FIA get their apology, no further action against Vettel

With Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene by his side, Sebastian Vettel stood before Jean Todt and several other senior FIA figures on his 30th birthday to voice a full-throated apology for his actions during and following the Azerbaijan Grand Prix during which he made unsporting contact with Lewis Hamilton.


A statement from the FIA said: “In light of these developments, FIA president Jean Todt decided that on this occasion the matter should be closed.

“The FIA remained deeply concerned by the wider implications of the incident," it read, "firstly through the impact such behaviour may have on fans and young competitors worldwide and secondly due to the damage such behaviour may cause to the FIA’s image and reputation of the sport.”

For the FIA, it's the apology they were wanting to hear. Although they "remian deeply concerned" by Vettel's behaviour, to issue further sanctions would have made the body look indecisive and struggling to maintain control of their sport. Less than a month ago Daniil Kvyat was given not one but two penalties for a protocol mistake on the formation lap at the Candian Grand Prix after which stewards issued the wrong penalty. 

FIA officials also refused Vettel's offer to participate in their road safety efforts, instead he finds himself removed from the campaign for the rest of the year. 

Although unlikely to have impacted the result, the media in Italy were railing for Ferrari to boycott this weekend's Austrian Grand Prix if Vettel were benched by the FIA. 

From grandprix247:

Umberto Zapelloni, deputy director of La Gazzetta dello Sport, has led the call for a boycott by Ferrari if Vettel is further castigated.

Spelloni wrote: “Jean Todt believes that the penalty of a stop-and-go plus three points on his license is not enough. Although he will never admit it publicly, he is working in the shadows to make an example of Vettel and Ferrari.”

“A public slap on the wrist, a symbolic penalty, suspended disqualification to be imposed if it happens again would be acceptable. But if the FIA disqualifies Vettel it would be outrageous and absurd. If this happens Ferrari should react by withdrawing the team.”

Most agree that Vettel was in the wrong and deserved some form of sanction. What that should have remains unsettled. They also needed to curtail his growing tendancy of showing disrespect for the race officials and stewards following his infamous, expletive-laden blow-up at last years' Mexican Grand Prix.

The stewards obviously felt that a 10 second stop-and-go penalty was appropriate, rather than the more forceful disqualification from the race. With no penalties in-between at their disposal they went with the one that seemed the most appropriate. At the time, Hamilton was still on track to win the race and Vettel's actions had no other impact on the race standings.

Compounding the displeasure of fans and (particularly the British) media, was Vettel's attitude post-race and the fact that Hamilton needed to stop for an unrelated technical issue. If Vettel's main championship rival had gone on the win the race the penalty would have seemed far greater than it actually turned out to be.

Whether you think Vettel deserves additional punishment for the plight of Mercedes' technical mishap will depend on how you view the application of penalties. More often than not, F1 has used penalties to address injustices on the track. A racing incident involving two drivers might, for example, depend on whether one is forced to retire to the other drivers' advantage, and so on.

In the end, the matter may be dealt with as far as the stewards are concerned. But if Vettel earns a podium finish at Silverstone in a few weeks I'm sure the fans will make their feelings about the matter known without reservation.