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The Vettel precedent facing Ferrari with Sainz penalty review

Ferrari are hoping for a review of Carlos Sainz's Australian Grand Prix penalty, but face a precedent from Sebastian Vettel which they must overcome.

Such was the feeling of being hard done by at Maranello, Ferrari submitted a 'right of review' in an attempt to try and overturn Carlos Sainz's Australian Grand Prix Formula 1 time penalty. The hope is that Sainz's five-second time penalty will be expunged from the record books and his fourth-place reinstated instead of what is currently down as 12th place - and last. He was handed the penalty for tagging Fernando Alonso at the Lap 57 restart, and was not able to put his case towards the stewards before the punishment was handed out - with the Spaniard on the verge of tears when being informed by his race engineer, Riccardo Adami. The right of review is permitted in the FIA International Sporting Code, which allows teams 14 days to make clear their intentions - although a "significant and relevant new element [that was] unavailable to the parties seeking the review at the time of the decision concerned," must be presented. In other words, Ferrari must present evidence unavailable to the stewards at the time of their initial decision to penalise Sainz - but as they found out through Sebastian Vettel in 2019, that is a high bar to clear.

The Vettel precedent

In the 2019 Canadian Grand Prix, Vettel looked set to take his first win of the season, leading comfortably after securing pole position. However, on Lap 48 of 70, he ran wide at the Turn 3 chicane, cutting across the grass when under pressure from Lewis Hamilton. The stewards felt Vettel rejoined unsafely and squeezed Hamilton, handing the Ferrari driver a five-second time penalty. Vettel crossed the line first, but was only 1.4s ahead of Hamilton who inherited the win, as Ferrari tried to get the penalty overturned. Testimony from Vettel, otherwise unavailable during the Canadian GP, was considered as part of the appeal package but the bar to clear the "significant and relevant new element" of evidence proved too high for the Scuderia. Next time out in France, it was revealed that part of their package of new evidence included analysis from Sky F1 pundit Karun Chandhok after the race. This was dismissed by the FIA as being the "opinion of a third party" and so Vettel's penalty stood. In Sainz's case, it is hard to imagine what "significant and relevant new element" Ferrari could have found, aside from testimony from the driver himself given how well documented it was. But that is not to say however, that getting the penalty overturned is impossible - as Red Bull found to their advantage in 2020.

Successful and non-successful right of reviews

At the 2020 season-opener in Austria, Red Bull put in a protest against Hamilton after yellow flags at the end of Q3. Footage from the onboard 360-degree camera, not available immediately to the stewards, found he had passed the yellow flags and not slowed down - and so demoted him from second to fifth on the grid - bumping Max Verstappen up to P2. Elsewhere, Haas successfully used the right of review after the 2022 United States Grand Prix to protest Alonso's car after it sustained damage in a collision with Lance Stroll, although it was later thrown out after Alpine protested Haas's protest. However, the right of review has not always been successfully used - with Red Bull being denied in mid-2021. After the infamous Lap 1 collision at Copse between Hamilton and Verstappen, the team felt a 10s penalty for Hamilton was not punishment enough - and so set out to try and get a harsher one applied after he had won the race. This included the 'manufacturing' of new evidence as they got Alex Albon out on track, recreating Hamilton's line through Copse, trying to prove Hamilton was at fault after Horner had said that "you don't put a wheel up the inside" of the corner - forgetting the time he egged on Vettel through the same corner when battling Alonso in 2014. Needless to say, this 'new' evidence Red Bull made was thrown out by the stewards and Hamilton's victory remained intact as tensions just started to boil over between Mercedes and Red Bull.

One aspect in favour of Ferrari

One thing that could help Ferrari in their pursuit of overturning Sainz's penalty is the fact that officially, the incident never happened at all. It occurred on Lap 57, but after the chaos, the race was red-flagged before the leader - Verstappen - made it to the Sector 1 timing line, and so no definitive race order could be determined by the FIA. In cases such as these, they revert back to the last time such an order could be found - the one under the red flag - minus anyone caught up in incidents. It was a freak situation in Melbourne as when he came back into the pits under this third red flag, Verstappen officially started the final lap of the race - with a rolling restart bringing the field around to the chequered flag with overtaking not permitted. In doing this, Alonso was reinstated to third place, having fallen to last after the contact as if it had never happened at all. Ferrari must argue that if something has officially never happened, how can their driver be penalised for it? The Scuderia might also consider the fact that Logan Sargeant was not even investigated for drop-kicking Nyck de Vries at the same restart in what appeared to be a far more egregious breach of the rules than Sainz tagging Alonso as the Aston Martin cut back in front of the Ferrari. Let us know what you think of Carlos Sainz's penalty in the comments below and by voting in the poll!

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