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Vettel faces scrutiny in Austria

Sebastian Vettel will face another trial of his integrity and temperament this weekend when he arrives at the Red Bull Ring circuit for the Austrian Grand Prix.

Just three days after celebrating his 30th birthday on Monday by escaping any further punishment for his "road rage" attack on Lewis Hamilton at last month's Azerbaijan Grand Prix, the four-time world champion will need a cool head.

The German is sure to be placed under close scrutiny by the media when he and Hamilton restart their scrap for the drivers' world title.

A tight fight between Vettel's Ferrari team and three-time champion Hamilton's Mercedes outfit is expected in the Styrian Alps.

Thanks to escaping without serious sanction in Baku, where Hamilton was deprived of a near-certain race victory because his headrest worked loose, Vettel holds a 14-point lead over the Briton, whose silence this week has spoken volumes.

Vettel, who has a history of bad-tempered outbursts when events conspire against him, had to accept full responsibility for his actions, apologise to Hamilton and pledge to improve his future behaviour.

If he slips up again in Austria, he may be banned if points are added to those already on his licence.

Many may believe that he escaped lightly, but Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has made clear he believes it is now time to put the controversy to bed and forget it.

"Every great season is marked by a great rivalry," he said.

"Last year, it was our internal battle between Lewis and Nico and, this year, it seems that the fight is on between Ferrari and Mercedes and Lewis and Sebastian.

"As calm as it started, it was only a matter of time until the rivalry would eventually become more fierce and controversial. That moment happened in Baku and we saw the results of that tension on track.

"We have moved past that moment now and it is a closed chapter."

Hamilton will be determined to claw back his lost points and cut into Vettel's advantage on the sweeping circuit in Austria.

But he will be aware too that Ferrari will be vigorous rivals and that Red Bull, at their "home" circuit, will want to see a repeat of Australian Daniel Ricciardo's shock triumph in Baku. - AFP

Formula 1