Formula One: Sebastian Vettel escapes FIA punishment for foul-mouthed rant

Sebastian Vettel escaped censure, despite using four-letter words against FIA F1 race director Charlie Whiting. The FIA said any similar outbursts would be punished.
Sebastian Vettel escaped censure, despite using four-letter words against FIA F1 race director Charlie Whiting. The FIA said any similar outbursts would be punished.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Written apologies to key duo save German after profane rant at Mexican Grand Prix

LONDON • Sebastian Vettel escaped sanction after apologising to Formula One race director Charlie Whiting and the sport's governing body for Sunday's expletive-laden rant at the Mexican Grand Prix.

The International Automobile Federation (FIA) said in a statement on Tuesday that its president Jean Todt had decided, "on an exceptional basis", not to take disciplinary action against the four-time world champion.

The FIA made clear, however, that any such incident in the future would be met with a summons to its International Tribunal.

The Ferrari driver could have faced anything from a reprimand to a race suspension if the governing body had decided to take disciplinary action.

The FIA said the German "spontaneously sought out" Whiting after the race and had, on his own initiative, also sent letters to the Briton and Todt "in which he apologised profusely for his actions".

"He also indicated that he would likewise be contacting (Red Bull's) Max Verstappen and vowed that such an incident would never occur again."

Vettel's outburst, in the closing laps, was broadcast to a worldwide television audience on Sunday with the swear words beeped out.The incident overshadowed Lewis Hamilton's victory in Mexico.

The German, it appears, is frustrated that his dream is over.

He had joined the most famous team in Formula One to indulge his boyhood fantasy of emulating Michael Schumacher, his countryman, mentor and hero, by winning World Championships in the red of the Scuderia.

His timing could not have been worse, because Ferrari is a team in decline.

Money is flying around at the Maranello factory as Maurizio Arrivabene, the team principal, puts his squad through a hurried reorganisation, but the pressure builds with every grand prix that passes without a victory.

Vettel has not stood at the top of the podium since September last year, in Singapore - and that was only because the Mercedes cars driven by Nico Rosberg and Hamilton developed a mystery problem.

There were promises galore at the start of the season that Ferrari would be on the pace, promises that have crumbled underneath Vettel and that is why the frustration was vented in such spectacular fashion over the radio in Mexico as Vettel swore and drove his way to a 10-second penalty and a disastrous fifth place.

His dissatisfaction with Ferrari's lack of progress and strategic calls is evident.

On Sunday, the Ferrari pit wall called him in for tyres and he simply ignored them. It was humiliating for Arrivabene and his team.

How can this relationship go on?

Vettel is now in the same position as Fernando Alonso during the Spaniard's five-year lean spell with the Scuderia. Alonso got fed up and said so in no uncertain terms - and Ferrari fired him.

Would Arrivabene fire Vettel if his behaviour continues to spiral out of control? It would be disastrous for both sides if he did.

Ferrari would lose one of the best drivers in the business and Vettel would be out in the cold.

There can be no return to Red Bull, particularly now that they have Max Verstappen, just 19 and a world champion-in-waiting, and the hugely talented Daniel Ricciardo on board.

There is no seat at Mercedes until at least 2019, while McLaren are in as much confusion as Ferrari.

Vettel is only 29 and should be in his prime. Instead, he is a frustrated, impatient and foul-mouthed shadow of the driver who dominated Formula One for four seasons.

The dream has been shattered and now he will have to face up to the hard reality of sticking it out at Ferrari - or quitting.

REUTERS, THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 03, 2016, with the headline 'Vettel escapes FIA punishment'. Print Edition | Subscribe