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Flag dispute: FIA considers Vettel's overtaking maneuver legal

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Dispute over yellow flags at the Brazilian GP
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T he excitement is great. Did Sebastian Vettel illegally overtake two yellow flags at the Brazilian GP? Does Ferrari protest against the rating and Vettel might even lose his world title? Italian and Spanish newspapers have been asking these questions since Tuesday (November 27th).

Ferrari is still keeping quiet for the time being. After the race in Brazil, Fernando Alonso cryptically only spoke of 'a few strange decisions' in relation to his World Cup opponent Vettel. What he meant by that remained open at first.

Onboard recordings seem to burden Vettel

The British pay TV broadcaster Sky showed a scene in the evening in which Vettel was in the eighth round Kamui Kobayashi overtaken on the home straight (>> Sky-Video ). Vettel's on-board camera shows yellow traffic lights at the edge of the route. Sky expert Allan McNish asked the group: 'Has Vettel overtaken here illegally?' He relieved Vettel by the fact that Kobayashi had turned into the pit lane immediately afterwards. He was right in his assessment, but wrong in his reasoning.

A video appeared on the website of the Spanish sports newspaper Marca on Tuesday that shows a scene from the fourth round (>> YouTube Video ). Vettel overtook Toro Rosso pilot Jean-Eric Vergne on the back straight between a yellow and a green light. The yellow warning light can even be seen on the Red Bull's steering wheel.

At first glance, this maneuver also seems illegal. This sequence can only be seen from Vettel's overhead camera. Since it was not broadcast on the worldview, only viewers of pay TV channels or the teams could watch this scene. The teams also have a route sketch on their screens on which the GPS positions of the vehicles and flag signals are entered.

Neither Spain nor Italy has pay TV. There are rumors that the relevant media was ammunitioned by a team. Which one you can imagine.

Exclusive route graphics help to solve a case

auto motor und sport has the GPS route graphicsof the corresponding laps and asked FIA race director Charlie Whiting to analyze the two controversial scenes. Result: Vettel did nothing wrong.

When asked why the four Stewards Garry Connelly, Silvia Bellot, Felipe Giaffone and Tom Kristensen did nothing during the race, there is a simple answer. Because neither the marshals nor any other teams reported to the race management.

It is clear that Vergne did not complain about Vettel's overtaking maneuver on the radio. As a Toro Rosso driver, he is part of the Red Bull family. But behind Vergne and Vettel drove Pedro de la Rosa and Charles Pic. They would have got excited about it immediately via radio, since they were driving through the same zone and saw the same traffic lights and flags.

The Kobayashi case is the simpler one. In his case, yellow flags were only shown between curves 8 and 11, or the traffic lights were switched to yellow. Then the traffic lights changed to yellow and red stripes. This is just a warning to drivers that the track is slippery. So no overtaking ban.

Continuous yellow light means overtaking is allowed

On the TV picture it is difficult to see which color the traffic light is on. 'Not only on the TV picture,' says Sauber team manager Beat Zehnder. 'Even for the driver, the yellow-red traffic lights are difficult to distinguish from the yellow ones.' For explanation. If the traffic light wants to display yellow, it flashes. With yellow-red the light is continuous. The GPS route graph, however, clearly shows that the switch was made to yellow-red before turn 14. Vettel has overtaken Kobayashi after turn 14. So in compliance with the rules.

The Vergne case is more complicated. With the help of Vettel's on-board camera, one gets the impression that the Red Bull driver overtakes Vergne between turns 3 and 4 after a yellow light, but clearly before the following green light. The GPS graphic of the fourth round also speaks for it. There the yellow zone begins in the braking zone of turn 1 and ends again 200 meters before turn 4.

On the TV pictures you cannot see why yellow was displayed at all. Whiting explains. 'In turn 3, exactly on the border of the sector in which the overtaking maneuver happened, a route vehicle was parked next to the track.' Pastor Maldonado had flown here shortly before with his Williams.

Vettel overtakes after green flag

Therefore, the traffic light at turn 3 was still programmed to yellow, although the danger zone was already just ahead. The traffic lights and the marshals are posted at different points on the straight in the direction of turn 4. The first yellow light was followed by a second. Then came green. In between, however, a marshals waved the green flag. This can hardly be seen on the TV picture. Vettel noticed them, of course.

According to Whiting, the rules say: 'If the traffic lights are not installed at the flag posts, thenthe first signal that is shown applies to the driver. So if a yellow flag is waved and a little later the traffic light flashes yellow, then the no overtaking starts with the flag. The reverse also applies to the green light. In Vettel's case, a green flag was waved between the last yellow light and the green light. The distance here is 350 meters. Vettel reacted to the flag and did everything right. '

The fact that the GPS route graphic shows yellow up to the overtaking point is because it reacts to the traffic lights and not to the flags. The green light was on where the yellow zone ends in the route sketch.

Ferrari has now officially announced that the FIA ​​has written a letter demanding an explanation for the Vettel /Vergne maneuver. The Scuderia still has until November 30. Time to protest against Vettel. In Maranello, however, they will think twice about doing so. After this situation, a protest would have little chance of success. And Ferrari does not want to be seen as a bad loser under any circumstances.

Ferrari protest not hopeless

If Vettel had overtaken illegally, he could actually get into trouble. This case does not count as a premature start to a factual decision, so it would be contestable. This is where the FIA ​​regulations make however, a mistake in reasoning. To give Vettel 20 seconds afterwards would be unfair.

An offense in lap 4 or lap 8 would, under normal circumstances, have resulted in a drive-through penalty a little later. Safely before the 24th lap when the safety car was deployed. Vettel would have caught up with the field again after a drive-through penalty thanks to the safety car and would still have had the opportunity to reach seventh place. A subsequent 20-second penalty would ban him to eighth place.

Incidentally, there is a precedent. In 2001 in Melbourne Kimi Raikkonen got his first World Cup point in this way. At the team meeting after the race, Sauber stable mate Nick Heidfeld complained that Panis had overtaken him under yellow. Team manager Beat Zehnder applied to the race management for an investigation. This revealed that Panis had actually walked past Heidfeld illegally. The French got a penalty and Raikkonen moved up one place.

In our photo gallery we exclusively have the GPS route graphics with the danger zones drawn.

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