Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel title rivalry turns nasty at Azerbaijan Grand Prix

Restart controversy dominates post-race analysis, as Daniel Ricciardo takes the win

Lewis Hamilton leads at the start of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)
Lewis Hamilton leads at the start of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

Lewis Hamilton claimed his Formula One championship rival Sebastian Vettel had "disgraced" himself after the pair collided during Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Ferrari driver Vettel was handed a 10-second stop-go penalty during the race for "dangerous driving" after he was deemed to have deliberately driven into Hamilton’s Mercedes-GP while both were following the safety car.

Vettel claimed Hamilton had braked in front of him and he responded by driving into the back of his rival before then bumping the Briton from the side.

Hamilton had been leading at the time, and he eventually finished fifth after making an extra pit stop to deal with a loose headrest, while Vettel recovered from his penalty to finish fourth, with Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo taking advantage of the drama ahead of him to triumph for the fifth time in his career.

But while Ricciardo celebrated on the podium in Baku with Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas and the Williams of Lance Stroll, all eyes were on Hamilton and Vettel, with both critical of each other’s driving.

Championship leader Vettel felt that he had been provoked by Hamilton’s slow driving behind the safety car, and that the Briton should also have been penalised by the stewards.

"I didn’t," Hamilton said to the accusation he had brake-tested Vettel. "I controlled the pace.

"Like all the other restarts, I slowed down in the same spot. He was obviously sleeping and drove into the back of me. That wasn’t, for me, an issue.

"Driving alongside and deliberately driving into another driver and getting away pretty much scot-free as he still came fourth, I think that’s a disgrace. I think he disgraced himself today."

Vettel was adamant that it was the Mercedes-GP driver who had caused the incident.

"I have no doubt he brake-checked me," the German said. "I didn’t run into the back of him on purpose. There is then a chain reaction.

"I think it was very clear. In the end we are racing with men. If one of us gets a penalty, we both do. We are both grown up men. We want to race wheel to wheel."

Hamilton though was unimpressed with that comment, and said: "If he wants to prove that he’s a man, I think we should do it out of the car face to face.

"Driving dangerously which in any way can put another driver at risk ... we were going slow, if we’d been going fast it could’ve been a lot worse."

Vettel, who as a consequence of the chaotic second half of the race actually increased his lead in the title standings to 14 points, having at one stage looked as if it would be cut to five points, looked to try and build bridges with Hamilton as he followed up his defence of his driving with a conciliatory tone.

"The championship battle is still respectful I don’t have a problem with him, I think today’s action was wrong," he said.

"Every week in the Premier League you have refs blowing the whistle, and some players agree, some disagree. It’s the same here".

Hamilton had been dominating the race before his headrest came loose, after also taking pole position, and the need to pit dropped him to ninth, before he fought back to fifth.

But despite that he was determined to draw the positives from his strong pace over the weekend as he looks forward to the next round in Austria on July 9, a race that Mercedes have won for the past three years.

"I know my boys will be devastated [about the head rest issue] but I think it is important to take away the great performance throughout the weekend," he said. "We have to wipe the slate clean."

Published: June 26, 2017 08:32 AM

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