MEXICO CITY, Mexico -- Sebastian Vettel was demoted to fifth place at the Mexican Grand Prix after the race stewards penalised him for dangerous driving while defending position from Daniel Ricciardo.
The decision promotes Ricciardo to third and Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen to fourth, who was also penalised after finishing third on the road. The unusual set of circumstances means three different drivers have been classified third since the chequered flag fell, although Ricciardo will retain the position in the official results of the race.
Vettel came under attack from Ricciardo at Turn 4 on the penultimate lap of the Mexican Grand Prix, squeezing the Red Bull driver to the inside of the track under braking. The two cars touched wheels as they locked brakes, but Vettel held position on the exit and neither had significant damaged.
The incident occurred two laps after Vettel attempted to pass Verstappen for third at Turn 1, only for the Red Bull driver to skip the second corner and retain position. Vettel launched into a rant over team radio, arguing Verstappen should give the position to him, but the 19-year-old instead remained in front and backed Vettel into Ricciardo behind.
Immediately after the race, Verstappen was penalised for skipping Turn 2, promoting Vettel to the podium where he accepted the trophy. Roughly three hours later, the stewards issued Vettel a 10-second penalty for his defence of Ricciardo, demoting him behind both Red Bulls and putting Ricciardo on the podium.
The rule about moving under braking was introduced in the race notes at the U.S. Grand Prix after Verstappen was accused of defending second position from Lewis Hamilton in a dangerous manner at the Japanese Grand Prix. Vettel was among the drivers who welcomed the new rule, saying it had been an "unwritten law" when he entered F1.
An FIA statement explained the decision in full: "The stewards paid particular attention to the Race Director's Notes from the US Grand Prix and from this event. Notwithstanding the F1 Commission directive to 'let the drivers race' we note the concern that has been expressed about manoeuvrers involving a change of direction under braking as expressed at the drivers briefing at the US Grand Prix and in the Race Director's Notes from the US Grand Prix and this event.
"The telemetry and video evidence shows that the driver of Car 5 did change direction under braking. Article 27.5 and the Race Director's Notes have essentially three criteria that determine a breach:
1) Driving in a manner potentially dangerous
2) An abnormal change of direction
3) Another driver having to take evasive action
"The video footage, including the close circuit footage, the broadcast vision, both drivers' on board cameras plus the telemetry show that there was an abnormal change of direction by Car 5 and this was considered to be potentially dangerous in view of the proximity of the wheels of each car. The video evidence clearly shows that Car 3 had to take evasive action as a result. Accordingly as all three criteria have been met, the driver of Car 5 is guilty of a breach of Article 27.5."