It appears that every race in the 2018 F1 season has required the intervention of the FIA stewards to resolve issues between drivers or contraventions of the rules and regulations.
Last Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix was no exception.
Long, long ago, when I was involved as a navigator in SA Rallying, the use of the “white book” was occasionally employed to ensure fair play between competitors and to run the event within the constraints of the rules and regulations set by AA Motorsport.
Very rarely would you witness the possible use of the rule book in an attempt to gain an advantage over a fellow competitor. But it seems that F1 is deadset on becoming the centre of trackside litigation.
If that’s the case, I have a very important plea. Ensure that the decisions made are consistent. Let’s not knock the officials involved.
Theirs is an unenviable task, despite the use of the latest technology to assist them, as last weekend’s event proved. The first incident involved Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and the Red Bull of Max Verstappen as they entered the chicane.
Verstappen went too deep into the right hander and had no option but take to the gravel while Raikkonen stayed on the tar and negotiated the following left hander.
Unfortunately, the Dutchman tried to regain the track as quickly as he could and collided with Raikkonen, the Finn losing position to Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel.
The stewards handed Verstappen a five second penalty and another point on his super licence, not for the contact but for regaining the track in an unsafe manner.
Verstappen, who was not happy, said: “I locked up, I could have easily cut the track but I made my best efforts to get back on the track.
He then chose to drive around the outside, while he could have easily just waited for me to steer a bit wide. I really don’t understand why I got a five second penalty for that.”
Verstappen was involved in another “racing incident” when he tried an overtaking move into the left hand spoon curve, the cars touched and the German dropped from fourth to last.
The stewards decided no penalties were required. Vettel was strongly criticised, but it was a move to catch the fast disappearing Silver Arrows which went wrong.
Others to receive penalties included McLaren’s Fernando Alonso and Williams Lance Stroll, the Spaniard being another driver who is not impressed with the stewards’ inconsistency.
Stroll got a five second penalty after he forced Alonso off the track as the pair braked into the chicane.
Strangely Alonso was also given a five second penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage over Stroll, an odd one when you consider that he only took to the gravel due to Williams driver’s error. Both drivers received penalty points.
With yet another dominant display from Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, Ferrari’s chance of a title have effectively disappeared.
It is almost a re-run of last year’s title chase, with a battle between Vettel and Hamilton when the Stuttgart steamroller won both Drivers’ and Constructors’ championships.
This year was more encouraging when Vettel took the win at Spa, climbing to 17 points behind the Englishman. But Hamilton took the next four wins and has a 67 point advantage.
Next up is the US race and if Hamilton takes the win and Vettel finishes lower than second the title goes to the Mercedes driver for a fifth world championship.