Sebastian Vettel has been given a 10-second post-race time penalty for his vigorous defence Daniel Ricciardo during the Mexican Grand Prix.
The punishment strips him of the third-placed finish he inherited from Max Verstappen in the minutes after Sunday’s race after the Dutch driver was issued a 5-second time penalty for locking up and cutting Turn 1,gaining an advantage over the Ferrari driver.
Shortly after Verstappen locked up and rejoined, Ricciardo launched an attack on Vettel as the pair ran side-by-side to Turn 4. Vettel appeared to moved towards Ricciardo under braking and the pair banged wheels through the corner, with Vettel maintaining his position.
Vettel was ultimately handed the final spot on the podium when Verstappen was penalised, much to Ricciardo’s chagrin.
In comments made to the media after the race, Ricciardo claimed Vettel did not deserve to be standing on the podium and that race-winner Lewis Hamilton should similarly have been penalised for a near-identical error to Verstappen’s on the opening lap of the race.
The FIA Stewards subsequently reviewed the Vettel/Ricciardo incident and ruled that the Ferrari driver had changed direction under braking, which the governing body had recently clamped down on.
“The video footage, including the close circuit footage, the broadcast vision, both drivers’ onboard cameras plus the telemetry show there was an abnormal change in direction by Car 5 (Vettel),” a statement from the stewards reads.
“This was considered to be potentially dangerous in view of the proximity of the wheels of each car. The video evidence clearly shows that Car 3 (Ricciardo) had to take evasive action as a result.”
The updated classification now promoted Ricciardo to third place ahead of Verstappen, while Vettel has been demoted to fifth place as a result of his more significant time penalty.
Speaking in the FIA post-race press conference before the stewards’ hearing, Vettel defended his driving against Ricciardo:
“I didn’t get the best exit [from Turn 3] and so I knew it would be tight with Daniel. I know Daniel in these situations. He is jumping into the gap, even if he doesn’t make the rest of the corner.
“I think I knew exactly the situation, or in my head the situation from Barcelona came up, when he dived down the inside at the last minute. I gave him enough room, but in fact he didn’t make the first corner. Obviously today is not Barcelona, and obviously he was upset about it. I went to him and he told me to look at it again. I will do that.
“But I think I gave him a chance and just enough room. It was very late and I think both of us just about made the corner. Obviously it is never ideal if you make contact because our cars are not built to make contact. I initially thought I had a puncture and I don’t know if he had any damage. He certainly lost a bit of time after that.”
The result guarantees that Ricciardo will finish in third place in the Drivers’ Championship standings.
Images via FOM and Scuderia Ferrari