Retrospective penalty, a farce
Vettel's overtaking manoeuvre on Toro Rosso's Jean Eric Vergne during lap four of the Sao Paolo finale came under intense scrutiny on Thursday after a video footage suggested that the move might have been performed under yellow flags (therefore, illegal).
Egged on by Fernando Alonso, who finished second by just three points, Ferrari contemplated a protest. If proven, the infringement would've seen Vettel incurring a retrospective 20-second penalty, enough to surrender the title to the Spaniard.
However, FIA ruled that the move was legitimate and a major farce was averted. But why did it come to such a point in the first place? According to their guidelines: "If, in events forming part of an FIA championship, a new element is discovered... the period during which an appeal in review may be brought expires on November 30 of the year during which the decision that is liable to review has been handed down."
F1, with resources at their disposal, can do away with such ludicrous deadlines and therefore the possibility of a title being decided retrospectively. Imagine if there was indeed a rule breach, enforcing a penalty nearly a week after the race would have denied Vettel a fair chance of regaining his track position — which he could have done easily given that there were 67 laps more to go after the incident.
Even if he were to struggle — a bold assumption considering he is a great driver — Red Bull could have asked Mark Webber, who was ahead, to give Vettel a helping hand (slow down), just the way Felipe Massa did for his Ferrari teammate. The point is, with so many cameras and stewards, FIA's snail-paced decision making is horribly anachronistic. In F1, where split seconds make all the difference, five days is a lifetime.
Daksh is a principal correspondent based in New Delhi