By Alan Baldwin
SPIELBERG, Austria (Reuters) – Ferrari’s Formula One leader Sebastian Vettel would face “very severe” consequences if he committed any more ‘road rage’ offences on track, International Automobile Federation (FIA) president Jean Todt said on Saturday.
The German was handed a 10 seconds stop-and-go penalty during the race in Azerbaijan last month for deliberately banging wheels with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton while they were behind the safety car.
Vettel was summoned to an FIA hearing in Paris last Monday, which then decided to take no further action after he apologized and accepted full responsibility.
It was the second time in a matter of months that Vettel faced possible sanction for his on-track behavior, with the Ferrari driver warned in Mexico for abusing race director Charlie Whiting over the team radio.
“Mexico was a completely different offence, and we have seen Sebastian is not always able to control himself as much as he should,” Todt, a former Ferrari team boss, told Sky Sports television.
“I used to run drivers and they are in a very tense situation — and I think you must try to interpret the situation well. This does not give them the right to do anything but you must try and understand it.
“This was a completely different matter but, clearly, Sebastian has had some very strong warnings. Clearly, it won’t happen again and, if it does, the consequences would be very severe,” added the Frenchman.
Todt dismissed a suggestion that Formula One had a different approach to other sports such as cycling, with Slovakia’s world champion Peter Sagan kicked out of the Tour de France for sending Briton Mark Cavendish crashing to the ground.
The Frenchman said it was “irrelevant” to compare that incident, as some have done, with what happened in Baku.
Todt also expressed some sympathy for Vettel’s refusal to apologize on the day, with ample opportunity to do so in television interviews.
“He was digesting the scene and the emotion was such that he did (make) a big mistake. He slowly understood that he did (make) a big mistake and at least he assured me that it would never happen again,” he said.
“Time will tell if it never happens again but, if it does, the consequences will be very severe.”
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris)