According to the FIA, there will be a new investigation into the incident between Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton during the Baku Grand Prix. My position on the incident has already been stated on our podcast and in word but I find this situation interesting after three days of having the proverbial FIA ear to the ground intently listening while social media and long-time press pundits all burp up disdain for Seb’s move and issue calls ranging from further investigation, to outright banning, to Seb as a cause for road deaths and poisoned children.
Look, I’ve no axe to grind here, I’ve said many times that the move was ham-fisted, bad, unbecoming a champion and what he should have done is simply said, wow, that was a bad mistake on my part, sorry about that, I was really angry and thought Lewis brake-tested me but in hindsight, that doesn’t seem to be the case so completely my fault. If I’m Maurizio, that would be my advice.
What I am more interested in here is that the Stewards had several options on hand in which to penalize Seb and they chose a 10s stop/go. Teams, drivers and fans may have felt that was light but that’s what they chose given the telemetry and data they had. Now the FIA are going to, after three days of pressure and reading social media and press reports, come back in and correct the call? Does Mexico 2016 ring any bells? That was a debacle.
I have, for years, been calling for the FIA to have a standard stewarding crew and for years the FIA says they can’t afford that (which I believe is bunk) and yet they manage to hand out stewarding roles to motoring club members around the world in order to keep that FIA support and votes coming. Sir Jackie Stewart recently agreed with me on this issue and said Jean Todt wouldn’t be happy with him for saying so. If that’s the case, Jean must hate me by now, I’ve said it for years.
If every decision made by stewards is actually subject to a complete overrule by Charlie Whiting and Jean Todt, then what point is the stewarding crew, why not have Charlie and Jean simply manage the race and call the penalties to make sure they are correct, historically accurate with precedent and above all, consistent? Today, we actually still may not know the actual outcome of the Baku Grand Prix depending on what decision the FIA arrive at. Or, we continue trying to divine intent and adding knock-on penalties to be served during other race weekends.
Penalties and incidents should be, where ever possible, confined to the race weekend in which they happen. No one wants to get all excited to go see a race to find out that their team or driver will start at the back of the grid or possibly not at all because of a race two weeks ago for a penalty that was given during the race only to be overruled three days later.
The FIA said:
“Following the recent incident at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in which car #5 (Sebastian Vettel) was involved in a collision with car #44 (Lewis Hamilton), on Monday July 3 the FIA will further examine the causes of the incident in order to evaluate whether further action is necessary.
“A statement regarding the outcome of this process will be made available before the upcoming Austrian Grand Prix.”
The Autosport article points out all the things that Sebastian has done since 2016 including Mexico last year and how the FIA said they’d take him to the FIA International Tribunal to be judged if it happened again. He used bad language and told Charlie Whiting to “F*** off”. Seb’s anger is on trial apparently. Good thing no one had a tribunal for James hunt when he was punching race stewards and cussing up a cigarette-induced diatribe or Senna when he speared Prost or grabbed Schumacher by the throat.
As it stands, three points were taken off Vettel’s license but as the F1 video posted on their website with James Allen narrating says, that’s really nothing because two points come off the license by the British Grand Prix. There was also a 10s stop/go but word in the paddock was that team bosses didn’t feel that was enough.
Bottom line is, Seb made a bad move, tried to defend it and will now pay the price that could cost him a shot at the 2017 title and he’ll have himself to blame for it but I’m curious where this leaves us in the stewarding process. There is precedent for the FIA getting engaged after a steward call but I think this is more justification for a new stewarding program than it is anything else. If the current stewarding system isn’t giving the correct punishments or judgements for incidents like this, then perhaps it is time for a new system?
Hat Tip: Autosport