A missed opportunityLuke Smith

I think the most common reaction to the news that Vettel had avoided any further penalty for his clash with Hamilton in Baku was surprise. The outcry that had followed the incident made it seem inevitable that the Ferrari driver would be hit with another sanction. Sources within one team even indicated that it believed disqualification from Baku - at the very least - to be the likely outcome.

The extent of the penalty can be debated widely, but the fact that the FIA did not give Vettel any further punishment - besides his commitment to get involved with "educational activities" in the FIA's championships - means this will go down as a missed opportunity to really make a statement and make clear that such behaviour on-track will not be tolerated.

The FIA has shown support for its own stewards by not dishing out any further penalty. That is understandable, as you would not want to appear to undermine the very system you put in place. However, the fact that the stewards in Baku were uneasy about disqualifying Vettel from the race altogether due to the possible impact it would have on the drivers' championship shows a flaw in the system. It should have had zero influence on the penalty being dished out.

The stewarding system in F1 has been talked about often in recent years, and the FIA should not be afraid to note where mistakes have been made. If it truly believed that Vettel should have been black flagged, it should have done exactly that.

As Hamilton said in the aftermath of the race in Baku, Vettel's move and the penalty that followed set a dangerous precedent. It sends out the wrong message to drivers coming up the ranks, hot-headed and trying to make an impression. Moves of this ilk need to be discouraged at every possible opportunity.

Vettel had a penalty that ruined his race, yes, and Hamilton may have been less outraged had his headrest not come loose and he won the race. But there was still a really good chance here for the FIA to send out a warning shot.

Vettel will race in Austria this weekend as though nothing happened. He needs to stay alert to on-track incidents given he is just three penalty points away from a race ban, but the incident itself has no actual impact on the race at the Red Bull Ring. Not even a grid penalty to really make him sorry for what happened...

Time to talk on trackOllie Barstow

Whilst I am admittedly surprised the FIA opted against making an example of Sebastian Vettel in the context of its own dedicated campaigns towards road safety - not to mention the 'suspended sentence' we assumed the Ferrari driver was on after Mexico -, I'm satisfied this title battle will ultimately be determined by what is happening on track and not in the boardroom.

To clarify, there is no condoning Vettel's actions. They are not befitting of a world champion and would see the strong arm of motorsport law come down him at any level of motorsport, right down to entry level karting. Call it red mist, hot-headedness or a moment of madness, it is irresponsible and, when you have the world's gaze upon you, pointless frankly.

On the other hand, he did serve a penalty during the race. A 10secs stop/go penalty is a firm and now rarely used in-race punishment short only of a full-scale exclusion. At the time it was determined a black flag - which was considered - would be seen as meddling too much in the title battle and it appears the same principle has been applied to the decision-making process here.

A potentially dangerous precedent indeed, albeit one with noble intentions. Part of the issue here is Hamilton finished behind Vettel for an entirely unrelated issue - would the FIA have felt the need to review the incident had Hamilton gone on to win the race as he would have done without his headrest issue? Perhaps not...

This story will never quite be over, but at least the FIA has largely removed itself from the 'what if' of future debates.

Regardless of the FIA, Vettel won't be allowed to move on from this so easily. He will still face 'trial by media', while Lewis Hamilton - unlike Charlie Whiting - will surely be happy for this to play out in the public domain.

And so it should, because it will serve to turn what was a friendly (somewhat dull) rivalry into a fractured dynamic that could well turn the second-half of this already simmering season into a tantalisingly explosive one.

There are no Rules of Engagement and behind the scenes 'clear the air' talks to be had here, just a fierce title battle between two fired up drivers in two iconic teams right out there on track... after all, isn't that what we really want to see?


Should Vettel have been made an example of or do you consider the matter to be closed?

If you could ask Sebastian Vettel anything in this weekend's Press Conference, what would it be?

Should the FIA take title battles into account when making decisions?



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