Formula One: Vettel in the clear after reprieve

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton taking a pit stop during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix as Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel drives past.
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton taking a pit stop during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix as Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel drives past.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

FIA takes no further action against F1 c'ship leader for Baku incident with Lewis Hamilton

LONDON • Ferrari's Formula One championship leader Sebastian Vettel will not face any further sanction for his "road rage" collision with Lewis Hamilton at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, the governing FIA (International Automobile Federation) said on Monday.

The German, a four-time world champion, had been given a 10-second stop-and-go penalty during the race for angrily banging wheels with his Mercedes rival while they were behind the safety car.

He had risked a heavy fine, disqualification from the race or even a race ban after the FIA decided last week to review the causes of the incident.

Vettel, who turned 30 on Monday, attended a meeting at the FIA's Paris headquarters with Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene.

Despite not facing any further punishment, the driver committed to devote personal time over the next 12 months to educational activities across a variety of FIA championships and events.

A statement from the FIA read: "Following detailed discussion and further examination of video and data evidence related to the incident, Sebastian Vettel admitted full responsibility."

The governing body added that "in light of these developments, FIA president Jean Todt decided that on this occasion the matter should be closed".

GET THE DRIFT

I got surprised by Lewis and ran into the back of his car. With hindsight, I don't believe he had any bad intentions.

SEBASTIAN VETTEL, Formula One's championship leader, making a public apology to nearest rival Lewis Hamilton.

He also instructed that Vettel should not endorse any road safety activities until the end of the year.

Todt, a former Ferrari boss, recognised that top-level sport was an intense environment where passions ran high and noted also that the Italian team are aligned with the values and objectives of the FIA.

"However, it is the role of top sportsmen to deal with that pressure calmly and to conduct themselves in a manner that not only respects the regulations of the sport but which befits the elevated status they enjoy," he said.

"Sportsmen must be cognisant of the impact their behaviour can have on those who look up to them. They are heroes and role models and to millions of fans worldwide and must conduct themselves accordingly."

He said any repetition of such behaviour would lead to Vettel, who already has nine penalty points on his Formula One licence and is just three away from a race ban, being immediately referred to the FIA's International Tribunal.

The collision in Baku on June 25 divided opinion within the sport. The German ultimately finished fourth, a place ahead of Hamilton, and some commentators suggested he had got off lightly.

Hamilton had led from pole and was keeping a distance from the safety car, which was about to return to the pits, when Vettel hit the rear of his Mercedes.

Vettel, who accused his rival of "brake testing" him by suddenly slowing, pulled alongside and waved his fists before banging wheels.

The race was halted soon after. When it resumed, Hamilton had to pit to fix a loose headrest, losing what had looked like a nailed-on victory. Afterwards, the Briton called Vettel "a disgrace".

A formal apology was published on Vettel's personal website.

"During the re-start lap, I got surprised by Lewis and ran into the back of his car. With hindsight, I don't believe he had any bad intentions," he said.

"In the heat of the action I then overreacted, and therefore I want to apologise to Lewis directly, as well as to all the people who were watching the race. I realise that I was not setting a good example.

"I love this sport and I am determined to represent it in a way that can be an example for future generations."

He will now start this week's Austrian Grand Prix with his 14-point margin over Hamilton intact.

REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 05, 2017, with the headline 'Vettel in the clear after reprieve'. Print Edition | Subscribe