PARIS, France, Jun 29 – Sebastian Vettel could face further punishment for his swerve into Lewis Hamilton in the Azerbaijan GP after F1’s governing body confirmed it will hold a fresh investigation into the incident.
The FIA announced late on Wednesday afternoon that the controversial clash in last Sunday’s Baku race between the championship rivals will be “further examined” this coming Monday, July 3, “in order to evaluate whether further action is necessary”.
The outcome of those discussions will be revealed before the Austrian GP, which takes place on July 7-9.
Vettel, the world championship leader, was handed a 10-second stop-and-go penalty and three penalty points on his race licence after stewards ruled during the race he had “steered into” Hamilton’s then race-leading Mercedes, just moments after the Ferrari had run into the back of the Englishman as they prepared to resume racing after a Safety Car.
The four-time world champion accused Hamilton of “brake-testing” him but stewards have already cleared the Briton of any wrongdoing.
But while Vettel was punished on the day, the FIA had the option under the sport’s regulations to open up subsequent investigations at the behest of its president, Jean Todt.
Despite the penalty, Vettel finished a place ahead of Hamilton in fourth – extending his championship lead to 14 points – after Hamilton was forced into an extra pit stop due to his headrest coming lose after a red-flag period.
Hamilton was furious with Vettel after the race, branding his rival’s actions “disgusting” and “disgraceful” after the Ferrari hit his car’s left-front wheel.
-What could happen next?-
In a Sky Sports online poll, in which over 250,000 votes were cast, 80 per cent of respondents said Vettel’s penalty was too lenient, while Hamilton argued that the German’s driving set a bad example for youngsters.
Vettel was heavily condemned by media around Europe, while Baku stewards were also criticised for not imposing a harsher sanction on the four-time world champion.
The FIA’s decision to re-examine the incident makes it the second time in less than a year in which Vettel’s conduct during a race has prompted a Todt-triggered investigation.
Vettel was reminded of his conduct and how he portrays himself following last October’s Mexican GP, when he launched an expletive-laden tirade at race director Charlie Whiting over team radio.
In that instance, Vettel apologised to Whiting, something the FIA took into account when they decided against any formal action, but the German repeatedly insisted he had done nothing wrong after Sunday’s Baku incidents with Hamilton.
Should the FIA decide that further action is warranted in this case, then the governing body could haul the German before its International Tribunal where penalties can range from fines to race bans if cases are upheld.
Vettel is already walking a disciplinary tightrope in next week’s Austrian GP after the three penalty points added to his licence in Baku pushed him up to nine for the last 12-month period, just three away from an automatic one-race suspension.
-‘Road rage?’ The clash in question –
The incident occurred on lap 19 as the field prepared to restart after a second period behind the Safety Car.
Vettel ran into the rear of the leading Mercedes on the exit of Turn 15 before moving alongside Hamilton to gesticulate, swerving into him and their cars banging wheels.
The four-time world champion accused Hamilton of “brake-testing” him but an investigation of the Mercedes driver’s telemetry data during the race showed Hamilton had neither braked nor lifted off entirely on the exit of the corner.
The analysis also showed that Hamilton had behaved in exactly the same way at the previous Safety Car restart and the one after the coming together between the two rivals.
By Sky Sports