Sebastian Vettel has been fined 5,000 euros by the FIA stewards over his scooter ride back to the pits during FP1 for the Australian Grand Prix.
The German’s return to Formula 1 action after missing the season’s first two races with Covid got off to an eventful start at Melbourne’s Albert Park.
Aston Martin’s miserable beginning to the campaign continued as Vettel suffered an engine problem in his AMR22 during FP1, stopping on track with the four-time former World Champion climbing out and helping to extinguish a small fire.
The session was red-flagged but instead of arriving back at the pits in the Safety Car, Vettel rode back on a marshal’s scooter.
And not pillion either – instead, the 34-year-old piloted the machine himself, with his crash helmet not properly fitted, even waving to the crowd with both hands at once.
Sebastian Vettel is under investigation from the FIA for entering the track without permission.
— PlanetF1 (@Planet_F1) April 8, 2022
Next came an official summons from the FIA with the somewhat amusing title, given the typically formal nature of these things, of “unauthorised use of a scooter on the track”.
Despite Vettel having argued it was not actually unauthorised, the stewards failed to see the funny side and hit him with a 5,000 euros fine.
Their verdict read: “Vettel asked if he could drive the scooter in order to return to his pit. The marshal assented.
“Vettel got on the scooter, expecting the marshal to get on behind him. When he didn’t get on, Vettel departed alone for the pit, without the prior approval to do so. Meanwhile, the marshal was trying to contact Race Control for instructions.
“In driving on the track to his pit, instead of the designated route, Vettel breached Article 26.7 of the Formula One Sporting Regulations which prohibits anyone from being on the track in the five-minute period after the end of a session, with the exception of specifically identified personnel, which makes no provision for drivers to have such access unless specifically authorised.”
Vettel had told reporters afterwards, quoted by Autosport: “Obviously we had a problem, there was a bit of smoke and I lost power. And we had to stop the car on the track. I did the best I could to limit the damage and get it off the track as soon as possible.
“I tried to make sure the car doesn’t get any further damaged. The marshal was very helpful, he had a Leatherman. I asked for an Allen key, then we took part of the bodywork off so I could get underneath and cool the car. So it was a bit of a job.
“I asked ‘can I get back?’ as soon as I knew the car was safe in terms of not catching fire again.
“The session was then over and I asked ‘is somebody coming?’ They said ‘yeah, as soon as the session is over’. Then the guy came with a scooter and said ‘you can jump on the back’.
“I said ‘can I drive it?’ because I prefer to drive myself. Then he handed me the scooter, so I said ‘okay’ and he said ‘off you go’ and I went.
“I mean, I’d like to get the car back and not have a problem in the first place. I’m not here to drive a scooter.”
Having ended FP1 with the 13th fastest time, Vettel was unable to run at all in FP2 due to the engine issue.
“It stopped our running, which was painful, and unfortunately it also cost us the whole session in the afternoon which is not ideal,” added Vettel.
“I haven’t been in the car for a while. Plus, the track is different. It will be fine tomorrow, but it would have been nice to get more laps.”