Jenson Button made a mistake in the Malaysian Grand Prix that cost him a probable decent haul of points. Under braking for turn 9, Button locked his rear tyres. As a result, he hit the HRT of Narain Karthikeyan, who was ahead of Button at the time (rain really does shake up the order). Button broke his front wing and had to pit for a new nose, costing him a massive chunk of time and therefore any chance of points in the race. There was no apparent damage to Karthikeyan’s HRT.
No-one really thought anything of the incident. Button made a mistake, he paid the price. The car he hit was only an HRT. No big deal.
But on closer inspection of the crash, Button exhibits a blatant disregard for the car in front of him. He obviously failed to slow down enough to take the corner without hitting the HRT. Under those circumstances, a driver would normally run wide in the corner. But Button isntead tried to duck up the inside of Karthikeyan.
Button must have known that he would not be able to take the inside line. He was simply moving too quickly. His actions, then, suggest that he went in to the corner knowing he could do damage to another car. The fact that the HRT survived the incident is beside the point. Button caused an avoidable collision, which is generally punished harshly in Formula One.
So where’s the penalty?
Karthikeyan himself was harshly punished for a later incident with Sebastian Vettel, where Vettel lapped the HRT, and as he went past, the front wing of Karthikeyan’s car punctured the left rear tyre of the Red Bull. It could easily be argued that Vettel was over-aggressive in returning to the racing line after lapping the HRT, but it is Karthikeyan who had 20 seconds added to his race time.
The stewards were obviously inconsistent in Sunday’s race. Button was wrong, he should be penalised. Karthikeyan was not particularly wrong in the incident with Vettel, yet he was harshly penalised. Why are HRT being marginalised and the front-runners favoured?