By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) – Ferrari’s Formula One championship leader Sebastian Vettel will not face any further sanction for his ‘road rage’ collision with Lewis Hamilton at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, the governing FIA said on Monday.
The German, four times world champion, had been given a 10-second stop-and-go penalty during the race for angrily banging wheels with his Mercedes rival while they were behind the safety car.
He had risked a heavy fine, disqualification from the Baku results or even a race ban after the International Automobile Federation decided last week to review the causes of the incident.
Vettel, who turned 30 on Monday, attended a meeting at the FIA’s Paris headquarters with Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene.
The driver admitted full responsibility, pledged to make a public apology and also “committed to devote personal time over the next 12 months to educational activities across a variety of FIA championships and events”.
The governing body said that “in light of these developments, FIA President Jean Todt decided that on this occasion the matter should be closed”.
He also instructed that Vettel should not endorse any road safety activities until the end of the year.
Todt, a former Ferrari boss, recognized that top-level sport was an intense environment where passions ran high and noted also that the Italian team were aligned with the values and objectives of the FIA.
“However, it is the role of top sportsmen to deal with that pressure calmly and to conduct themselves in a manner that not only respects the regulations of the sport but which befits the elevated status they enjoy,” he said.
“Sportsmen must be cognizant of the impact their behavior can have on those who look up to them. They are heroes and role models and to millions of fans worldwide and must conduct themselves accordingly.”
Todt said any repetition of such behavior would lead to Vettel, who already has nine penalty points on his Formula One license and is just three away from a race ban, being immediately referred to the FIA’s International Tribunal.
The collision in Baku on June 25 divided opinion within the sport. The German ultimately finished fourth, a place ahead of Hamilton, and some commentators suggested he had got off lightly.
Hamilton had led from pole and was keeping a distance to the safety car, which was about to return to the pits, when Vettel hit the rear of his Mercedes.
The German, who accused his rival of ‘brake testing’ him by suddenly slowing, pulled alongside and waved his fists before banging wheels.
The race was halted soon after. When it resumed, Hamilton had to pit to fix a loose headrest, losing what had looked like a nailed-on victory. Afterwards, the Briton called Vettel “a disgrace”.
The FIA said Monday’s meeting was attended by top officials including race director Charlie Whiting and safety director Laurent Mekies.
“Following detailed discussion and further examination of video and data evidence related to the incident, Sebastian Vettel admitted full responsibility,” the FIA said.
A formal apology was published on Vettel’s personal website (www.sebastianvettel.de).
“During the re-start lap, I got surprised by Lewis and ran into the back of his car. With hindsight, I don’t believe he had any bad intentions,” he said.
“In the heat of the action I then overreacted, and therefore I want to apologize to Lewis directly, as well as to all the people who were watching the race. I realize that I was not setting a good example.
“I love this sport and I am determined to represent it in a way that can be an example for future generations.”
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ken Ferris)