That’s the verdict of F1 analyst and former driver Jolyon Palmer.
Sebastian Vettel missed the chance to claim his first race win of the 2019 Formula One season in Montreal last weekend after picking up a five-second penalty for almost colliding with Lewis Hamilton.
The German’s Ferrari was inches away from making contact with the back of his Mercedes rival having ran wide at the chicane of Turns Three and Four on lap 48 before taking a trip over the grass to re-join the track as Hamilton looked to move past him.
Race stewards deemed that an unsafe return to the track and Vettel was furious at his punishment, saying on the radio: “Where the hell else was I supposed to go? I had grass on my wheels. They are stealing the race from us.”
Vettel led the race from start to finish after claiming his first pole position of the year at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve but as a result of the penalty was dropped down to second, still his highest finish of the year so far, after finishing only 1.3 seconds ahead of the Brit.
The 31-year-old later claimed F1 is no longer the sport he “fell in love with” while his post-race antics, including taking the first place sign put in front of Hamilton’s Mercedes and placing it in front of his car before the podium ceremony
And Palmer felt that Vettel was simply diverting the attention away from his mistake – although many fans worldwide felt the Ferrari driver was harshly punished despite FIA rules.
Palmer wrote for BBC Sport: “Where Vettel ended up being genius was with his diversion tactics after the race – the pantomime smoke and mirrors of the tantrum, the meltdown, and then the eventual cheek of switching the final position markers with Hamilton in parc ferme.
Vettel’s actions ensured the talking point was the penalty, rather than the reason for it – the error from Vettel
“It endeared him to the crowd, most of whom were Ferrari fans in Canada, and were disappointed the penalty had decided the outcome of the race. Everybody was.
“But Vettel’s actions ensured the talking point was the penalty, rather than the reason for it – the error from Vettel.
“It continues a theme of the German cracking under pressure. Hamilton wasn’t going to pass Vettel in Turn Three. It’s not an overtaking place, but Vettel lost control of his car on his own, from the lead, and handed him the advantage.
“It was a strange oversteer, likely caused by overheating rear tyres, and some traffic ahead which would give him dirty air and cost him grip. Possibly Vettel was even distracted following numbers on the dash (likely to be brake wear or fuel targets), or by Hamilton in the mirrors.
“Whatever the reason(s), it doesn’t excuse another basic error from a four-time world champion. This was no small error. He was the only driver in the entire Grand Prix to cut the Turn Three/Four chicane. And he did so when he had his rival so close behind him as well for the lead of the race.
“The last time the leader threw the race away on his own, that man was Vettel. That was also the last time Vettel had pole position – 17 races ago in Hockenheim.
“He’s exceptionally talented as a driver, his pole lap was brilliant and he had the race in the bag in Montreal. But this is a worryingly repetitive trend for Vettel that none of the other top drivers have had.
“Indeed, Vettel threw away the Canadian Grand Prix in 2011, in very different circumstances, but a similar manner on the last lap, under moderate pressure from Jenson Button. Back then the Red Bull car was dominant enough to ensure Vettel rarely had a lot of pressure to deal with.
“Now at Ferrari, this apparent flaw is being exposed repeatedly and that should be the story of the race. Another mistake from Vettel from the lead, rather than the penalty that was correctly applied to him.”
The F1 circus will continue at the French Grand Prix’s Circuit Paul Ricard later this month, with championship leader Hamilton now 29 points ahead of Silver Arrows team-mate Valtteri Bottas – who is second in the standings – and 62 clear of third-placed Vettel.
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