s Rubens Barrichello was intending on punting Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso or Red Bull’s Mark Webber was intentionally desiring to fly over the top of Lotus Racing’s Heikki Kovalainen at the European Grand Prix this year.

Are we to a stage of giving a penalty to every driver involved in a incident where he ruins the race for another driver? Button and Vettel were battling for the position. This wasn’t lapped traffic. Button braked where Vettel wasn’t expecting it and Vettel made a mistake. It was Vettel’s fault, no question. I just feel a penalty for unintentionally wrecking someone is over the top. This is racing.

Imagine the penalties you could think of for incidents where one driver unintentionally took out another driver (yes, even if they did something kind of daft). In my line of thinking, Vettel no more wanted to ruin Button’s race than he did his own race and the penalty he faced was the result of the incident. Just like Turkey this year when Vettel took out his own teammate.

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