The FIA stewards have decided to take no further action against Sebastian Vettel for an unsafe release after a further investigation this morning.
As reported here earlier, during yesterday’s investigation into Vettel’s collision with Sergio Perez it emerged that one of the German’s front wheels may have been loose. If that was classed as an unsafe release, he risked a grid penalty.
An investigation was postponed until this morning as the FIA wanted to gather further evidence. It was deemed that while the wheel was not properly in place, it was in fact secured, and the retention device was still safely in place.
The FIA accepted that the driver and team had the situation under control, and that the wheel could not have come off. Video of the pit stop showed that there was no panic among the crew and no suggestion that anyone thought the car had been dispatched with a wheel issue.
As such it was not deemed to be an unsafe release, and there is no grid penalty for Vettel.
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…
Lewis Hamilton stressed today that he was keen to clarify what were perceived as negative comments about Sebastian Vettel when he Tweeted about the German earlier this week.
Hamilton used Twitter to emphasise that he has a lot of respect for the World Champion (see previous story).
“I was just in my hotel and I just looked at some of the Tweets that people were writing and stories that people had read,” he said in Suzuka. “And because we’re always doing interviews it’s very easy for thing to not necessarily be taken out of context, but misunderstood. So I just wanted to clarify, as I said.”
Meanwhile Lewis was in an upbeat mood today as he considered his prospects for this weekend’s Japanese GP.
“This is another track that I haven’t won at, and it’s definitely one that I’d love to win. The first sector is the most challenging and most critical of the lap, the Red Bull has generally been the quickest there, for the last four years. I anticipate they are going to be the quickest there again this year. But I hope that the strong showing we had in Korea in the middle sector can correlate with the first sector here. Fingers crossed I’ll get out there tomorrow, and it flows as well as I dream and we can give the Red Bulls a good race.
Regarding the tyre situation this weekend, he said: “It’s so strange, but even though you have past experiences with the tyres, when you go to a new circuit, new surface, it’s always different. So I’m hoping this weekend we’re strong. I’ve generally not had any good races here. I’ve had good races in Fuji. I really hope this is a new start for me here.”
He also had an interesting comment on why he suffered more than Nico Rosberg with the tyres in Korea.
“There is an explanation, but I’m not going to tell you! I’m going to keep it to myself. It’s not the car – it’s me.”