Vettel can’t afford more controversy


Sebastian Vettel will have to be on his best behavior Sunday at the Austrian Grand Prix when Formula One action resumes after his infamous move against title rival in Azerbaijan.

The Ferrari driver and championship leader Vettel escaped sanctions from the FIA on Monday when the ruling body accepted his profound apology for deliberately driving into Hamilton’s Mercedes and imposed no additional measures on top of the 10-second penalty he received during the Baku race.

But Vettel cannot afford another ill-tempered action of any kind as he already has nine points on his licence and could be disqualified from the following race if he picks up three more in Austria.

“I love this sport and I am determined to represent it in a way that can be an example for future generations,” the German four-time world champion pledged in his apology.

Vettel admitted he overreacted “in the heat of the action,” but the pressure and stress will not go away as he holds a rather slender 14-point lead over Hamilton after eight of 21 races.

Hamilton also suggested that Vettel “is under pressure and it is not a bad sign if he reacts like this.”

This will likely not stop on Sunday as Mercedes have ruled the Spielberg race since its 2014 return, with Nico Rosberg winning from Hamilton in 2014 and 2015, and Hamilton topping the podium last year.

Vettel by contrast failed to finish in 2014 and 2016, and came fourth in 2015 on the 4.326-kilometer course in the Alps.

In addition, he has now missed the podium in two straight races by coming fourth in Canada and Azerbaijan, after starting the season with three wins and three runner-up spots.

The two may settle the case on the weekend after the Briton rejected any kind of peacemaking right after the race in Baku.

For Mercedes motorsport chief Toto Wolff the case is closed and he said the team has only looked at its own work after Hamilton was denied a possible victory in Baku by a loose headrest.

But Wolff remained cautious regarding another success in Spielberg, saying “It has been positive ground for Mercedes over the last three years. But we cannot rely on our historic success rate in Spielberg.”

Wolff also expects the Vettel-Hamilton rivalry to continue, naming them “warriors” and saying this is part of the sport.

“This sport needs rivalry — and what we have seen today has the ingredients of a great championship. Those who fight for the title in the end cannot be friends – that is for sure — so what can remain is respect,” he said in Baku.

“I still believe that today’s incident will not change the respect level – but yes with every race the heat level will rise between the two greats of their sport. Maybe the schmoozing times are over!”

Also out to shine in their home race are Red Bull who are coming off their first season victory, from Daniel Ricciardo, in Azerbaijan.

Ricciardo and Max Verstappen have already raced on the Spielberg track this year — driving Aston Martins and towing caravans.

“We have done some pretty crazy things at the track, wearing the lederhosen race suit is something different and a few weeks ago Max and I raced caravans there. To be honest I’m not sure they would have let us do that anywhere else as the caravans were destroyed, but we loved it!” Ricciardo said.