After the chequered flag dropped in Malaysia for the final time, Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll collided in a bizarre incident. As Vettel clambered out of his wrecked car, he hitched a ride on Pascal Wehrlein’s Sauber. But before he did so, eagle-eyed viewers may have noticed that Vettel removed the steering wheel and put it in Wehrlein’s cockpit. Sebastian Vettel initially replaced the steering wheel then went back to retrieve it before taking a lift back to the pits.
This incident was not in accordance with article 22.5 of the sporting regulations. It states: “A driver who abandons a car must leave it in neutral or with the clutch disengaged, with the ERS shut down and with the steering wheel in place.” The stewards investigated the collision and found no clear fault with either driver. However, they failed to investigate the fact that Vettel did not replace his steering wheel.
“We didn’t look at that,” FIA steward Garry Connelly told the BBC. “It wasn’t reported to us so we haven’t looked at it.”
Normally, the FIA stewards receive reports from Charlie Whiting who in turn receives complaints from competitors. This is not the first time the stewards have overlooked an incident. During the Chinese Grand Prix weekend, Daniel Ricciardo and Sergio Perez were given penalties for failing to show up in time for the pre-race performance of the national anthem. However, Esteban Ocon’s tardy arrival went unnoticed.
2014 was the last time a driver was penalised for not replacing the steering wheel. The driver was none other than Pastor Maldonado. But he got away with a reprimand. Meanwhile, Vettel does have to tread lightly because he has 5 penalty points on his license.