As if throwing away a podium finish wasn't a bitter enough pill to swallow for Sebastian Vettel, he has now been held accountable by the race stewards for the clash with Robert Kubica that took both men out of the running.
Although race footage led most 'experts' to claim that the collision three laps from home was little more than a 'racing incident', with both drivers guilty of trying to retain an advantage, the FIA-appointed stewards decided that Red Bull Racing's Vettel - making his debut with the Milton Keynes-based team - was more to blame. As a result, the German was not only hit with a ten-place grid penalty for next weekend's race in Malaysia, but also fined heavily.
The official reason given by the stewards was that Vettel was guilt of 'causing a collision and forcing a driver off the track' as he tried to defend second place form the rapidly-advancing Kubica, as both attempted to close down race leader Jenson Button.
Vettel held the inside line for the corner in question, but Kubica's better pace saw him nose ahead as both headed for the apex. The collision resulted in both cars suffering substantial front-end damage and, even though both continued, neither made it back to the pits after spinning into the wall further around the lap. They were the final confirmed retirements of a frenetic race and, without the pressure from behind, Button was able to go on and claim his second F1 win - and a first for debutants Brawn GP.
"At the time I turned in, I was ahead, but I couldn't keep up speed in the corner and Robert was on a harder tyre, so was much quicker," the German confirmed, "At the time we collided, he was in front, but I had nowhere to go, I couldn't stop the car, or turn to the right and my tyres were gone."
Vettel's immediate reaction to the accident - he called himself 'an idiot' in a radio apology to the RBR pit - and subsequent post-race demeanour suggested that he blamed himself for the retirements, and the stewards agreed, although the fine of US$50,000 - levied against both team and driver - was allegedly 'for continuing to drive a damaged car' instead of parking up safely..
"Should I have let him go?" Vettel pondered later, "You always want to fight. Maybe I should have said 'let him go' and bring third back home, but that's life. I tried to defend and, up to the mid-corner, I had reason, but then I had no grip to avoid a collision. I'm sorry to the team and also to Robert, as it didn't just mean the end of my race, but also his."