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…