German GP: Sebastian Vettel penalised for Jenson Button pass

Reigning champion Sebastian Vettel has been penalised for passing McLaren's Jenson Button while off-track during the German Grand Prix.

Red Bull's Vettel was given a 20-second penalty, which drops him from second to fifth place.

The race stewards decided Vettel had "left the track and gained an advantage when he rejoined".

The incident happened when they were battling for second on the penultimate lap of the race.

The only intention was not to crash and to give him enough room

Sebastian Vettel

The penalty promotes Kimi Raikkonen to third and Kamui Kobayashi to fourth in a race which was won by Ferrari's Fernando Alonso.

After the race Button said: "Sebastian [Vettel]'s pass was a pretty straightforward matter: the rules state that you can't go off the track to gain an advantage.

"The thing is, there would have been more opportunities for him before the end of the race as my rear tyres were damaged. That's because I had to push hard to try and catch Fernando [Alonso], which meant I had nothing left for the end of the race.

"We pretty much ran out of rubber two laps before the end."

Vettel defended his actions but accepted the penalty: "I wasn't sure where he was, I couldn't see him in that moment, so decided to give enough space and went off line on the slippery paint and I was able to stay ahead and get past him.

"The only intention was not to crash and to give him enough room. I have respect for him and I didn't want to squeeze him.

"It was good to be on the podium at the home race, but I have to respect the steward's decision."

After the race, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said: "The rules are clear, the driver has to leave enough room for the other. There wasn't enough room for both. It was really a racing incident. I think it would be harsh to penalise him."

But following the decision, Horner added: "It was disappointing to receive the penalty after the race but we accept this."

Vettel penalty harsh - Horner

Button passed Vettel during the second round of stops after McLaren performed what they claim  to be the fastest stationary pit stop in history at 2.31 seconds.

The McLaren driver then gave chase to leader Alonso but began struggling with his tyres in the closing stages, which allowed Vettel to close the gap.

The Red Bull driver attempted a pass around the outside of the Turn 6 hairpin, but Button defended his position while giving Vettel space.

Vettel took to the run-off placing all four wheels off track, before sweeping back onto the circuit and completing the move. Drivers are not allowed to gain position while going off the track.

Button immediately radioed his team saying: "Did Sebastian just pass me off the circuit?"

As they waited for the podium ceremony, Button said to Vettel: "They are going to investigate your overtake by the way." Vettel responded: "I didn't know where you were."