About that start...

10/07/2017
NEWS STORY

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.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Spielberg, here.

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Published: 10/07/2017
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