Vettel receives no punishment over potty mouth

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.

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Junipero Mariano

Really, what are the consequences if Ferrrai doesn’t win at Interlagos or Abu Dhabi? Is the level of stress that Ferrari is under comensurate with previous years? Is the stress Seb putting on himself the same as previous years? I know that Seb has faced winless seasons before and he wasn’t losing his mind in the cockpit then.

The way Ferrari seem to be acting is as if Marchionne was pulling the plug on F1 if he doesn’t get a win this season.


A win on the board means a lot.

Dr T

A win on the board is better than two in the bush as they say


Like they say about championships – Deserved or not, the stats don’t lie.

Peter Riva

1. He did NOT say it to Charlie Whiting
2. He said it to Ferrari
3. the FOC CHOSE to broadcast it – with sufficient delay they might have decided otherwise.
Therefore, the argument of a participant being kicked out of the “game” for insulting the ref has no merit. Want to blame somebody? Make a (long) list, ending with Vettel.


1. He said it knowing full well that Charlie hears the radio transmissions.
2. See point one.
3. Whether audio or video is recorded of someone abusing the ref is moot. The abuse still took place.

Peter Riva

1. all of them? Nope… The stewards hear the ones piped in. I have no idea how they prioritize these, but the chatter from every team is constant – overlapping.
2. Abuse? Only in the eye (ear) of the beholder. Obviously Charlie understood it was not directed at him bu about him. There’s a difference in law.

Alianora La Canta

But not in the regulations, hence why the FIA launched an investigation (that Vettel’s apologies stopped). If the FIA did not consider the words to be abuse, it would not even have started the investigation.


[a] You can prove that Vettel knew that Charlie hears 100% of radio transmissions? I don’t think so.
If you think so, you should open up a magic act at a local carnival. “Opinions” are not, necessarily, the same thing as “facts”.

[b] If no one hears the radio transmissions or sees the video transmissions, how do they even know there was an “abuse”? Your logic is inverted and meaningless.


I am more than confident that Charlie has access to every transmission across the radios.

I will not get into an argument with you regarding logic. You are strawmanning me here.

If a tree falls in the woods, but there is no-one around to see it (or hear it). It still fell.

Have a nice day.

Alianora La Canta

Charlie definitely has access to 100% of the radios, because that was how the recent radio rules were policed. The infraction would exist regardless of whether anyone broadcast, and if discovered before the FIA General Meeting in December, an investigation and penalty would have been valid. He also definitely does not listen to 100% of the radios, as he didn’t know about Vettel’s sweary tirade until he apologised (note: Charlie doesn’t get audio for the FOM coverage, only video, because it’s not his job to police FOM. Stewards get both video and audio, in addition to rather a lot of… Read more »

Alianora La Canta

1 & 2. The regulations do not care whether the insult was done directly or via a third party, nor whether anyone bothered to broadcast the insult or not.

3. At most, the FOM would be open to getting a penalty from the FIA, and since it cannot practically have its racing licence suspended (FIA cannot afford to have a race not broadcast by anybody at all, the only legal option at such short notice), the most it could receive is a $50,000 fine. Not likely to put it off repeating the trick next time.

Tickled Pink

Red Bull was told by the FIA stewards that VES should give the place to VET – a message which Ferrari heard and relayed to its driver. This message to VET was heard by TV audiences but was thought to refer to an informal message to VES from his race engineer soon after the incident. But Red Bull did not tell VES to give the place to VET, and in failing to do so, while at the same time backing VET up into Red Bull’s RIC on fresh soft tires, it incensed VET to the point that he lost his… Read more »

Ben Hutchings

Yes, and during the melee, the entire perplexion of the race changed.
We will never know if RIC could have passed VES or VET legally.
It looks like VET has become the Kurt Busch of NASCAR and will almost undoubtedly incur penalties not normally enforced just because the sanctioning body (FIA) remains biased.

Paul KieferJr

Yanno, the thought of washing one’s mouth out with soap comes to mind.

Tom Firth

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 statement clearly forgot a bit.. ‘Which is why the commercial rights holders of the sport we allegedly have governance over, actively promoted the video of Vettel using offensive language directed at officials or fellow participants.’ They had no option but to not penalise him, because they do not control the… Read more »

Alianora La Canta

FOM policy appears to be to show anything likely to merit a FIA investigation on the broadcast. Since the question of whether FOM broadcasts a particular insult against a race official (or whether that insult was requested to be relayed to the official through a third party rather than expressed in said official’s face) is irrelevant to whether the FIA was entitled to investigate, I imagine it felt obliged to broadcast the radio in order to keep viewers alerted to actions that could potentially influence the course of the race (in the 1990s, drivers could be banned for that sort… Read more »

The Captain

I know of no way to comment on this without breaking the FIA’s policy on offensive language.


Tempest in a teapot if you ask me. And I’m personally even a bit pleased to hear the real and true emotions and expressions of racers, far and away from the scripted and polished corporate PR pablum which F1 feeds us on an ongoing basis. In another post, NC, you comment on the declining viewership of F1 and other sports, and speculate why this might be. This is a perfect example. Decades ago, racers including Hill, Donohue, etc were surveyed for personality traits (Johnsgard, Olgivie, Kirkler) and it was found that aggression was one of the most highly dominant traits,… Read more »


Maximum points for this.

Vettel got massively screwed. Should he have said that stuff over the radio? No. Did his behavior come off as a childish tantrum? I think so.

But look, he went straight to Charlie and spoke with him. It got sorted, face to face, by two people. That is what sportsmanship is.

Sportsmanship isn’t having the presence of mind to regurgitate coached reactions to every situation.