The FIA has explained why Sebastian Vettel’s start from pole position in the Japanese GP was not met with a penalty.
Vettel’s hard-earned and impressive pole, achieved earlier on Sunday at Suzuka, was compromised even before the lights went out in the race when the German rolled forward in his grid box.
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Although the car was stationary again before the five red lights went out, Vettel immediately lost the lead to the fast-starting Valtteri Bottas – a position he never recovered, as the Mercedes driver secured a dominant win and the Ferrari finished some 10 seconds behind in second place.
Stewards investigated Vettel’s start during the race but deemed no further action was required.
“The Stewards reviewed video evidence and the jumpstart report based on the information from the FIA approved and supplied transponder fitted to each car,” read an FIA statement.
“Whilst the video shows some movement, that movement was within the acceptable tolerance of the F1 jump-start system which formerly defines a jump start per Article 36.13(a) of the FIA Formula One Sporting Regulations.”
Vettel himself said: “It was my mistake. It was worse than a poor start, it was a really poor start.”
Could Vettel have won otherwise?
Bottas ultimately sprung past both front-row-starting Ferraris, with Vettel and Leclerc – who had seemingly been distracted by his team-mate moving early – reaching the first corner in second and third places respectively.
Leclerc then collided with Max Verstappen at the next corner, with the impact breaking the Ferrari’s front wing and forcing a lap-three pit stop for repairs which dropped him down the order.
But Vettel reckons that even if Ferrari had managed to keep their advantage at the start, they would have been hard-pressed to keep Mercedes at bay.
“It could have been a different race if we could have been first and second into Turn One, but obviously it wasn’t the case so we don’t need to argue [about the result],” Vettel told Sky F1. “After that, to be honest, it would have been difficult to fight the Mercedes’ off today because they were just faster.
“When you are faster and you have two stops you find one way or the other, either on track or through strategy.”
Nonetheless, Vettel did keep Hamilton behind in the closing stages despite the world champion having the advantage of fresher tyres.
“In the end I knew when Lewis pitted that I just had to keep some tyres to the end and that’s what I did,” explained the German driver.
“I had quite a bit of pace in hand at the end but the race against him was not decided by pace, it was decided by defensive driving and that’s what I tried to do. Play our advantage with a faster car down the straights.