Now the FIA is going to investigate Vettel penalty

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

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Negative Camber

If I am a team and I know that the FIA can overrule a steward decision, I’ll keep that in my back pocket to use when needed.

Alianora La Canta

The FIA has always been able to overrule the stewards if it has new evidence that was not considered at the original hearing. Granted, it is not like the 1980s when the FIA technically could have intervened regardless (but wasn’t used in that way), but the power still exists, and the FIA considers this an important right of governance. If, for example, the things Vettel said to the journalists post-race were not known about by the stewards, then the FIA is not only permitted, but obliged, to consider the possibility that this would have affected the stewards’ decision had they… Read more »

Negative Camber

Good points indeed. I know they’ve had the ability to overrule, and I would just add that the system should be standardized stewards or Charlie working in a much more integrated way for consistency to avoid changing the results a week later or impacting an upcoming race. I tended to agree with Bernie on this that what happens in the race weekend is what happens and the fans need to have confidence that this is what happened. In this case, there could be more info that came out later that could have impacted the Stewards decision but I am not… Read more »

Negative Camber

To try and boil this diatribe down a bit:

I hope there is new, compelling evidence prompting this because if the FIA simply doesn’t like the option chosen by the race stewards (an option they themselves gave the stewards) then I think that’s a bit odd.

Tom Firth

“If, in Competitions forming part of an FIA Championship, cup, trophy, challenge or series, a new element is discovered, whether or not the stewards have already given a ruling, these stewards or, failing this, those designated by the FIA, must meet on a date agreed amongst themselves, summoning the party or parties concerned to hear any relevant explanations and to judge in the light of the facts and elements brought before them” “The stewards shall have the sole discretion to determine if a new element exists.” So does this indicate the FIA believes it has new elements to bring before… Read more »

Tom Firth

Personally I think what’s done is done. Move on. Otherwise if they take championship points away or something. It’ll overshadow the whole season in courts of appeals and tribunals and the lot.


It seems that the stewards did not DQ Vettel at the time because they didn’t want to ‘affect the title race’. Well, sorry, but that is entirely irrelevant. Either a DQ is warranted or it isn’t. Personally i think it was. I also wouldn’t be surprise if his past behaviour – Mexico 2016 – has not helped at all in the FIA’s decision to probably finally take action against this guy who seemingly loses control of his temper on occasion. Mexico was incredible where he got away with that and only did so because he wrote a letter of apology.… Read more »


Honestly, I have a hard time justifying bringing up Mexico into it. If the FIA can’t handle a driver telling Charlie to fuck off they shouldn’t listen to the radio transmissions. Negative Camber’s theory that it was unintentional seems fairly far fetched, but the stewards gave Vettel and stop and go, that would have been plenty if Hamilton’s bolster hadn’t come loose. Time to move on. I do think NC is right that it’s time to ditch the stewards sports pay professional umps for a reason.


The only reason I bring up Mexico is to show a pattern of Vettel’s temper and how nuts this kid gets from time to time. You’re 2nd sentence makes zero sense at all. Here’s why:- 1) It’s got nothing to do with what the FIA can or cannot handle. They HAVE to listen to the radio transmissions and they’re hardly going to stop because of some choice language. I think they already hear enough of it. 2) It’s hardly likely the FIA would hear Vettel screaming “Fuck Charlie!!!” and then decide to stop listening to team radio instead of admonishing… Read more »

charlie white

Are you suggesting a reform to the FIA stewarding process and rules, NC? If so, be sure to contact your Senator and district Congressional Representative and request election funding reform. I’m sure you’ll get the same response of silence from both organizations.

Michael Cousins

I don’t often agree with NC so this is a rare occurrence. So my two pennies (cents?) worth. SV thought LH “brake tested” him. We now know there is no evidence for this but I can understand that this is what he thought. SV was not punished for causing an avoidable collision so no blame on either side. What happened next though is serious, SV lost control of himself and used his car as a weapon. I ask myself if one of the newer drivers did this what would have the stewards done? The reason the FIA doesn’t steward races… Read more »


Would the stewards have access to (and therefore take into consideration) the driver’s past behavior when making a decision? As has been mentioned, this isn’t the first trip through the red mist and into the woodshed for him. Could this be the angle the FIA is taking?

Meine Postma

A system where a ruling cannot be overturned is not a good system.
I agree that under normal circumstances you will not want to determine races by ruling afterwards.
However in this instance, given that Vettel will not even acknowledge his mistake, a more severe punishment is in order.

Meine Postma

Will Buxton just posted an excellent piece on this subject:

Negative Camber

I am not quite convinced that the FIA has an obligation to review this incident on the basis that they, in their day job, promote road safety and therefore must add more punitive action to Vettel because this is against their mission of road safety. Racing isn’t road driving. No one goes 215mph while driving to work and bangs wheels trying to pass in corners or puts Kimi or Perez in the wall while trying to beat them to a Tesco’s. Cars touch in racing. Now…I will suggest that a deliberate banging of wheels is not something that should be… Read more »

Meine Postma

I think the point of the safety car is that they are NOT racing, so the “racing is bumping” argument is not valid. Yes, a race should be complete within itself, I agree very much with you on that. But there are no absolutes, an absolute law is never a good law, there can and must always be room for exceptions. This case is such an exception. We have a multiple world champion who has shown again and again that he thinks he has more right than other drivers, he is the first to criticize anyone for anything they do… Read more »

Meine Postma

But I also would be ok if they let it go, I also am enjoying the battle very much.
Point is, however, that it should not be a factor in the FIA decision making process.

Meine Postma