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F1: Vettel's assault with a deadly weapon gets lenient treatment

Bryan Edwards

Let's be clear about one thing: if a normal person deliberately drives his car into the car of another driver, he goes to jail. How, then, does Vettel get away with an insignificant penalty plus three points on his licence (that will have little or no effect due to points due to expire soon) for exactly that action. The FIA needs to review the Azerbaijan stewards' decision, retrospectively cancel Vettel's points from Baku and impose a meaningful and immediate ban of, say, three races. Also, he should be penalised for causing a collision when he ran into the back of Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes causing extensive damage.

There are very few things more dangerous in motor racing than motor racing. It says so on the back of every ticket and on big signs by the gate to every event. But it's controlled danger: vast sums of money are spent in making the sport safer for drivers and everyone else at the track.

Sebastian Vettel, who once told viewers that if they didn't like his foul language they shouldn't watch races on TV, has demonstrated that history repeats itself: put a German in a Ferrari and the stewards are not going to act harshly.

To be fair, and one must, the penalty given to Vettel would have looked, at the time, as if the effect would be to relegate him down the points, far below Hamilton who would, other things being equal, win and then Hamilton would probably leave Baku leading the championship.

But that should not have been a consideration: the assault on Hamilton with a car, itself a deadly weapon, should have been punished for what it was. No excuses, no justifications, no machinations. It was an act of violence, plain and simple.

Vettel surely must have been faking it for the media when he purported to not know what dangerous driving he had done. For sure, he had not told the truth when he claimed that Hamilton "brake tested" him - and shame on various media outlets for repeating that false claim without the facts. The stewards examined the data, to ascertain if Hamilton had acted improperly, leading to Vettel running into the back of the Mercedes and they concluded that a) Hamilton had not braked b) he had not slowed excessively and most importantly and relevantly, c) he had not behaved differently, or significantly differently, on the corner in question to each of the many previous tours under the safety car.

Vettel in fact implied that he had failed to pay sufficient attention: He admitted that he was watching the car behind which was ready to pounce when the safety car pulled off.

Clearly, then, Vettel caused a collision and should have an additional penalty for that.

Not long afterwards, the race was stopped because there was so much debris, some of it large, all over the track that to continue was not safe. During the red-flag period, Hamilton's car was subject to significant repair to the rear end including the diffuser. Unrelated to Vettel's assault, when Hamilton got back into his car, the safety padding and head-rest was not affixed properly and he was ordered to pit to get it fixed of face being black flagged. So Vettel got a ten second stop but Hamilton's repairs took longer, dropping him behind Vettel when both rejoined the race.

But one of that matters in relation to Vettel's conduct. The only thing that matters is that he has been treated with ridiculous leniency in relation to an act of violence using a weapon that is quite capable of causing serious injury and, even, death.

Racing drivers to not sign up to such attacks, provoked (which despite Vettel's continuing claims, this was not) or not.

The FIA needs to send a message in the strongest terms and it needs to do it now.