Sebastian Vettel was not a happy bunny at the Mexican Grand Prix. Ferrari had made some impressive strategy calls to get Sebastian in the hunt for a podium position and he was being chased by a faster Daniel Ricciardo from behind and he was closing quickly. As the duo caught up with Daniel’s teammate, Max Verstappen, the young Dutchman cooked a corner and ran off track trying to defend his position from a charging Vettel.
The incident didn’t cost Max a position as he went across the grass and back on track still ahead of Vettel. Clearly Vettel felt he should cede the position and his team immediately suggested that he do so but later told him to hold station as the race stewards announced they would review the incident after the race. The spot was eventually given to Sebastian and he celebrated on the podium—only to lose that position 3 ½ hours after the race to Ricciardo for moving under braking as he tried to defend his position having been backed up into Daniel’s crosshairs due to a slower Verstappen ahead of him…which might not have happened if the Dutchman had ceded the position immediately.
You can imagine the heat of the moment and add the pressure that Ferrari have been placing on the entire team to perform all season long. Vettel unleashed a string of anger culminating in telling to team to relay his message to the race director, Charlie Whiting, to **** off. That didn’t sit well with the team nor the head of the FIA, Jean Todt. Nor should it.
Even though Formula 1 aired the radio message with the appropriate beeps, it’s still a blatant disrespect for the race director and the FIA. Many pundits have said that you couldn’t tell a referee in football to **** off without being banned but I submit that if you put a microphone on every football player, you’d hear far worse than Vettel’s comment.
Regardless, the actions are not becoming of a 4-time champion but Vettel has always had a bit of a potty mouth if I’m honest. You’ll recall his words on the podium interviews when those started to be handled on the actual podium with celebrities asking the questions. Seb was in a bit of hot water over using bad language during one of the first interviews in this new format.
You also have to consider the barrage of foul language we hear from Daniil Kvyat over his radio as well as Kimi Raikkonen who is applauded for his ill-tempered responses. None of these, however, are directed to the race director and that’s where the concern is over this recent incident.
Vettel has written a formal apology to Charlie Whiting and the FIA and the matter has been dropped. It may not be an excuse but most of the fellow drivers and team bosses seem to suggest this was a tangible example of how much pressure Sebastian is under and the entire Ferrari team at the moment. It’s also not flying well with the public and Sebastian is reaping his own reward via anger and outrage over his abusive words. Instant paragons of virtue the mobocracy is.
The FIA statement:
At the recent Mexican Grand Prix, the Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel made comments over team radio using repeated foul language directed at both the FIA Formula 1 Race Director Charlie Whiting and a fellow competitor which were retransmitted during the live broadcast of the event.
Immediately following this incident, Sebastian Vettel spontaneously sought out Charlie Whiting to express his regrets for his behaviour in person. He then, again on his own initiative, sent letters to each of the FIA President Jean Todt and Charlie Whiting, in which he apologised profusely for his actions. He also indicated that he would likewise be contacting Max Verstappen and vowed that such an incident would never occur again.
In the light of this sincere apology and strong commitment, the FIA President has decided, on an exceptional basis, not to take disciplinary action against Mr Vettel by bringing this matter before the FIA International Tribunal.
The FIA will always condemn the use of offensive language in motor sport – especially when directed at officials and/or fellow participants – and expects all participants in its Championships to be respectful and mindful of the example they set for the public and the younger generation in particular.
The FIA takes this opportunity to advise that, in the event of any future incident similar to the one that occurred in Mexico, disciplinary action will be taken by bringing such incident before the FIA International Tribunal to be judged.