FIA launches investigation into Vettel clash with Hamilton

The FIA has decided to hold a formal investigation into whether or not further action is required against Sebastian Vettel following his controversial clash with Lewis Hamilton behind the safety car at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

FIA launches investigation into Vettel clash with Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W08, Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari SF70H
Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari SF70H
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W08
Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari SF70H
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W08
Fans observe podium celebrations, Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes AMG F1 who celebrates on the podium, David Coulthard, the flag of Azerbaijan
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Amid ongoing suggestions that motor racing’s governing body was not satisfied with the 10-second stop-go penalty handed to Vettel for his part in the move, the FIA confirmed on Wednesday that the situation was being looked into again.

A spokesman for the FIA said that evidence would be evaluated next week and a decision on whether or not more action is needed will be made before the next race at the Red Bull Ring.

A FIA statement 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 3rd July, the FIA will further examine the causes on 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 collision

Vettel’s clash with Hamilton came ahead of the second safety car restart in Baku, when he was angered at what he felt was a brake-test from the race-leading Mercedes car.

The German pulled alongside Hamilton and veered his Ferrari into the side of the Mercedes car – banging wheels with his world title rival.

The race stewards concluded that Vettel had driven in a potentially dangerous manner with his move, and elected to hand him a 10-second stop-go penalty.

Analysis of Hamilton’s telemetry by the stewards, to see whether or not he had done anything wrong, confirmed the Briton had acted correctly and that there had been no brake testing.

Shortly after Vettel had taken his punishment, Hamilton came on the radio to complain that he felt the sanction had not been enough.

In a message aimed at F1 race director Charlie Whiting he said: “The 10-second penalty is not enough for driving behaviour like that. You know that Charlie.”

Later on, Hamilton told media that he felt the punishment should have been greater to help set an example for junior categories.

Vettel denial

Vettel himself refused to acknowledge after the race that he had done anything wrong – and suggested that banging wheels with Hamilton had been an unintentional consequence of waving his fists at his rival.

Amid growing suggestions that there was unease at the penalty, the FIA has now decided to look again at what happened to better understand if a heavier sanction is needed.

Last year Vettel escaped being hauled up in front of the FIA’s International Tribunal for having used foul language against Whiting at the Mexican Grand Prix.

But in a statement issued by the governing body after the decision was made not to take the matter further, because Vettel had apologised, it warned that the door was open for action to be taken if events repeated themselves.

It said: “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.”

While the use of bad language is not central to the case here, Vettel's defiance in not accepting he has done anything wrong could be an issue.

Should the FIA decide on July 3 – which happens to be Vettel's birthday – that further action is required, then a Tribunal meeting would be likely.

Sanctions could include a race ban.

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