Vettel under threat of unsafe release grid penalty

No action was taken by the FIA stewards after the collision between Sebastian Vettel and Sergio Perez in FP2 today, but the matter might not be over for the Ferrari driver.

The pair made contact at Turn One late in the session when Perez turned in and Vettel – who had just emerged from the pits – crunched his nose on the Force India’s rear wheel. Vettel said on the radio that he had a braking issue, but surprisingly perhaps the focus in the stewards’ enquiry was on Perez as the potential guilty party, rather than Vettel.

In letting the Mexican off the stewards noted: “As no driver was determined to be wholly or predominantly to blame the Stewards decide that no further action should be taken.”

However it emerged during the discussions that Vettel could have had an improperly secured front wheel – which if proven could open him up to a penalty for an unsafe release from the pits.

It’s understood that the FIA will take another look at the matter on Saturday morning, when it will have the opportunity to gather and review further evidence.

The FIA takes an unsafe release in practice particularly seriously as clearly there is less urgency than in a race, and also more people are in the pitlane. The rules states: “If a car is deemed to have been released in an unsafe condition during any practice session, the stewards may drop the driver such number of grid positions as they consider appropriate.”

Ferrari also had a wheel issue in Australia, and one rival team has even suggested that as a result Vettel’s description of a “brake problem” could in fact be pre-arranged code for “loose wheel.”

Mention of the latter on the radio would of course have immediately alerted the FIA to the fact that the Ferrari had left with an unsecured wheel, and thus made the charge of an unsafe release a formality…

12 Comments

Filed under F1, F1 News, Grand Prix News

12 responses to “Vettel under threat of unsafe release grid penalty

  1. Michael S

    I am a Ferrari fan, but even I thought this was odd watching it on TV. Seb was quick to go the “brakes did not work” card when he was not going fast at all.

  2. ipk

    The wheel didn’t come off or anything. I rewatched it and it appears the wheel was firmly on, just not correctly. It might have compromised his speed, but it didn’t look like it was going to fall off, so it’s yet to be determined whether it’s an unsafe release or not.

    • Paul

      I don’t want to see any penalty, but you could argue that if it was tight enough to stay on, but still loose enough to cause him to crash into another car, that’s still an unsafe release.

      • ipk

        How do you know there wasn’t a braking failure too? It wouldn’t be the first time Vettel had a car problem that day. I’m not convinced an oddly attached wheel could be a cause of the incident. Vettel drove back to the pits without any problems. The footage is very inconclusive. The front right is suspect at at times, but there was no sign of it being loose.

      • Paul

        @ipk
        It won’t let me reply directly to your comment. But in answer to you, I don’t know there wasn’t brake failure. I also don’t know there wasn’t a slow puncture. I don’t know that Vettel didn’t just want to hit Perez because he beat him at chess the night before… I agree with you that the footage is inconclusive. However, if the wheel was not on correctly, as you suggested could’ve been the case, and if this compromised his speed, which you agreed could’ve been a consequence, then in what way is that not an unsafe release?

        You say that you’re “not convinced an oddly attached wheel could be a cause of the incident,” however in your first comment you say the poorly-fitted wheel “might have compromised his speed.”

        Again, I don’t want to see a penalty, I don’t think it’s worthy of a penalty, in fact I’m always for fewer penalties in almost all circumstances, however if [only IF, of course] an improperly fitted wheel caused a collision with another car, then surely that’s an unsafe release, regardless of whether or not it deserves a penalty.

  3. “However it emerged during the discussions that Vettel could have had an improperly secured front wheel – which if proven could open him up to a penalty for an unsafe release from the pits.”

    And how exactly can that be “proven”? The normal sign of an improperly secured wheel is when the wheel separates from the car and goes off on its own. Absent that occurring there’s no proof of any unsecured wheel.

    • Kgn11

      Well i guess you didn’t see Kimi’s ‘unsecured’ wheel in Australia? That didn’t separate from the car and go off on its own.

  4. fireblade22

    “one rival team has even suggested that as a result Vettel’s description of a “brake problem” could in fact be pre-arranged code for “loose wheel.” ”

    Ha, ha.

    That WAS supposed to be a joke, right? I wonder how this “rival team” imagines Vettel describes a brake problem if “brake problem” is Ferrari code for “loose wheel” …. there are some deeply silly people involved in this sport.

  5. Teams have code for lots of things – think “Fernando is faster than you” etc. Multi-21 Seb. As for evidence, The FIA can demand telemetry data, inspection of the wheel nut & wheel used (they’ll know which tyre set it was already) and an insecure wheel will have obvious fretting & impact damage against the retention mechanism. A wheel being fitted correctly/ incorrectly is not a black & white situation as you imagine. What Adam says is 100% true

  6. Filippo Vettel

    it’s a bit funny an unsafe release without tyre pullin’ off after a crash after an entire lap to reach pit lane mah

  7. Well at least the media mafia are finally taking the Australia pitstop incidents a bit more seriously rather than just a ‘crew’ problem.

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