Crashgate 2: FIA Must Avoid Being Tempted to Further Punish Sebastian Vettel Because of Lewis Hamilton’s Unrelated Problems

Baku City Circuit, Baku, Azerbaijan.
Sunday 25 June 2017.
World Copyright: Andy Hone/LAT Images
ref: Digital Image _ONY8206 via PIRELLI media


So, the fall-out from the most dangerous 30mph collision in F1 history isn’t quite finished yet.

Earlier this afternoon the FIA announced that they were going to look again at the collision between Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton during Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Vettel drove into Hamilton, deliberately or otherwise, while wildly gesticulating after he perceived his British title rival to have brake tested him during a Safety Car period.

He was given a 10 second stop/go penalty, a punishment that ordinarily would look to be a very severe one – indeed it is the second harshest the FIA can give. The harshest is outright disqualification.

Despite Vettel’s 10 second stop/go, which cost around 30 seconds, he finished fourth ahead of Hamilton (Largely due to the Wacky Races nature of the Grand Prix).

A disgruntled Hamilton came home fifth after pitting to repair a damaged headrest.

Vettel was also given three more points on his F1 superlicense to take his total to nine, with 12 inside a year leading to a race suspension. He will lose two of those after the British Grand Prix.

The FIA’s decision to call this tribunal sits squarely with its President Jean Todt, who is miffed at the four-time German’s conduct. Todt is the only man with the authority to call the tribunal.

Großer Preis von Monaco 2017, Freitag – Steve Etherington – Mercedes AMG Petronas

Vettel was warned after his angry response to Max Verstappen’s driving in Mexico last year, swearing about the Dutchman and swearing at Race Director Charlie Whiting.

He apologised straight away to Whiting in person and in letters to Whiting and to Todt, but he was warned that more road rage could lead to a tribunal such as this, with the outcome revealed by July 3rd.

This is risky business for the FIA.

There is a real chance that they could be seen to be reacting to the race result instead of the incident.

It would be laughable if they were to re-punish Vettel based on Hamilton’s headrest strife, as that was beyond his control. It was a separate problem, irrelevant to incident in question.

Another potential issue is that they could be seen to be not trusting the stewards’ decision by further extending the penalty or changing it completely.

If that was to be case, then what’s the point of the stewards being there. This isn’t a cut-and-dried case of a wrong punishment, despite the furore from some quarters.

There is a good reason that other sports don’t alter the results post-match for sporting reasons, as this would be.

How many football matches have seen their results changed because, for example, a referee incorrectly failed to award a goal?

And thirdly, disqualification or a race ban handed out because of this tribunal would be laughable bearing in mind that far worse have seen no further action or mere grid drops. Incidents for example, such as Ayrton Senna carting Alain Prost off at 150mph at Suzuka in 1990?

You aren’t convincing any sane F1 observer that Vettel’s daft actions were as bad as that.

To change the penalty awarded in race then would be wrong. A 30mph moment of madness does not mean that Vettel is mad, bad and dangerous to know even if he was extremely stupid.

If the FIA do want to extend his pain, they can do that while avoiding making themselves a laughing stock by awarding a grid penalty and warnings in the harshest terms possible.

It would be sheer stupidity to react based on emotions and the FIA must act with care and caution to avoid causing more long-term issues than they solve with this tribunal.

Jack Prentice @JPrentice8



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