Scuderia Ferrari German driver Sebastian Vettel was given a ten-second stop-and-go penalty by the race stewards for deliberately banging wheels with Lewis Hamilton just prior to the second restart of the race. Sebastian was furious to receive his own punishment when he feels Hamilton was the driver at fault for what he termed as ‘brake-testing’ under the safety car, triggering the clash that led to their so-called ‘road rage’ incident during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
If on Monday the FIA comes to the conclusion that the penalty imposed on Vettel was too lenient given the circumstances, the FIA International Tribunal – composed of a panel of 36 independent judges – could take further action.
There are several possible penalties the current championship leader could be given, which we detail bellow:
1. A fine
This sanction would keep the FIA out of the title battle. However, to impose a fine to one of the highest paid drivers in the field could be seen as a slap on the wrist.
2. A grid penalty
Sebastian Vettel could receive a grid penalty ranging from three spots to starting from the back of the grid in the 2017 Austrian Grand Prix. This sanction would not be ideal for the German, but it wouldn’t be a disaster either when taking into account the competitiveness of his SF70H Ferrari.
3. A time penalty
This punishment is not very likely given the fact that Scuderia Ferrari’s driver already received a ten-second stop-and-go punishment for his contact with Hamilton in Baku. This would amount to imposing the same penalty twice. Vettel finished fourth in the race, only two tenths ahead of Hamilton but … 24 seconds ahead of Esteban Ocon.
Sebastian Vettel could be disqualified from the 2017 Grand Prix of Azerbaijan. This sanction was first considered by the race stewards, but they decided not to impose it for fear of interfering in the title battle. If the FIA decides to go this way, Vettel and Hamilton would be tied for the championship lead.
5. A points deduction
The FIA International Tribunal could also decide to deduct several championship points from Vettel’s total. This penalty would be more severe than those previously mentioned.
6. A one-race or multi-race ban
The judges also have the option to suspend Vettel for one or several Grands Prix. The last time this happened was when Romain Grosjean was barred for one race for his opening lap ‘strike’ in the 2012 Belgian Grand Prix.
7. Disqualification from the championship
This is the most drastic penalty. Vettel would be simply excluded from the 2017 Formula 1 World Championship, which would most certainly hand the title to Lewis Hamilton. There is precedence, as Michael Schumacher was excluded from the championship in 1997 for taking out rival Jacques Villeneuve at the European Grand Prix. However, this decision was implemented after the championship had been completed. In the present case, this sanction seems quite unlikely.
8. A suspended sentence
If he were to admit his responsibility in this incident – which he has yet to do so far – and express remorse in front of his judges, Sebastian could be handed a suspended sentence.
9. Involvement with an FIA road safety campaign
Improving road safety is one FIA President Jean Todt’s priorities. Vettel could be required to take part in several road safety initiatives. Schumacher was handed a similar penalty in 1997 in addition to his disqualification in the championship.
10. A dismissal
The FIA’s International Tribunal could also decide that there is no reason to sanction Vettel any further. This hypothesis seems nevertheless unlikely because the four-time world champion already insulted Formula 1 Race Director, Charlie Whiting, on the radio just eight months earlier. At the time, Jean Todt already gave consideration to bringing the Ferrari driver in front of the FIA International Tribunal, but was dissuaded by the written apology from the four-time Formula One world champion.