FIA lets Vettel off despite expletive outburst at Mexico GP
PARIS (AP) Four-time Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel has avoided disciplinary action following an expletive-laced outburst in Sunday's Mexican Grand Prix.
F1's governing body said in a statement Tuesday that Vettel's ''sincere apology'' has spared him a tribunal hearing.
The Ferrari driver launched tirades at Red Bull's teenage driver Max Verstappen and FIA race director Charlie Whiting late on in the race.
With Vettel pressuring him, the 19-year-old Verstappen braked late and went off on a turn – before rejoining the track in front of Vettel.
Although Verstappen had clearly gained an unfair advantage, he then ignored his team's suggestion – but not an explicit team order – to let Vettel pass him again as a show of sportsmanship.
This prompted a series of Vettel expletives that were captured on race radio, and which continued a series of spats between Verstappen and Ferrari drivers Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen this season.
The FIA said Vettel apologized in person to Whiting immediately after the race and then apologized to FIA president Jean Todt in a letter. He also sent a further letter of apology to Whiting.
''In the light of this sincere apology and strong commitment, the FIA President has decided, on an exceptional basis, not to take disciplinary action against Vettel,'' the FIA said, adding that Vettel would ''likewise be contacting Max Verstappen'' and that he also ''vowed that such an incident would never occur again.''
A repeat incident would see Vettel – or any other driver – brought before the FIA's tribunal.
Verstappen became the youngest driver to win an F1 race when he won the Spanish GP in May when he was still 18.
The Dutchman is the rising star of F1 and brings much-needed panache to a sport that has struggled to attract new viewers in recent seasons. Races have been totally dominated by Vettel when driving for Red Bull, and since then by Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.
Verstappen has stormed through his second Formula One season with several more podium finishes and aggressive overtaking moves that have drawn complaints from other teams – notably Ferrari – and safety warnings from race officials.
Moments after Sunday's race, Vettel drove up beside Verstappen and wagged his finger. Verstappen, who has consistently been unapologetic for his daring yet borderline reckless driving, responded by shaking his fist.
''He's a very frustrated guy, shouting on the radio like a child,'' Verstappen said about Vettel.
Verstappen crossed the line in third but was then demoted as Vettel took his place.
But following a further review of the race, Vettel was demoted to fifth and Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo moved up to third with Verstappen fourth.
The 29-year-old Vettel won four straight titles for Red Bull from 2010-2013 and has 42 career wins.
Although he won three F1 races in his first campaign with Ferrari last season, he has yet to win this year and has often expressed frustration during races. He is fourth in the F1 standings, behind Ricciardo, Hamilton and Rosberg.