Vettel at risk of being penalized after mishap in practice

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone (left) and Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel (right) talk ahead of practice at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

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

The pair made contact at Turn 1 late in the session when Perez turned in and Vettel — who had just emerged fro 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 the focus in the stewards’ inquiry was on Perez as the potential guilty party, rather than Vettel.

In letting Perez 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’s problem could have stemmed from 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 there is less urgency than in a race, and more people are in the pitlane. The rules state: "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 Vettel’s description of a "brake problem" could in fact be code for a 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.