Formula 1’s attention will be on Paris on Monday where the FIA will deliberate on the clash between Scuderia Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton in Baku and AutoSport informs on the proceedings of the case, which will most likely take several weeks to finalize one way or another.
As a result of the incident which took place behind the safety car in Azerbaijan, motor racing’s governing body have decided to investigate the matter again “to evaluate whether further action is necessary”. Further details regarding the process and who will be involved in Monday’s investigation have not been released, but sources suggest that Sebastian Vettel has been invited for a private meeting with FIA president Jean Todt in order to discuss the events in Baku.
Whatever happens in the corridors of the FIA’s headquarters in Paris, a statement on the outcome has been promised before this week’s race at the Red Bull Ring. However, FIA does decide that further action in sporting terms is necessary, then it will not be a matter of handing out a punishment in the next few days. Should FIA president Jean Todt choose to take the Sebastian Vettel – Lewis Hamilton matter to the International Tribunal then charges will be brought and a judging panel will be made up of at least three people from the FIA’s roster to lead the hearing.
The process will also not be a quick one, so any hearing would be unlikely until after the British Grand Prix at the earliest and it could even drag out until the summer. Once charges have been raised, then the respondent will be granted at least 15 days to submit his response, with the prosecution then given a further 15 days to respond if required. There is then supposed to be a period of at least 15 more days between the reply by the prosecuting body and the hearing, although in theory all of this could be fast tracked if necessary.
The International Tribunal has a fairly open hand in terms of choosing what punishment is handed down if it rules that the defendant has been found guilty. One interesting point that could be relevant in the Sebastian Vettel case is that previous records will be taken into account – and that acting ‘intentionally’ does not have to be proved. The German driver already has nine penalty points on his licence, and escaped a Tribunal hearing last year after apologising profusely for a radio outburst towards race director Charlie Whiting at the Mexican GP. The statutes say: “Subject to the principle of proportionality, [the Tribunal] shall take into account the gravity of the facts, the degree of culpability, and past record and character of the person in order to determine the nature and severity of the sanctions. Unless stated otherwise, offences or infringements are punishable, whether they were committed intentionally or negligently.”
Once the hearing has been completed then a decision by the court will be taken by a simple majority of the members of the judging panel. If there is a deadlock, then the president of the hearing will get the casting vote. But the International Tribunal outcome is subject to appeal, so if Sebastian Vettel feels that any sanction handed down is unfair he can then take the matter to the International Court of Appeal – a process could take several more weeks.