Several leading Formula One drivers on Thursday spoke out against the penalty handed to Sebastian Vettel at the Canadian Grand Prix – just 24 hours before the controversial decision is due to be reviewed.
Carlos Sainz of McLaren and Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg made clear their views against the penalty, which cost Vettel a vital victory for Ferrari, and were backed by Max Verstappen of Red Bull.
All three, however, said they did not blame the stewards, but the rules.
Talking to reporters at the French grand Prix weekend Hulkenberg said: “My opinion is that it’s just racing – it’s hard to control a car on grass and when you make re-entry to the track. We are simply not in full control and don’t have normal grip.
“So, for me it’s a racing incident. In terms of the rules, there are different judgments every weekend from the stewards.”
Vettel, who went on to win the Canadian race ‘on the road’, was given a five-second penalty for his unsafe re-entry after running off across a strip of grass, a move that handed victory to Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes.
The stewards’ decision may be reviewed if Ferrari introduce new evidence at a hearing scheduled to take place at Le Castellet on Friday.
Sainz said that “like any other F1 fan, I was disappointed with the penalty…. I would have done the same as Seb. We would just rejoin the track and try to keep first position.
“Was it dangerous? Potentially. But what is not dangerous in F1?
“There is always a bit of danger. You are always close to the walls and I don’t think at any point Lewis was under threat of having a huge accident.
“So, it’s not the fault of Seb and it’s not the fault of Lewis either… It’s just a rule that should not be there. It’s too drastic.”
Former Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen, now of Alfa Romeo, was less critical, but questioned rules that were designed to encourage more racing.
The vastly-experienced Finn said he welcomed efforts to allow more on-track fighting and competing, but pointed out that it needed to be within a context of “smart (and) fair” racing.
He was ambiguous in his replies about Vettel’s penalty — unlike Verstappen who suggested the decision was taken too quickly.
“In general, if you’re going to award a penalty, maybe don’t do it in the race,” he said. “It ruins the whole excitement of Lewis catching Seb and fighting for the win.”