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About that start...


No sooner was the Austrian Grand Prix underway than Sebastian Vettel was complaining that pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas had jumped the start.

However, over 20 laps into the race, the stewards announced that no further action was warranted.

In the ante-room before heading out on to the podium, a grinning Vettel told Bottas that he had jumped the start, and while at first this appeared to be the German's usual banter, during the podium interviews and subsequent press conference it was clear he was deadly serious.

"I think that was the start of my life," Bottas told podium MC Martin Brundle. "I was just really on it today so it was good."

Asked for his thoughts on the podium, Vettel said: "I don't think he... I was pretty sure he jumped it. Ask Daniel about it." However, the Australian, celebrating his fifth successive podium, was keen to get to the now traditional shoey celebration rather than talk race starts.

At the press conference shortly after however, there was no avoiding the issue.

Asked if he initially thought he may have jumped the start, Bottas replied: "No, when the car was moving, the lights were off so that was the main thing, so probably one of my best starts, maybe even quite risky, I think, but there's not much more to gain at the start and I knew I had to make a good one."

"From my point of view he jumped the start but... obviously I was sure that he did," said Vettel, "it looked like it from the inside of the car but it's not for me to judge at the end of the day."

Told that officially Bottas' reaction time was 0.201s, the German responded: "Don't believe that".

While discussion then turned to the title fight, and the fact that it is now turning into a three-way affair, not to mention what Daniel Ricciardo and Vettel had eaten the night before, eventually discussion returned to that start.

"You said that the important thing was the car only moved after the lights went out," Bottas was asked. "Does that mean that you actually gambled a little bit and you were just lucky that the car didn't move because you started your start procedure before that?" And turning to Vettel, German was asked: "What you do mean by not believing that Valtteri had the reaction time of 0.2 seconds. The computer said that, so how can that not be. Can you please elaborate."

"There is always the different variation since the five lights are on, since they go off," replied the Finn, "but the variation for quite a long time has not been massive, so you know more or less the zone when it is going to be off and you are so alert at that point and you are gambling between your reaction and guessing.

"Sometimes you get a mega one and sometimes you're a bit late," he added, "and today was my best reaction for the light. It is as long as you're positive and it was fine."

"First of all, to clarify it, I don't want to take anything away from Valtteri, I think he drove an excellent race," said Vettel. "Obviously at the end, with a difficult car he didn't do a mistake, so he performed well. But when I said I don't believe, it's because I don't believe.

"I think normally the reaction times are around 0.2 for everyone," he continued. "I don't think that everyone was that much slower today, that's why I don't believe that Valtteri was that much quicker.

"I had a strong belief at the time that he jumped the start," he added. "It turned out he didn't, so I'm guessing that there is a reason to believe he didn't but I can't believe that his reaction time was 0.2. That would be normal and in my point of view his reaction was inhuman, so... He said earlier that he is not human."

"Just joking," said Bottas

"He's Finnish," laughed Vettel.

At this point, Ricciardo joined in. "Can I elaborate," said the Australian. "Just to put my two cents in, as Valtteri said, the main thing is it was positive. The lights were held for a long time, more than normal. There is always a window but it did seem longer and when you are there and your revs are high and you're waiting, waiting. For sure, he went, but the lights went out but I guess he got lucky.

"I did it in Formula 3 before, once," he revealed. "Yeah, it was on the edge, I'm sure you react, but at that same point the lights went out. In theory it's not a natural reaction I don't believe, but as Valtteri said if it's plus then he's safe. But I don't believe he reacted to the lights.

Asked if he was convinced, at the time, that Bottas had jumped the start, the Red Bull driver nodded and said: "Yeah, I commented, I said it looked like Valtteri jumped.

"So, yeah in the end he didn't jump, because it was positive, but for sure he got a bit lucky. But as Seb rightly said, you can't take the win away from him, so he did well. But that's my opinion of how it went."

Fact is the for almost 20 years the FIA has used a system which allows a small degree of movement because sometimes drivers need to make adjustments, such as to their clutch, though transponders monitor these movements precisely. The amount of tolerance the drivers are allowed changes but teams are not informed in case they attempt to exploit the rule.

Such was the speed of the Finn's start, the stewards immediately began their investigation but the fact is that analysis merely pointed to "an exceptionally accurate and fortuitous judgement call" when the lights went out, and not an illegal start.

"The jump start system judges whether a car has moved a pre-set (very small) distance between the point at which the last red light comes on and the point at which the lights go out," said the FIA in a statement.

"We have found that need to allow for some very small movement, as drivers sometimes need to make clutch adjustments in preparation for the start. This system, which is dependent on the official timing provided by Formula One, has been in operation for some 20 years and has proved extremely reliable in that time.

"In today's instance, Valtteri Bottas did not exceed this (very small) limit before the start was given. Simply put: he made an exceptionally accurate and fortuitous judgement call, anticipating the moment the lights went out with great precision. Any movement prior to the moment the lights went out was within the tolerances allowed.

"As per art 36.13 of the sporting regulation either of the penalties under Articles 38.3c) or d) will be imposed for a false start judged using an FIA supplied transponder which must be fitted to the car as specified."

"Inhuman" or not, it was all perfectly legal.

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1. Posted by Pavlo, 11/07/2017 7:22

"Was lucky to hear Alex Wurz at Austrian TV. So:
1) Why Vettel saw it - on the start you focus on your clutch and the lights, and there is absolutely no movement. With your peripheral sight you immediately notice movement - the fact that another car that starts. He was not able to judge whether it was before or after, but it was very close and that's what he and Daniel reported. And his comment "I don't believe" is not about jump start, but about 0.2s - the sensor showed 0.3 for Vettel, and the difference was visibly more than 0.1s.
2) Bottas DID release the clutch go under red lights and car DID start moving under the red lights. They showed the slow motion, you see the frames:
frame 1. red lights, car stands
f 2. red lights, car stands, Bottas releases the clutch
f 3. red lights, car moved a bit
f 4. red lights disappeared
so it may be classified as a false start.
3. After releasing the clutch lever, there is some tiny delay till the clutch reacts and the car starts moving
4. The sensor has a threshold, and Bottas was lucky to be within it (same in the article above)
5. At the time of Wurz being the steward, they always looked at the sensors and ignored the video. (same in the article above)

So the summary is: given the random delay of the lights, Bottas was extremely lucky to get away with it, but it's highly not recommended to try it next time."

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2. Posted by NS Biker, 11/07/2017 6:07

"What was Seb doing .... watching Bottas and not the lights.??
One wonders how long and persistently has Bottas been practicing starts in the simulator. I know I did it once upon a time in the good old dirt-bike days.
The real test will be to see him do it again. My bet is he will. "

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3. Posted by NS Biker, 11/07/2017 6:04

"What was Vetel doing watching Bo"

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4. Posted by stoney, 10/07/2017 20:51

"In sprinting, a false start is declared if an athlete moves within 0.1s of the gun to avoid such anticipation.
In F1, it seems it's a different ruling - so fair play, I say. But, good luck recreating it, Valtteri!"

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5. Posted by @R1Racing71, 10/07/2017 16:48

"1994 French Grand Prix anyone?"

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6. Posted by Tom2681, 10/07/2017 16:40

"A good sprinter as an average reaction time of 150ms.
201ms might be exceptional... but not for an elite F1 driver.

If Seb still doesn't believe it, he can always watch the video from the start frame by frame."

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7. Posted by RDFox, 10/07/2017 14:50

"Guys, I don't see anything that shows Seb complaining after getting the detailed explanation from the stewards. He even flat-out admits that, whether Bottas was guessing or he did react to the lights, his launch RT was legal. I'd say this is much ado about nothing; Seb and Daniel saw an amazing start and thought it *had* to be illegal, and asked about it; the stewards clearly thought it probably was, too, based on starting their investigation immediately instead of waiting until someone complained. When you get that good a start, people are going to wonder if you jumped. Time to move on, because I'm pretty sure everyone actually IN the sport has."

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8. Posted by TedS, 10/07/2017 13:01

"It was an amazing start, and I don't blame vettel for thinking it was jumped.... he was .1 slower than Bottas

BUT the system has been in place 20 years and said he didn't jump. Time to just accept facts and move one."

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9. Posted by Mad Matt, 10/07/2017 11:03

"Wasn't it Daniel who complained on the radio first?"

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10. Posted by Chris Roper, 10/07/2017 10:52

"Last week Vettel accelerated into Hamilton and screamed "Break Test" into the radio.
This week he has a bad start and screams "Jumped Start" into the radio.

He is the master of misdirection and knows that because he is a Ferrari driver it will trigger an automatic investigation."

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11. Posted by Hobgoblin, 10/07/2017 9:52

""Waaah - he is better than me - it's not fair - waaah""

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12. Posted by Spindoctor, 10/07/2017 8:28

"Vettel needs to get a grip!
The ins & outs of "did he didn't he?" are irrelevant, because according to the FIA's current system he didn't.


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