Vettel’s jump-start at Japan

Much has been said, written and discussed about Sebastian Vettel’s’ jump start at the Japanese Grand Prix. 

As we all know Vettel jumped the start and came to a stop after moving barely 4-6 inches. He then started again when the lights went out. Vettel was under investigation for this, but eventually wasn’t given a penalty. The FIA found the distance moved by him was within ‘acceptable tolerances’ and not significant enough to gain an advantage as he stopped (just about) on the sensor. While media and fans debated about the decision, the Race Director, Michael Masi came out and spoke more about it to the media. 

The start of the 2019 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka

While I have an opinion as well, it is not the reason for writing this article. The objective of writing this article is to put forth a few questions about ‘penalizing jump-starts in F1’.  

When Vettel moved the drivers immediately around him must have surely noticed it in their peripheral vision. How did it affect them? Did it distract them or cause them to momentarily lose focus/concentration? If yes, were they disadvantaged with this?

The FIA came out and said Vettel was not penalized as his movement was within acceptable tolerances. Who decides what is ‘acceptable tolerance’? Is it purely based on distance covered? If yes, then are all the entities involved (teams, drivers, FIA, etc.):

  1. in agreement with this?
  2. are on the same page when it comes to interpretation and minute details?

What is the message that is going out to teams and drivers? Are we establishing that it is ok to jump the start provided it is not enough to gain an advantage (acceptable tolerance)?

Does this judgement leave a slight grey area, when it comes to jumping starts? Can teams and/or drivers use this to their advantage?

Lastly, shouldn’t it be as simple as this – Once you take your position on the grid after the formation lap and before the start lights come on; you are permitted to move only after the lights go out. Any movement in between warrants a penalty.  

Article 36.13 of 2019 F1 Sporting Regulations