Although no action was taken by the FIA stewards after the collision between Sebastian Vettel and Sergio Perez today, the Ferrari driver might yet be penalised.
The pair made contact at Turn 1 late in the session when the Perez turned in and Vettel – who had just emerged from the pits – crunched his nose on the Force India's rear wheel.
Vettel said on the radio that he had a braking issue, but surprisingly the focus in the stewards' inquiry was on Perez as the potential guilty party, rather than Vettel.
In letting the Mexican off the stewards noted: “As no driver was determined to be wholly or predominantly to blame the Stewards decide that no further action should be taken.”
However it emerged during the discussions that Vettel could have had an improperly secured front wheel – which, if proven, could open him up to a penalty for an unsafe release from the pits.
It's understood that the FIA will take another look at the matter on Saturday morning, when it will have the opportunity to gather and review further evidence.
The FIA takes an unsafe release in practice particularly seriously, as clearly there is less urgency than in a race situation and also more people are in the pitlane.
The rules states: “If a car is deemed to have been released in an unsafe condition during any practice session, the stewards may drop the driver such number of grid positions as they consider appropriate.”
Ferrari also had a wheel issue in Australia, and one rival team has even suggested that as a result Vettel's description of a “brake problem” could in fact be pre-arranged code for “loose wheel.”
Mention of the latter on the radio would of course have immediately alerted the FIA to the fact that the Ferrari had left with an unsecured wheel, and thus made the charge of an unsafe release a formality...