Rule Vettel broke is ‘easy to follow’ – Whiting

FIA race director Charlie Whiting believes Formula 1’s red-flag rules are an “easy thing to follow” and that Sebastian Vettel simply did not do a good enough job at Austin.

Vettel picked up a three-place grid penalty for last weekend’s United States Grand Prix after failing to slow sufficiently when red flags were thrown in practice on Friday.

F1’s rules were tightened this year to enforce a mini-sector delta time between marshal points on the circuit.

Onboard video footage of Vettel’s car through the esses, the part of the track in question, showed he had backed off significantly but he still managed to breach the rule.

“I think it is better to have the hard and fast rule because we are continually asked how much they have to slow down,” Whiting said when asked by about the argument between a clear ruling and a common sense approach.

“So, it’s like with more or less everything the teams do with the cars. They want to know how far they can push it.

“It’s a clear limit and it’s an easy thing to follow. I just think it was a driver mistake.”

The red-flag rules are enshrined in Article 31.6 of the sporting regulations, which were revised this year to include the new delta time.

Now the rules state that “drivers must stay above the minimum time set by the FIA ECU at least once in each marshalling sector” during a red-flag period. This is also how speeds under safety cars and virtual safety cars are monitored.

Whiting said it “seemed at odds” not to have the same system for red flags.

“It was a logical thing to do, the teams felt, to use exactly the same system,” he added.

“We’ve had three cases now where drivers have failed to stick to that.

“One of them was a mistake from a driver who admitted what he’d done, that was Daniel [Ricciardo] in Australia. Esteban [Ocon] was in Suzuka and Seb this time.

“I don’t know exactly what they did or why they didn’t adhere to the delta time but they seem to manage it perfectly well when the safety car or VSC is out.

“So, I don’t know whether it’s a matter of whether drivers don’t remember, perhaps.

“It’s pretty clear, as every light panel is showing bright red. It’s not as if you can actually miss it.

“But he did. He didn’t do a good enough job on that particular occasion.”

Addressing the severity of the penalty, Whiting pointed out that the FIA’s guidelines actually reference a five-place grid penalty for red-flag offences.

He explained that the stewards’ decision to impose a three-place grid penalty on Ricciardo set a precedent.

“If someone doesn’t slow down for a red flag it’s serious, I think,” said Whiting.

“When you look at it in the cold light of day it is a bad thing not to slow down enough for a red flag, however you dress it up.”

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