Malaysia was not a nice treat to Vettel by no means since the German only raced till turn 1 and got an an additional 3-place penalty for Japan.
F1 GRIP takes on the incident and delivers its own verdict…
The German starts quite well and places himself on the outside of Verstappen’s Red Bull. But as the cars build up their speed towards the end of the straight Verstappen manages to get a good one-car-length advantage. Vettel then decides to cut into the inside and try the dive.
Vettel’s dive was not some crazy idea and based on turn 1 width this can’t be seen as an aggressive move. After all, just before making contact with Rosberg, Vettel has already placed his car in front of the Red Bull and Verstappen is made to alter his line seeing the Ferrari’s rear wheel. Vettel’s speed, along with his movements on the steering wheel indicate that he would be perfectly able to make the turn, even with a bit of understeer and wheel block. Possibly needed a meter or two more away from the kerb to match his speed with the trajectory radius.
This, however, is the exact crucial point. Vettel pays no attention whatsoever to the rest of the pack and is soon left facing the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg, as it cuts across chasing Hamilton. Rosberg had initially taken the wider line at entry, since Hamilton defended his position by pushing him to the outside.
Was Vettel’s move too risky? Well, as far as the duel with Verstappen is concerned, the answer is definitely no.
Could he have avoided the collision? Yes, if he could keep the car on a tighter line. But this would mean him braking earlier and clamping down his aggressiveness on Verstappen, essentially allowing the Dutch to stay on the outside and regroup for turn 2.
Drivers are expected to be fully aware of their surroundings at all times, however at the starts it’s very reasonable for them to mainly focus on the cars just around them. Vettel was unlucky, because Rosberg popped out in front, occupying an area Seb needed to make the turn safely. But since contact was made, all with a cost to Rosberg’s (and Verstappen’s, for that matter) race, Vettel could not easily get away with that. In any case, while the punishment is fair, this won’t make Vettel hold his horses should he face another fight like that in the future.