Vettel hit Hamilton twice in Baku; German handed 10-second stop-and-go penalty by stewards; Reports claim title leader was close to disqualification.

By Jonathan Green

Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton twice collide during Sunday's race in Baku
Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton twice collide during Sunday’s race in Baku

Sebastian Vettel could potentially face further punishment for his Azerbaijan GP collisions with Lewis Hamilton amid reports the title leader was close to being disqualified.

Reports in Germany claim Vettel’s lead of the world championship, and the reluctance of the stewards to interfere with the title battle, may have been a factor in them only imposing a 10-second stop-and-go penalty

Four-time world champion Vettel accused Hamilton of “brake-testing” him after running into the rear of the Mercedes behind the Safety Car on lap 19 of Sunday’s race.

Vettel moved alongside Hamilton to gesticulate and swerved into him, their cars banging wheels and the championship leader being handed a 10-second stop-and-go penalty, and three points on his super licence, as a result.

Hamilton slams ‘disgusting’ Vettel

Both during and after the race, Hamilton stated his belief that the punishment was not severe enough and described Vettel’s conduct as “dangerous”, “disgusting” and “disgraceful”.

So may Vettel not yet be off the hook?

The FIA has the scope to hand down further punishment should they determine the initial ruling not sufficient.

Any actions deemed to have brought the sport into disrepute can be dealt with under Article 151c of the International Sporting Code, and this provides an almost limitless range of punishment.

The FIA has already cleared Hamilton of any wrongdoing. An investigation of the Mercedes driver’s telemetry data during the race showed Hamilton had neither braked nor lifted off entirely on the exit of Turn 15.

The analysis also showed that Hamilton had behaved in exactly the same way at the previous Safety Car restart and the one after the coming together between the two rivals.

‘Vettel nearly disqualified’
German magazine Auto Motor und Sport have suggested that Vettel was close to being shown the black flag, and thus disqualified, in Sunday’s race.

However, they claim that the lack of clarity over a penalty for such an incident, and the reluctance of the stewards to take a decision that would intervene too greatly on the world championship, led them to rule on the 10-second stop-and-go.

Pundits on Vettel-Hamilton clash

“Vettel received the 10-second stop-and-go punishment for two reasons,” the report says.

“Firstly, there is no dedicated rule that assigns a deliberately caused collision to a particular penalty. So it was a matter of discretion.

“Secondly, there was a fear of intervening too much in the World Championship with a draconian penalty. A sports commissioner said: ‘It was a narrow decision: Vettel was very near a black flag.'”

Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel were furious with each other following two clashes at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix
Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel were furious with each other following two clashes at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix

Vettel is now walking a disciplinary tightrope with the three penalty points he received taking him to nine for the 12-month period.

Should he pick up another three points in Austria in the next race, the German would be banned for the British GP.

If Vettel stays out of trouble at the Red Bull Ring, two of those nine points will clear but he will remain within five points of a ban until after October’s Malaysia GP.

Wolff: The gloves are now off

Vettel was also reminded of his conduct and how he portrays himself by the FIA following last year’s Mexican GP, when he launched an expletive-laden tirade at race director Charlie Whiting over team radio.

“The FIA will always condemn the use of offensive language in motor sport – especially when directed at officials and/or fellow participants – and expects all participants in its Championships to be respectful and mindful of the example they set for the public and the younger generation in particular.

“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.”

Don’t miss the F1 Report: Azerbaijan GP Review on Sky Sports F1 at 8.30pm on Wednesday for the final word on the weekend’s action.