Stoffel Vandoorne has been handed a five-pace grid penalty for this weekend’s Formula Renault 3.5 race in Monaco. The Belgian crashed whilst under yellow flags conditions in a move that the Stewards deemed “dangerous”.
The McLaren Junior topped the sheets this morning, posting a fastest time of 1:24.711, until the incident saw the session red flagged two minutes before its scheduled end.
Vandoorne, who was negotiating the narrow streets of the Principality, spun at the Sainte Devote corner. The Fortec later collided with the stationary car of Zoel Amberg who in turn made great efforts to avoid Mathias Laine. The Marshals were positioned on the track, attempting to retrieve the Finn, and his car, safely.
It is understood that the rookie was not aware of the yellow flags which were positioned on the approach to the corner. Defending champions, Fortec Motorsports have simply stated that they will they review the evidence before making any statements.
It seems Vandoorne was alone in his view as the usually friendly paddock grew angry at what they believed was a ‘soft’ penalty. No driver could confirm whether the flags were waving at the entrance to the turning or not and CCTV and TV recordings have also failed to be conclusive on the matter.
The usually friendly paddock was in disarray following the incident, one that sparked an angry response from some drivers on the grid.
Pre season title favourite, Antonio Felix da Costa said: “If there were no yellow flags then his penalty should be nothing.
“If there were yellow flags then the penalty should be bigger. I get on with Stoffel, but I would feel this way if it happened to anyone on the grid. A five place penalty is a joke.”
Every driver seems adamant; the understanding of yellow flags in Monaco is of paramount importance. It has shaped much of the driver briefings since Pastor Maldonado’s crash in 2005.
The Venezuelan received a stark warning from race officials and a ban when his GP2 race saw much incident. Unlike Maldonado’s crash, no marshals were injured. It may therefore be clear why his fellow drivers, who normally hold him in such high esteem, were angry at an apparent continuity error on the Stewards’ behalf. Normally, the World Series by Renault is thought to be fair in its penalty giving.
The drivers are often reminded of the 90 degree turning at Sainte Devote due to these previous incidents. It seems that nobody is really sure whether this particular penalty has even been correctly given, let alone poorly judged.
With no recorded evidence to support or criticise either case, the “soft” penalty was most likely given for his dangerous spin on the notoriously difficult circuit rather than the yellow flag impediment specifically.
This penalty may allow ‘stoodonthepodium’ columnist, and Vandoorne’s Fortec team mate, Oliver Webb, an opportunity to outperform the Belgian for the first time this season. The Brit, now experienced in street races following a year in Indy Lights, spoke of his delight to return to the Principality: “It felt amazing driving the streets of Monaco again, some time to find for Qualifying on Saturday after the red flag. Can’t wait for the challenge!”
All eyes will be on the Belgian has he attempts to reclaim his championship lead from the Dane, Kevin Magnussen. Can the rookie cope with the paddock fall out or will his youth and inexperience show?
Pos Driver Team Time Gap Laps 1. Stoffel Vandoorne Fortec 1m24.711 24 2. Antonio F. da Costa Arden Caterham 1m24.821 + 0.110s 25 3. Norman Nato DAMS 1m24.973 + 0.262s 24 4. Carlos Sainz Jr Zeta Corse 1m24.975 + 0.264s 24 5. Mikhail Aleshin Tech 1 1m24.984 + 0.273s 22 6. Kevin Magnussen DAMS 1m25.060 + 0.349s 23 7. Jazeman Jaafar Carlin 1m25.066 + 0.355s 24 8. Nick Yelloly Zeta Corse 1m25.292 + 0.581s 23 9. Marco Sorensen Lotus 1m25.321 + 0.610s 23 10. Nigel Melker Tech 1 1m25.603 + 0.892s 23 11. Carlos Huertas Carlin 1m25.859 + 1.148s 22 12. Nico Muller Draco 1m26.016 + 1.305s 23 13. Zoel Amberg Pons 1m26.107 + 1.396s 21 14. Christopher Zanella ISR 1m26.255 + 1.544s 25 15. Arthur Pic AV Formula 1m26.260 + 1.549s 24 16. M.Stockinger Lotus 1m26.263 + 1.552s 23 17. Will Stevens P1 1m26.388 + 1.677s 24 18. Daniil Move Comtec 1m26.391 + 1.680s 23 19. N.Martsenko Pons 1m26.419 + 1.708s 24 20. Matias Laine P1 1m26.647 + 1.936s 22 21. Andre Negrao Draco 1m26.700 + 1.989s 22 22. Oliver Webb Fortec 1m26.744 + 2.033s 25 23. Sergey Sirotkin ISR 1m26.970 + 2.259s 23 24. Yann Cunha AV Formula 1m27.192 + 2.481s 25 25. Lucas Foresti Comtec 1m27.875 + 3.164s 22 26. Pietro Fantin Arden Caterham 1m28.292 + 3.581s 23
IMAGES COURTESY OF RENAULT SPORT