By Alan Baldwin
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel saw red and turned the air blue at the Mexican Grand Prix on Sunday, before Formula One stewards promoted him to the podium and then dropped him off it again hours later.
In a foul-mouthed tirade, heard by television viewers worldwide, the four times world champion blasted race director Charlie Whiting and vented his anger at Red Bull's Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo.
Dutch teenager Verstappen, defending third place, had run across the grass to avoid being passed in the final laps and then failed to hand the place to Vettel.
The German, whose performances this season have been punctuated by outbursts seemingly born of frustration at his team's failure to win any races and internal pressure on him, made his feelings evident.
"Move, move," he exclaimed over the radio, the words accompanied by expletives.
"You know what, here is the message for Charlie," he then added, with more swearing of a graphic nature.
The rant led to Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene, who said later that the driver had apologised to Whiting, intervening.
"Sebastian, Sebastian, calm down, calm down. They are under investigation. I know that it is not fair but calm down. Put your head down and we talk afterwards," said the Italian.
Vettel was promoted to third place when Verstappen was handed a five second post-race penalty but then, hours later, collected his own 10 second sanction for moving dangerously while defending against Ricciardo.
That promoted Ricciardo to third and Verstappen back to fourth.
Verstappen suggested Vettel should go back to school to control his swearing while Red Bull consultant Helmut Marko said his former driver's behaviour was "unworthy of a four time world champion."
"His choice of words certainly wasn't first class," added the Austrian.
In his defence, Vettel said emotions were high.
"I was using a lot of sign language and using a lot of your language I think," he told Colombia's fiery former F1 racer Juan Pablo Montoya in a podium interview, before the demotion.
"Probably looking back I felt like you when you got angry in the car. No, you have to understand the adrenalin was pumping.
"I put him (Verstappen) under pressure, which was difficult enough, our tyres both were pretty old and then obviously, yeah, he left the track and didn’t move, so you can understand why I really was annoyed."
Arrivabene said the driver had been to see Whiting to explain himself.
"We talked together, me and Sebastian, and that's it," he said. "I don't have to tell in public about what I am doing with the driver. He excused himself (apologised), I'm sure that is not going to happen again."
Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone, who is close to Vettel, defended the driver. "He's got an opinion, which is good. And they are racing, which is good," he said.
(Editing by Ian Ransom)