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FIA unlikely to reconsider red flag rules as Vettel gains support over penalty

Written by  Oct 21, 2018

FIA race director Charlie Whiting insists there does not need to be a new look at the red flag regulations following Sebastian Vettel's penalty at the United States GP.

The German became the third driver this season to be penalised for traveling too fast when the first practice session was halted to clear gravel which had been dragged onto the track following an off for Charles Leclerc.

In that scenario, each driver has a minimum lap time he must stay above through individual sectors but in the wet conditions Vettel felt the time frame set to reach the reduce down to the minimum speed was too fast and "common sense" should have been used.

“Seb actually took nearly 28 seconds to get down to the reference time which is quite a long time, quite honestly. It’s normally well under 10, i.e. less than one of our marshalling sectors,” Whiting explained to Sky Sports.

“We’ve got a loop at every marshal light so here we’ve got 20 different sectors. We look in real time, we can see, we know what the reference time is and the drivers’ time for that sector is green if he’s positive, red if he’s negative. It’s very simple to check.”

Asked if he thought some tweaks may need to be made, the veteran race official stated: “It shouldn’t need it."

Whiting then explained the precedent for the penalty was set when Daniel Ricciardo became the first to fall foul back in Australia with a three-place grid penalty given to him, Esteban Ocon in Japan and now Vettel in Austin.

Some drivers, however, sided with the four-time world champion.

“It’s quite a harsh penalty,” Toro Rosso's Pierre Gasly said. “If you’ve been really careful when you pass in front of the crash and just after you don’t pay attention so much and you get a penalty like this.

“Before, if there’s a crash and a red flag you just slow down a lot in the place you had the crash and then after that you drive carefully, and it’s not like you need to respect a certain time.

“It always worked in the past. Now it’s quite strict, but at the same time rules are rules and you need to respect them."

Haas driver Romain Grosjean also thinks Vettel was unlucky with the timing of the red flag as he wound through the high-speed esses at the start of the lap.

“You only get a couple of milliseconds to slow down,” he said. “Sometimes you get it in the right place, sometimes you get it in the wrong place.

“[For example] if you’re halfway through Turns 17 and 18 [the fast double-right hander] it’s a bit tricky to slow down as much as you should.”

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Perhaps a surprise voice admitting frustration to what happened was Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff, who has regularly backed Vettel in the face of criticism.

"For the championship, obviously it’s not good if Sebastian would get a penalty. We’d rather have him there and put on a great show," he said.

"I think we need to talk about it because safety of the marshals and the car that’s in the barrier is super important, but we need to look at the regulations. We want to get rid of the penalties, so merging the two is not a trivial thing."

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