Sebastian Vettel has been handed a 10-second post-race penalty, dropping him off the podium to fifth place, behind the two Red Bulls cars of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen in the Formula 1 Mexican Grand Prix.
Vettel, who had been promoted to the podium after Verstappen had been penalized for running off the track and gaining an advantage, was found to have deliberately changed his line under braking to defend from Ricciardo — a move that was outlawed at last weekend’s U.S. Grand Prix.
“I think there was one incident into turn 4 which I need to look at again to be honest,” said Vettel on the podium, prior to receiving his penalty. “I obviously knew that Daniel is quite jumpy and sometimes a bit optimistic with these kind of situations, which partly fair enough, we’re racing and for him it’s a podium to grasp. Obviously he came back and is now having the advantage on a better tire. So I need to have a look at that again. It was very close, we made contact.”
The result means that, after initially crossing the line in fifth place, Ricciardo finds himself taking his eighth podium of the season and guaranteeing his third position in the championship standings — losing out only to the Mercedes championship rivals.
Vettel is the first driver to fall foul of the rule that was introduced at least in part because of Verstappen’s exuberant defensive style. Ironically, Vettel had been one of the loudest voices in trying to get the rule introduced.
The amended rule states, “Any change of direction under braking which results in another driver having to take evasive action will be considered abnormal and hence potentially dangerous to other drivers. Any such move will be reported to the stewards.”
Ferrari has struggled of late, with just one visit to the podium in the last ten Grands Prix, Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene has been under increasing pressure to turn the situation around. Arrivabene did not hide his feelings about the penalty decision.
“Today could have felt special,” said Arrivabene. “We fully deserved this podium, which was taken away by bureaucracy. The whole team had showed great stamina by staying united and focused in a difficult moment. Our strategy had made it possible to make good progress through the race and both drivers did a very good job. Unfortunately, we were penalized by stewards’ unappealable decision which, in my opinion, is too harsh and somehow unfair.”