Sebastian Vettel will face a one race ban if he crosses the line with stewards again in the way he did in Baku today.
This puts him on a disciplinary tightrope for the next two races, which means he cannot afford any more misdemeanours if he is to have a clear run at the F1 title battle.
Already it is complicated by the possibility of engine penalties later this season, but the four times world champion now has 9 penalty points on his FIA superlicence in a 12 month period, after stewards in Baku hit him with three points and a 10 sec stop/go penalty for deliberately bumping wheels with title rival Lewis Hamilton behind the Safety Car.
Another three points would take him to 12 and, as with road car licences, that means a ban, in this case for one race. The first of the points on his licence will drop off around the time of the British Grand Prix next month.
Vettel was hit with licence points in Silvertone, Malaysia and Mexico last season. Since the licence system was brought in no f1 driver has actually served a ban, but Daniil Kvyat has had 12 non-concurrent points and Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen have both been on eight points at times. Sergio Perez has incurred points in four seasons, without getting close to a ban.
The Ferrari driver claimed Hamilton ‘brake tested’ him behind one of the many Safety Cars in Baku, (intentionally slowing), leading Vettel to drive into the back of him. Vettel pulled alongside and drove his right side wheels into Hamilton’s left side.
In terms of a retaliatory gesture on the sports field, it was somewhat comparable with the footballer’s ‘head butt’ gesture (above), such as Zinedine Zidane did in the 2006 France vs Italy world cup final (below), which attracts an automatic red card under FIFA rules. The FIA stewards in Baku – who also examined Hamilton’s telemetry and found it to be in order – issued Vettel with the equivalent of a yellow card.
Hamilton described it as ‘unprecedented’ in F1, and said that it sends out a very bad signal to young drivers.
“Driving alongside and deliberately driving into another driver and getting away pretty much scot-free as he still came fourth, I think that’s a disgrace. I think he disgraced himself today,” said Hamilton, who was angered that Vettel still managed to score two points more than he did, after Hamilton was forced to make an unscheduled late pit stop to secure a loose headrest.
Vettel refused to accept that he did anything wrong, or even to acknowledge that he had driven into Hamilton and when told on the radio he had a stop/go penalty, he questioned what the “dangerous driving” was that he was supposed to have committed.
Vettel said that Hamilton should also have been penalised for slowing on the exit of a corner as they prepared for the restart and also drew a parallel with the world of professional football,
“Probably every Sunday in the Premier League you have referees blowing the whistle and some players agreeing and some disagreeing. That’s sport.
“It’s still respectful (with Hamilton). I don’t have a problem with him,” added Vettel.
“I think it’s just one action today that was wrong and I think if I got penalised then he should get penalised.”
The rules for the leader of the race regard his position behind the Safety Car, maintaining a certain amount of car lengths, but at this stage the Safety Car was due to come into the pits, so he was bunching the field ready for the restart. In general the rule is that it is the responsibility of the cars behind to maintain a suitable gap.
What do you think of the incident and the reaction of both men? Leave your comments below