Last weekend’s Goodwood Festival of Speed provided an interesting cross-section of opinion on what should become of Sebastian Vettel (before the FIA handed down its verdict on Monday evening).
I talked to enthusiasts and participants from rallying, bikes and motor racing. The only common theme was that one driver should not deliberately drive into another, particularly an admired world champion, regardless of his perceived injustice.
As for punishment, views were all over the place. One or two felt that a penalty had been handed out during the race; dragging this into next week did not serve the sport’s image. For others, image is precisely what this is all about; specifically, the detrimental effect of Vettel’s actions on a younger generation going karting each weekend.
Disqualification from the Azerbaijan result was a starting point for some and extended to a suspended ban – possibly for an entire season being one particularly extreme view. While rather radical, the threat of a season out would certainly have got Vettel’s attention, the argument being that he needed such a severe threat to control a worryingly fierce temper.
The downside to the threat of a ban was that Vettel’s opposition would raise on-track baiting to an artful level. And as we are seeing this year when Vettel is on form, F1 would desperately miss his presence if absent for a season. On balance (and my personal view), a suspended ban for one or two races would probably have done the trick in a championship as close as this.
As we now know, Vettel had his meeting with FIA president Jean Todt and duly apologised. But the fact that he denied any wrongdoing until his feet were held over the governing body's fire seems to have been overlooked. Seb, politically apologetic, is in for a bit of social work and the case is now closed.
But, if he does it again…well, he’d better look out. Er, much as he was supposed to look out after telling Charlie Whiting to ‘eff off’ in Mexico last year.
Given that Todt rightly focuses his attention on reducing 3,000 deaths on our highways each day, it is no surprise that he has removed Vettel from further road safety work. It’s hardly the right image to have a motor sport icon engaging in road rage and then lecturing the rest of the world on good manners.
Some I talked to at Goodwood made the point that there might not have been so much fuss about further punishment if Hamilton had won the race rather than lose time having the Mercedes protective collar and headrest replaced. Then Vettel would have got his just deserts by losing more points.
That argument is completely irrelevant since the alleged crime was a deliberate collision, regardless of what happened either before or after Vettel’s moment of madness.
There is an interesting theory concerning the ill-fitting head restraint. The foam within it expands with heat and no allowance appeared to have been made – such as fitting a new restraint at ambient temperature - when the protection was put back in place at the end of the red flag period.
You could say – bear with me here as I’m trying to lighten what is becoming an extremely heavy subject as debate continues – that Vettel was not the only driver to lose points by getting hot under the collar at Baku.
You may as well have a laugh, because that’s what Vettel must be doing right now.