It is no great surprise to hear that the FIA is going to take a further look at the incident in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix when Sebastian Vettel deliberately drove into Lewis Hamilton. In truth the governing body had to do something – and it has been inevitable since the Baku race ended. Why? Because Jean Todt has led the federation to focus on road safety and allowing one of its highest profile F1 stars to indulge in what can only be described as ‘road rage’, without getting a suitable penalty – which a 10-second stop-go was clearly not – is just plain weak. Todt has been so hands-off in the sport that some think it is unhealthy, but he cannot afford to be seen to be weak over safety. He simply cannot. And, let us not forget, there is an FIA election coming up. Todt isn’t going to lose it. It’s doubtful there will even be a rival candidate, but anything that appears weak could be the spark for an uprising. The FIA does its politics behind closed doors but Todt wants to be quite sure he’s not too close to any tipping point.
What is the right punishment? Ah, that’s another problem… Taking away Vettel’s points from Baku might be an option, but it might also be neater to simply ban him for one race. That would send out the message loud and clear, and Vettel needs to be taught how to behave. A spoilt child sometimes needs to be shown where the limit is.
The interesting thing is that Ferrari will now see just how worthless its attitude towards the media has been in recent months. The team is about to get its arse handed to it on a plate. There is no sympathy at all in the media as a result of the team’s stupid decision to deliberately ignore the press. They can wail and gripe and no one cares (apart from a few sycophants and some Italians who only see red) because the company has blown the goodwill that it used to have. If you plant stinging nettles in your garden, you should not be surprised if you get stung. Maybe ignoring the press has allowed the team to focus more on getting the job done, but it was never an intelligent move. The point of Ferrari being in F1 is to sell cars and winning races is not the whole story. Engagement is important.
In truth, the team has a great story in what has been achieved by Mattia Binotto and his team. Binotto seems a likeable fellow and his achievement this year has been impressive, but we’re not allowed to speak to him. Ferrari fans will no doubt write rude remarks about the British media (although I am very definitely a European), so allow me to illustrate that I am not the only one who feels this way. Listen to ace photographer Darren Heath in his blog from Baku.
“Ferrari really are a horrible team right now,” he wrote. “Dismissive of interest, completely devoid of any grace, charm or humility, they exude an aggressive arrogance that is bitter in its mien and wholly unpleasant to experience”.
Time for some changes methinks…