Formula 1 has seen its fair share of Dick Dastardly moments. Michael Schumacher infamously parked his Ferrari at the Rascasse corner in the Monaco Grand Prix qualifying session, preventing his rival, Fernando Alonso, from securing the most important pole of the season. Alonso himself benefitted when his Renault team ordered teammate, Nelson Piquet Jr, to crash at the Singapore Grand Prix, allowing him to take the win. Even the great Ayrton Senna deliberately crashed into Alain Prost at the 1990 Season ending Japanese Grand Prix, enabling him to secure his second World Championship.
In all our time watching Formula 1, the actions displayed by Sebastion Vettel during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix were something we had never witnessed before. Having believed he had been break-chacked by Lewis Hamilton while following the Brit under the safety car, Vettel, enraged, drove up beside Hamilton and viciously turned into him, causing a substantial impact.
Regardless of whether Lewis had break-check Sebastion (the telemetry showed Lewis did nothing untoward) the actions Vettel took were a disgrace. To use your car as a battering ram is beyond reproach, what if Lewis, speeding down the long Baku straight at 210mph had a suspension fail? The ramifications don’t bare thinking about.
Sebastion has shown this sort of hot-headedness before. At the Mexican Grand Prix, he became enraged at the actions of Max Verstappen. As a result, he sent expletive-laden radio messages to his team and race director Charlie Whiting. He angrily told Whiting to “f*ck off”. But at Baku, he crossed a different line. And this time, we are not being funny.
What punishment did Vettel receive for such a disgusting act of petulance? A 10-second stop-go penalty. Ridiculous.
Whether Hamilton won–in the end, he finished two-tenths behind Vettel– is beside the point, the severity of the manoeuvre was not equalled by the severity of the punishment.
After the race, Hamilton brought to light the precedent such a manoeuvre sends to the kids at home. Now, Lewis will, of course, have a biased opinion, but what he said does ring true. All top athletes should be aware of the message their actions send to the grass roots of the sport.
Vettel should have been given a much more severe punishment. Should he have been black flagged (disqualified)? Possibly. If the Stewards believed he was a danger to other drivers then definitely. The problem is that, as far as we are aware, there is no punishment between a 10-second stop-go and a black flag during the race. So the stewards had their hands tied.
There is a possibility of retrospective punishment and possibility should be taken. This sort of thing can not be allowed, especially from a four-time world champion who should know better.
Dick Dastardly always got his comeuppance, Sebastion Vettel should be no different.