Sebastian Vettel was close to disqualification from Azerbaijan GP after an unsportsmanlike move on Lewis Hamilton in the lap 19 when he deliberately hit him while driving behind the safety car.
Regardless of the great race of Daniel Ricciardo, podium finish for Lance Stroll and the comeback of Valtterri Bottas, the moment of the race was the double collision of two championship contenders Vettel and Hamilton.
Hamilton was preparing for another restart behind the safety car and Vettel closely followed him and didn’t manage to avoid him, hitting the rear of his Mercedes.
The contact went without major consequences, but the furious Vettel came to the side of Hamilton, gestured with his hands and turned onto him to show him what he thought of his move.
Vettel was confident that Hamilton brake tested him, but telemetry data showed that Hamilton had been driving within 3 km/h on each of the three restarts between the turns 15 and 16. So in that case he did not go too slow.
Half an hour after the incident, Paul Gutjahr, Enzo Spano, Anar Shukurov and Danny Sullivan announced their verdict – Hamilton was not penalized and Vettel got 10 seconds stop and go penalty, the biggest penalty before disqualification.
Given that the same penalty can be obtained for entry into the pits while it is closed (under red light) and drivers are known to be disqualified for not complying with similar rules (for example Montoya in 2005 in Canada), it is clear that Vettel’s punishment could be considered as mild.
Vettel has been given 10 seconds stop and go penalty for a number of reasons – the first is that there are no exact rules that would suitably punish a driver who deliberately caused the contact of two drivers, and the other was that the judges feared to punish him so hard and directly affect the breakdown of the world championship.
The third reason is that everything happened at speeds of around 50 km/h and almost without any consequences on their cars (Vettel and Hamilton set the fastest laps of the race in the laps 47 and 46 respectively).
“It was a very close decision, Vettel has just avoided disqualificationt,” reports German Auto Motor und Sport.
Vettel has also received three penalty points for the incident which brings him to total of nine in the last 12 months.