Vettel’s ‘walk in the park’ ruined by penalty

Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel has given away another race victory today at the Hungarian Gran Prix. That’s the way many feel including Vettel himself. After sitting in second after the Safety Car period pit stop fiasco’s, Vettel was behind Teammate Mark Webber who had yet to pit. The goal was ti bide his time and inherit the lead when Webber had to pit. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen as Vettel broke the regulation stating that a car must remain within 10 car lengths of the car in front of his during a re-start.

Vettel, during the post-race Q&A said:

“At the restart, I was sleeping,”. “I know I was relying too much on the radio, but early in the race I lost the radio connection, so I couldn’t hear anything.

“I saw the SC boards and was waiting for instructions, so I didn’t see the lights [go out] on the safety car. Usually, when the safety car comes in, the leader tries to drop back and dictate the pace, but Mark was very close.

“I was just warming up my car. I was sure we had another lap. Then I saw Mark at the last corner and the safety car going into the pits, so I knew it was a restart. I lost a lot of time there, which was not the intention. And then I got the drive-through.

“I didn’t understand what was going on and why I was penalised,” Vettel said. “It was a question mark for me, I didn’t understand until someone told me why after the race.

“It’s pretty unlucky, because it would have been a walk in the park without that. Still, we saved a podium.”

One could argue that it is another race decided by the FIA penalty system and not by on-track performances but such is life in F1. The regulations have always been a part of the operation and in the end, Vettel was awry of the rules. The youngster seems to be learning some harsh lessons this year in his quest for the championship and it is most likely no different than any other young, aspiring driver. McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton certainly had a rocky start with teammate Fernando Alonso and PR gaffs as well as most young men who start in their late teens or early twenties. There is a lot to learn in F1 and veterans such as Webber, Barrichello, Trulli and Massa have all been down this road before yet even they can still miss a rule or regulation.

My thought is that the team should be managing the youngster at this point and telling him about the pace and distance (which may have been difficult as Vettel eluded to a radio problem). Vettel is young and emotional and it is incumbent upon the team to try and manage this situation.

McLaren has had to do the same thing with Lewis Hamilton and it was compounded by a father very much in the mix of team and driver decisions. A difficult situation to manage but they have come out on the other end with a fantastic driver who is maturing at each race. So it will be with Vettel.

Vettel would probably do well to watch and learn as his teammate Webber executes his championship bid. I argued the same for Hamilton when he was with Alonso. There is a lot to learn from veterans and these young men are missing the point, in my opinion, when they have a false sense of entitlement and instant peerage with men who have been in the trench warfare of F1 for several years.

The official team line for Vettel was:

“During the race, I didn’t understand why I got the drive-through penalty, but I understood after the race what happened. The start was fine; we knew it was a long run to the first corner and Fernando got the tow, but we were able to defend and had a good first stint. When the safety car came out, it was a late call for my pit-stop, so I only just managed to come in. After that it should have been straightforward, as we knew we had the pace advantage. I was sleeping at the re-start, I had lost the radio and was waiting for an instruction of when the safety car would come in. I didn’t see the lights in my car. Mark was close to the safety car, so I thought we had another lap. But then I saw the safety car come in and I was caught out. I lost a lot of momentum and then I got the drive-through. I am disappointed, as I hoped to win today. I was third, so it was a good result for the team, but I am disappointed.”

Vettel has thrown three victories away on the trot in my estimation and at this point, it seems Webber may be the most likely to succeed at Red Bull…that is if there are no team orders and if Vettel can be tamed. That may be a difficult task and we all know that team boss Christian Horner will let his teammates race against each other and scuttle Red Bull’s chance for the title…right?

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