Vettel saw himself under big stress in Mexico, having to defend against the charging Ricciardo right after his feud with Verstappen. Seb was furious indeed, as was evident by his team-radio swearing and his moves on track. His defending tactics against Ricciardo awarded him a penalty which ultimately cost him the podium.
F1 GRIP comments on the incident and delivers its verdict.
Ricciardo brings himself into attack mode, claiming the inside line which is wide open in front. The Australian decides to dive, since Vettel has shown no sign of covering the space until the last moment before the brakes.
Daniel has already entered the braking zone, handling the car on the limit as is obvious from his moves on the steering wheel, all in effort to keep the braking distance as short as possible. Vettel, however, begins to move towards the inside while braking. Ricciardo is trying to move aside but the cars touch wheels. Fortunately, no serious crash happened, mainly because of both drivers’ supreme skill and accurate reactions.
Was Vettel worthy of the penalty? Well, according to the latest clear-up made by the FIA on the on-track battles and the braking zone defence, Vettel’s move is far from acceptable. And this is not because he moved while braking per se, but because the way the move was executed forced Ricciardo to take evasive action and the push to the inside kept on even after the cars came side-by-side.
Vettel had every right to occupy the free space on the right hand side of Ricciardo, even while braking. What was not acceptable was Seb starting the cross move into the braking zone, in front of his opponent and then keeping on pushing to the inside (Daniel’s front wing was already past Seb’s rear wheel and that’s when «a considerable part of the car» is next to the other). Vettel has been among the most vocal supporters of the need for a braking zone rule clear-up. The incident could have evolved much worse and FIA should also act in a preventive fashion.