Vettel could face further punishment

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Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel could face further punishment for his collision with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Governing body the FIA is to hold a meeting on July 3 to “further examine the causes of the incident to evaluate whether further action is necessary”.

The outcome will be made public before the Austrian Grand Prix on July 7-9. Vettel was given a 10-second stop-and-go penalty and three points on his licence for driving into Hamilton. It is understood Hamilton’s driving in the incident is not in question and the hearing will focus on Vettel’s behaviour.

The FIA warned Vettel after an incident in the Mexican Grand Prix last year – when he swore over the radio at race director Charlie Whiting – that he could face a tribunal in the event of any future incident of a similar nature.

In Azerbaijan, Vettel accused Hamilton of ‘brake-testing’ – deliberately slowing in front of him – as they prepared for a re-start behind a safety car.

Vettel then pulled alongside Hamilton and drove his car into the Mercedes so they banged wheels. Hamilton’s car telemetry data was analysed by the stewards on Sunday and he was cleared of any wrongdoing.

The four stewards in Azerbaijan spent some minutes contemplating what was the most suitable punishment for Vettel. They had no doubt Vettel had driven into Hamilton on purpose in a fit of pique.

They chose the second-most severe form of punishment – a 10-second stop-and-go penalty. The only tougher option was disqualification which it was considered, on balance, Vettel’s actions did not deserve.

Some have argued the stewards got it wrong and Vettel should have been kicked out of the race. But it is also clear the penalty has appeared less severe because, as it turned out, Vettel ended up finishing ahead of Hamilton and extending his championship lead.

The Mercedes driver had to pit to have a loose headrest replaced and came out of the pits behind Vettel.

Had Hamilton not had this problem, he would have won the race with Vettel in fifth and the Mercedes driver would have taken the championship lead by three points, rather than seeing his deficit extend to 14.

Insiders are suggesting that FIA president Jean Todt is perturbed by Vettel’s behaviour. Only he has the power to call a new hearing, as has been done in this case. (BBC Sport)

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