Sebastian Vettel is now 62 points behind Hamilton in the drivers championship. Picture: REUTERS
Sebastian Vettel is now 62 points behind Hamilton in the drivers championship. Picture: REUTERS

Most of the Formula One paddock seemed to be in support of Sebastian Vettel after he was handed a controversial five-second penalty, which robbed him of victory in Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix.

The Ferrari driver made a mistake and drove onto the grass while leading on lap 48, and rejoined the Montreal track in a move that forced Lewis Hamilton to brake.

Stewards penalised Vettel five seconds, and though he crossed the line first he wasn’t far enough ahead of Hamilton, which handed victory to the Mercedes driver, his seventh win at the circuit.

A number of Formula One drivers and commentators believe this robbed the race of a thrilling duel between two multiple champions. The sport is under fire with officials blamed for being overzealous in applying rules, rather than letting the drivers get on with robust but fair racing.

“I felt a kick in the stomach when I saw that [five-second penalty] flash up on the computer,” said television commentator and former F1 driver Martin Brundle.

“Any of the stewards ever raced at the front in F1? Mental penalty,” said retired Australian racer Mark Webber, a former teammate and foe of Vettel’s, on Twitter.

“I think the function of the stewards is to penalise flagrantly unsafe moves not honest mistakes as result of hard racing,” said 1978 world champion Mario Andretti on Twitter.

“What happened at #CanadaGP is not acceptable at this level of our great sport.”

Brundle recognised that Sunday’s stewards, one of whom was five times Le Mans winner Emanuele Pirro, had to make hard decisions.

“No space for Lewis is name of game with street tracks. What happened to ‘Let them race?’ Was it sketchy? Yes! A penalty? Not in my view,” commented Alex Wurz, chair of the Grand Prix Drivers Association, on Twitter.

Not every former driver agreed. Outspoken Vettel critic and 2016 champion Nico Rosberg said: “It is very, very clear that unfortunately it was an unsafe return to the track. That is the rule. You have to return safely and that is the way it is. A penalty is deserved in that case.”

Spectators booed Hamilton as he stood on the Montreal podium, in what may have been partly in frustration at being robbed of seeing a non-Mercedes driver on the top step for a change. Mercedes has taken the opening seven wins in what is becoming a predictable season.

TASMIN TAKES MORE POINTS

SA driver Tasmin Pepper claimed seventh place in the third round of the all-woman W Series held in Misano, Italy last weekend.

Tasmin Pepper has scored points in all three rounds of the all-women W Series. Picture: SUPPLIED
Tasmin Pepper has scored points in all three rounds of the all-women W Series. Picture: SUPPLIED

The race was won by championship leader Jamie Chadwick from the UK, who now has 68 points, ahead of Beitske Visser (Netherlands) on 55.

Pepper, on 18 points, is eighth. The unique new championship makes history by being the first all-female single-seater racing series, and the 18 women taking part represent 13 nationalities.

The women compete against one another in identical single-seater race cars in a six-round championship around Europe as part of the DTM roadshow

The next race in the six-round series will be at Norisring, Germany on July 6.

LE MANS 24 HOUR THIS WEEKEND

This weekend is the 87th running of the Le Mans 24 Hour, the world’s most famous annual endurance race.

Ford tackles this weekend’s Le Mans 24 Hour with four special-liveried GTs. Picture: SUPPLIED
Ford tackles this weekend’s Le Mans 24 Hour with four special-liveried GTs. Picture: SUPPLIED

When the lights go out at 2pm on Saturday at the Sarthe circuit, Toyota, as the only factory team, will start as favourite to win the French classic after the marque’s historic first victory in 2018.

With Porsche and Audi having left the World Endurance Championship, Toyota has dominated the series and won six of the season’s seven races so far, and goes into Le Mans already assured of both the teams’ and drivers’ world championship.

Further down the field in the GTE Pro class, Ford is fielding a series of special celebration liveries for its GT cars in its last effort participating as a factory team.

Each of the four factory GTs will have a paint job inspired by the success of the blue oval at Le Mans, both recently and in the 1960s. Ford will line up against Ferrari, BMW, Aston Martin, Corvette and Porsche in a titanic six-way battle.