The FIA Stewards were kept very busy in the hours following the European Grand Prix at Valencia, investigating a number of post-race incidents after a race that saw plenty of on-track action and collisions through the field. No less than five penalties were handed out during, or following, the 57-lap race.
Bruno Senna was the first to feel the ire of the stewards after he tangled with Kamui Kobayashi on Lap 20. The Brazilian – trying to run a longer first stint on worn tyres – had just been overtaking by Kimi Räikkönen when the contact between he and the Sauber driver occurred.
Senna moved to take the normal racing line through Turn 7 with Kobayashi completely alongside him, pincering the Japanese driver into the wall and breaking the Sauber’s front wing. Senna suffered a cut tyre in the contact and had a dramatic spin through the corner, clobbering the braking markers in his attempts to recover his stricken car.
After both pitted for repairs, Senna was hit with a drive-through penalty for his troubles and emerged a lap behind race leader Vettel. The Safety Car interruption was manna from heaven as it allowed him to get the lost lap back, and he managed to climb through the field to finish eleventh as others hit trouble, earning a promotion to tenth after team-mate Pastor Maldonado was issued with his own penalty.
That wasn’t the last action Kobayashi would see. After the Safety Car was released, he found himself battling for position with Felipe Massa, and the pair made heavy contact as they exited the swing bridge onto the track’s back straight. The damage proved too bad for Kobayashi to continue and he would retire, later earning himself a five-place grid penalty for the next Grand Prix at Silverstone.
Toro Rosso driver Jean-Éric Vergne was unusually hit with two penalties for the same incident, following his Lap 27 collision with Heikki Kovalainen, the incident that triggered the race-changing Safety Car interruption.
After using DRS to get by Kovalainen’s Caterham on the run into Turn 12, the Frenchman chopped across the front of the Finn, leading to punctures for both drivers and a damaged front wing for Kovalainen.
A furious Kovalainen branded Vergne’s driving as “a rookie error” – SKY F1 commentator likened the incident to the standard one would see in Formula Ford – and Vergne was duly hit with the more-severe ten-place grid penalty for Silverstone, along with a whopping €25,000 fine as further punishment.
Another driver to face the wrath of the Stewards was Williams driver Pastor Maldonado, who had collided with Lewis Hamilton on the penultimate lap of the race as the pair disputed third place.
Hamilton was struggling on shot tyres in the closing stages of the race, and had just lost second place to Kimi Räikkönen along the back straight. Sensing an opportunity to capitalise and claim his second podium of the year, Maldonado tried a move around the outside of Hamilton as the pair braked for the Turn 12/13 chicane.
Hamilton assumed the racing line through the complex and forced Maldonado wide, but the Venezuelan came back at Hamilton on the apex to Turn 13, clipping the McLaren’s left-rear wheel and tipping the hapless Englishman into the tyre barriers and into retirement,
To add salt to the wounds, the Spanish Grand Prix winner was issued with a post-race drive-through penalty which dropped him out of the points and into twelfth place, handing the final championship point to team-mate Senna.
Schumacher was himself also investigated after the race for an apparent illegal use of his DRS on the final lap as he approached the braking zone for Turn 12, where marshals were trying to recover Hamilton’s stricken McLaren.
The German was defending his position from a fast-closing Mark Webber, but with Webber unable to get by into the corner on account of the yellow flags, Schumacher slowed sufficiently to acknowledge the yellow flags being waved.
His actions – effectively similar to the incidents that saw Sebastian Vettel and Felipe Massa penalised at the Spanish Grand Prix – were sufficient to demonstrate to the FIA Stewards that he had slowed down enough, and they elected not to penalise the seven-time World Champion.