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F1 Controversy: Canada 2019

Written by Brett Viedge, Edited by Simran Kanthi

Image Credit: Dan Istitene/Getty Images

An in-depth review of the 2019 Canadian Grand Prix controversy, in which Sebastian Vettel received a five-second penalty for leaving and rejoining the track, which gifted Lewis Hamilton the win. Vettel then famously switched the number 1 sign in front of Hamilton’s car and replaced it with the number 2 board, signalling that he should have won the race.

The 2019 Canadian Grand Prix was an important race for Sebastian Vettel for several reasons. Having driven 14 races in which he did not win a race, many rumours were circulating about his retirement from the sport altogether. Although the SF-90 had very little downforce, its low drag design allowed for incredible straight-line speed, which suited this circuit well and Ferrari fans were anticipating a great race for the Italian team. As it turned out, this was indeed the case as Charles Leclerc, who was Vettel's teammate in Ferrari then, was the fastest driver on Friday during Practice, while Vettel took pole position in Qualifying on Saturday by more than two tenths, putting him ahead of his closest rival, Lewis Hamilton.

Vettel kept a solid lead in the race until lap 26 where he pitted for new tyres, which allowed Hamilton to bridge the gap between them and brought them a lot closer together after Hamilton had pitted two laps later. Hamilton followed Vettel closely for a couple of laps until, in lap 48, Vettel went straight over the grass at turn four, missing the corner completely. To avoid a collision with the Ferrari, which was rejoining the track, Hamilton had to slow down and move off of the racing line. Vettel then maintained his lead in the race, until it was decided on lap 57 that he would receive a five-second penalty for the incident. Vettel tried his best over the next thirteen laps to build his lead over Hamilton to more than five seconds, although once they crossed the finish line on lap 70, the gap was only 1.3 seconds, meaning that Hamilton had won the race, even though Vettel had crossed the line first.

At the end of the race, Vettel did not park his car in parc fermé and instead parked further down the pit lane, and had to be collected by an official to attend the podium. On the way to the podium, Vettel removed the number 1 sign in front of Hamilton’s car and placed it in the empty spot where his Ferrari should have been parked. A furious-looking Vettel then stood on the podium alongside Lewis, although he did not take part in the celebrations, making for a very awkward podium ceremony.

Image Credit: Batchelor/XPB Images

What are your thoughts on this controversial incident?

1 comment

1 Comment

Mar 21, 2023

Good article Brett - Vettel made an error on track and the resultant incident, correction and avoidance by Hamilton was a scene of pure drivers reflex. Seb fought the car and avoided crashing, Lewis took avoiding action to avert a collision. That should have been the end of it and if it had been both would have continued that race on the basis Seb was becoming suceptible to an error and Lewis was having success applying pressure. This would have ensured a straight old fashioned fight to the flag. As it was, everyone started bleating and moaning on the radio and then all the unsightly, albeit humourous empty parc ferme, sign wrangling from Seb and snarling faces. Pirro who was…

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