Formula 1: Vettel's early start in Japan (2019) Legal perspective and lessons

Formula 1: Vettel’s early start in Japan (2019) Legal perspective and lessons

Maybe you are a Formula 1 enthusiast like us and if this is the case you may have woken up early to watch the Japanese Gran Prix. The 2019 version was an exhilarating one to remember for years to come.

The crash between Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc may have been the start of the fight of the a generation of drivers to take over the crown of Lewis Hamilton.

At the start Vettel’s car moved before all red lights were off to stop shortly afterwards. Vettel was criticised for this even though he was not considered to have gained any advantage. If you want to watch what happened click here.

Was the start legal and what legal lessons can be learned in general?

Most legal studies start with checking the applicable rules and this is no exception. FIA 2019 Formula One Sporting Regulations. Section 36.13 ‘Either of the penalties under Articles 38.3c) or d) will be imposed on any driver who is judged to have: a) Moved before the start signal is given, such judgement being made by an FIA approved and supplied transponder fitted to each car…’

So, a driver is punished if the car moves too early. Movement is measured by a transponder. In this case the transponder did not record any movement, though video footage clearly shows movement. For this reason, the decision by the stewards has been widely criticised.

To make a sound decision, the issue of gaining benefit is not relevant really.

Transponders are programmed to have a small margin which are kept secret to prevent the teams from using these margins to gain an advantage. Since the movement was within these margins the start was correct according to the stewards.

Like in Formula 1 there is often a discrepancy between facts and the (legal)  interpretation of these facts. Some facts may seem to be illegal, but this may not be the case for several reasons.

To ensure all parties concerned understand and comply to an agreement, legal margins should be prevented of be kept as small as possible. Any margin may cause discussions.

When drafting a contract, clear definitions are important and should not allow multiple interpretations. The agreement must enable others (judges) to decide what parties have agreed on. The Dutch Haviltex court case is about the intentions of parties. It might be argued that if contracts are drafted correctly intentions may be less relevant, since the contract is clear what parties have agreed on.

The wording of contracts should be unambiguous. “… to the best of our knowledge” is a widely used phrase which in the end may lead to elaborate discussions. Most companies would like to prevent these legal discussions for good reasons.

In such a case we kindly offer you to have an introductory phone call free of charge. Good advice before signing a contract and drafting clear contracts will save you precious time. Time you spend on enjoying Formula One racing.

Court rules Ryanair needs to compensate passengers (EU 261/2004)

Court of Appeal rules Ryanair needs to compensate passengers (EU 261/2004)

In September 2017 a flight from Malta to Eindhoven was delayed more than 3 hours. Four passengers transferred their claim to Claimingo who requested compensation from Ryanair, who did not pay. Therefore court action was inevitable.

Terms and Conditions

Ryanair argued that the transfer of the claim was invalid because its terms and conditions did not allow such a transfer. Also the company argued that there were extraordinary circumstances which caused the delay (unserviceable VHF radio for navigation).


At first the court did agree because passengers rights were not limited because of this clause.

Court of Appeal

The Court of Appeal in ‘s-Hertogenbosch ruled that such a clause was not allowed according to European Law (Regulation 261/2004). Therefore the transfer was legally valid.

According to European law, maintenance issues are the responsibility of the airline. In this case the court of appeal ruled that an unserviceable radio was the responsibility of the company.

[Note: EASA rules allow a flight if there are alternatives available. In this case an RNP approach.]


This decision is important because of the implications for airlines terms and conditions and pending lawsuits. The court of appeal confirms the general opinion about maintenance.

Bletchley Park and aviation.

Bletchley Park Lawyers have expertise in legal matters regarding aviation and technical knowledge of aviation related matters. Bletchley Park has a track record in claims/compensations, liability for aircraft and spare parts. We assist airlines, maintenance companies and flight schools. We offer advice and tools to ensure your operations are compliant.

Please contact Mr F.E. Olberts (+31-(0)6-2150449) for more information. With this URL you can schedule a remote introductory meeting.

Aviation and compliance

Aviation and compliance

Few sector seem to be more regulated than aviation. These regulations have a major impact on day to day operations.

Compliance issues may become safety issues when not handled properly. Eventually issues may lead to reputation damage and legal claims.

How does your organisation keep track of all checklists, contracts, airworthiness directives?

Compliance suite

Bletchley Park offers advice and tools to address compliance issues, including libraries for documents & procedures, workflows enabling you to trace and report your operations.

Whether you are a flight school, a maintenance company or an airline do not hesitate to contact us about any legal aviation issue, for Bletchley Park has a proven track record in aviation.

Please contact Frank Olberts by e-mail or by phone +31-(0)20-8943522.


Settling or going to court?

Often parties just keep on negotiating until they reach an agreement which is impossible to carry out. Therefore it is better to call a lawyer early, so he/she can prevent legal pitfalls. Often, this is more cost efficient, especially when the first introductory meeting is free of charge.

May the police lure people to do something criminal?

Authorities are bound to rules. When solving crime not all are means allowed. Many regulations are  written in laws. Many other regulations can be found in court decisions. The so called Tallon criterion (1979) is one of these regulations not to be found in the law itsself.

The case is about under cover agents who infiltrate in international drugs trading.

There is a fine line between what is allowed and what is not allowed. In short ‘people may not be ‘encouraged’ to act differently than they already intended to act before’. The police may not provoke people into crime.

However in 2008, the Supreme Court in The Netherlands decided the usage of bikes to catch thieves is allowed.

Festival season, how to prevent a criminal record

It’s summer and the festival season is here again. The Netherlands is known for it’s laid back policy regarding drugs. Soft drugs can be obtained quite easily, but also other narcotics can be bought easily. Therefore, many people goiing to parties assume that really everything is allowed. The legal reaility is otherwise and on many parties the police is very strict about the kind of drugs and the amount posessed.

In 2014, many people were fined. Accepting such a fine may be considered as an easy was to resolve the issue. A fine sometimes just seemed like a temporary pause from the party. However, accepting such a penalty results into a criminal record!

In many cases people were not warned (properly) in advance about this and for this reason many lawyers have complained about the way of conduct by the relevant authorities.

Therefore, we advise you to be reluctant to just accept the fine. If you want further legal assistance (afterwards), please do not hesitate to contact us.