Formula 1: New Sebastian Vettel Yellow Flag Controversy Is a Storm over Nothing

Neil James@NeilosJamesFeatured ColumnistNovember 28, 2012

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - NOVEMBER 25:  Sebastian Vettel (C) of Germany celebrates with his Red Bull Racing race engineer Guillaume Rocquelin (L) and Red Bull Racing Performance Engineer Tim Malyon (R) after winning the drivers world championship during the Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace on November 25, 2012 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Could the sometimes bizarre and often unpredictable 2012 Formula One season really have ended without a bit of last minute drama?

Fresh footage not shown on the normal TV feed has emerged from Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix of new world champion Sebastian Vettel overtaking the Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne.

If Vettel is found to have made an illegal overtaking move, the likely result would be a 20-second penalty added to his race time. That would drop him from sixth to eighth in the standings, cost him four points and hand the title to Fernando Alonso.

This latest potential controversy comes after some commentators questioned whether Vettel had overtaken Kamui Kobayashi under yellow flags at a different point in the same race. The flags (actually lights) on that occasion turned out to be filling the role of the yellow and red striped "slippery surface" flags.

Video of the latest incident, which took place on the fourth lap of the race, is available on YouTube and BBC Sport.

At first glance it looks very straightforward—the pass was definitely made while still in the yellow flag zone. The yellow indicator lights on Vettel's steering wheel were on, and there appears to be no sign of a green flag or light until after the move is completed.

However, closer examination of the footage, such as a slowed-down and zoomed-in example on SpeedTV, appears to show a marshal at the side of the track waving a green flag before Vettel started the move.

And when a difference exists between the electronic systems (the flashing lights and steering wheel indicators) and the marshal posts (the actual flags), the marshals take precedence.

So while Ferrari are reportedly evaluating the evidence to see whether they can lodge a formal protest, it doesn't look like Vettel did anything wrong.

The title will not change hands in the courtroom—unless something else comes up, that is.