August 20, 2022

SPIELBERG, Austria — Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel has been handed a suspended 25,000 euro fine after storming a drivers meeting ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix.

Vettel walked out of the meeting “without permission” on Friday night during a heated discussion between drivers and FIA officials about growing frustrations around decision-making this year.

The stewards’ verdict said: “Drivers are not free to leave whenever they wish, which is a breach of the obligation to attend.

“Drivers of this level are role models for all drivers in the world and, in the opinion of the stewards, Sebastian Vettel failed to meet this standard in this case.”

The stewards said Vettel apologized “unreservedly” and then had a constructive conversation about the matters in question with this weekend’s race director Niels Wittich.

The relationship between drivers and F1 officials this year has become increasingly strained, mainly over inconsistent decision-making.

Wittich and Eduardo Freitas replaced race director Michael Masi at the start of the year, but the new system received a mixed reception at best in the paddock.

Wittich and Freitas alternate race direction duties, meaning the latter oversaw last weekend’s British Grand Prix.

George Russell, director of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, said that format needed to change.

“Yes, I agree that we have to stick to one race director,” he said after Saturday’s sprint race in Austria.

“We need to have a bit more consistency with the stewarding. We come to the next event and often the steward from the previous event is not there. So there is no accountability, no explanation of the decisions.

“We ask questions, and it’s hard to get a straight answer because almost a bit of the blame is thrown on someone else who isn’t there.

“So it’s tricky. Everyone has their own interpretations.”

Fernando Alonso has been openly critical of the FIA’s decision-making this year and was forced to apologize to governing body chairman Mohammed Ben Sulayem for critical comments he made ahead of the FIA ​​Grand Prix. Spain in May.

Alonso had suggested that the FIA ​​race marshals did not have the necessary racing knowledge to do their job.

At the Miami Grand Prix he was thwarted by a penalty he received for cutting a chicane during the race, despite what he saw as a significant increase in throttle afterwards in an attempt to return any advantage acquired.

Alonso was confused that Sergio Perez escaped without penalty at the British Grand Prix last week after going the wrong way in his fights with Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc.

The Spaniard said on Thursday that he will seek clarification during Friday’s meeting.

“I left the track in Miami on a turn and I’m gaining an advantage for them [the FIA]but they must imagine that I gained an advantage, because I give back all the advantage,” said the Spaniard.

“[Silverstone] was a definite gain of advantage, as you can fight the next corner on the inside or the outside. So it’s clear. And it was not a punishment. So I’m very confused.”

He added: “At the beginning of the year, leaving the track was not allowed. It was very clear, in black and white.

“Now going off the track and staying flat on the run-off area and continuing to fight into the next corner is allowed. So it’s a completely different direction to what we’ve seen so far. So it will be very , very interesting to clarify that.”

After Friday’s practice in Austria, Grand Prix Drivers Association director George Russell said all drivers ask for is consistency.

Ahead of the Miami Grand Prix, drivers also criticized the FIA’s willingness to enforce an old rule regarding jewelry and underwear that could be worn in the car, leading to a multi-race confrontation with Lewis. Hamilton because of his nose piercing.

Hamilton’s fellow drivers largely agreed with the seven-time world champion that the rule was draconian and the governing body had more important things to deal with.

Vettel memorably mocked this FIA directive by wearing his underwear outside his racing suit when he walked to his car before a practice session in Miami.