Motorsport's governing body has indicated that there is nothing to suggest that Sebastian Vettel overtook under yellow flags during the Brazilian Grand Prix, thereby removing the prospect of a post-race penalty that could affect the destiny of the F1 title.
Despite having claims that the German had passed Kamui Kobayashi under yellows ruled out by confirmation that the pair were actually passing signals warning of a slippery surface, rumours continued to circulate online amid previously unseen footage from lap four, which appeared to show Vettel's recovery drive taking him past Jean-Eric Vergne with yellow warning lights clearly illuminated.
Overnight news that Ferrari was reviewing the footage sparked suggestions of a possible protest, but the Scuderia only went as far as asking the FIA for a clarification of the situation – at the same time as various sources claimed to have been told by the governing body that there was 'no case to answer'.
Although the FIA has yet to issue an official response, it has confirmed that flag signals take precedence over electronic ones, including the cockpit system visible in the onboard footage. Thus, a green flag, seen waving from a marshal post between the second yellow lightboard at turn three and a green one that follows, gives Vettel permission to overtake before he gets to the more highly-visible 'all clear' at the entry to turn four.
“Calm down chaps - Seb didn't overtake under yellow,” FIA medical car driver Alan van der Merwe wrote on his Twitter
feed, “Forget the dash lights…it's about the green flag which he had passed. Flags>lights.”
FIA race director Charlie Whiting also confirmed that the move was legal, telling German magazine Auto Motor und Sport
that 'if the lights are not installed at a flag post the driver responds to the first signal that is shown'.
"In Vettel's case, between the last yellow light and the green light, there was a green flag being waved. Vettel responded to the flag and did everything right."
Had the governing body decided that Vettel passed Vergne illegally, it could have imposed a retrospective time penalty, effectively dropping him two places from sixth to eighth and costing him four points – enough to confirm Fernando Alonso as champion by a single mark……
Fortunately, there seems to be enough proof that that wasn't the case, and the F1 circus can rest easy that an enthralling championship will not be sullied by some post-season recriminations.