Get set for Lewis vs Seb

F1 Racing - - CONTENTS - Damien Smith Euro­pean edi­tor-in-chief

Eight races. Well, it took longer than ex­pected. The back-slap­ping bon­homie of that post-race press con­fer­ence at the Span­ish GP in May now seems a very long time ago. In the wake of Baku, the Lewis Hamilton vs Se­bas­tian Vet­tel duel has ratch­eted up a notch or three, with 12 of the sea­son’s 20 races still to run. Juicy.

In this space a cou­ple of months ago, I sug­gested the pair were hardly “F1’s Fed­erer and Nadal” and even ad­mit­ted we hoped for “a bit of nig­gle” in a two-han­der that prom­ises to be one for the ages. And lo, they de­liver. And then some.

But be­fore we go any fur­ther, some per­spec­tive. It’s not as if Vet­tel speared into Hamilton at 250km/h at Turn 1 in front of a full pack at speed, as an act of pre-med­i­tated sab­o­tage. For now, and hope­fully for­ever, the sainted Ayr­ton Senna is un­chal­lenged as the per­pe­tra­tor of the most di­a­bol­i­cal pro­fes­sional foul in F1 his­tory. Had some­one been hurt (or worse) at Suzuka 1990, the post-Imola 1994 de­ifi­ca­tion of Senna would have sat even more un­com­fort­ably than it al­ready does.

In con­trast, what Vet­tel did in Baku, at low speed be­hind a Safety Car, put no one at risk. But still, he drove into an­other car on pur­pose, so it is a big deal. This was a fit of red-mist petu­lance that is sadly a recog­nis­able Vet­tel char­ac­ter­is­tic, and it’s un­be­com­ing of a four-time world cham­pion.

Ad­mit­tedly, Hamilton is no saint. But data proved con­clu­sively that here, he did noth­ing wrong. He chose not to floor it out of the slow Turn 15 when Vet­tel might have ex­pected him to, but that was his pre­rog­a­tive. Af­ter­wards, Lewis was cer­tainly at full-throt­tle when he spoke about it.

“I think he dis­graced him­self to­day,” said the Mercedes driver. “It def­i­nitely sets a prece­dent within F1 and it also does for all the young kids that are watch­ing us drive and con­duct our­selves.”

Vet­tel re­mained de­fi­ant in the af­ter­math – again a char­ac­ter­is­tic we’ve seen be­fore in high-stress mo­ments. He was adamant that if pun­ish­ment was meted out to one, it should also have been thumped on the other. “It’s just one ac­tion to­day that was wrong and I think if I got pe­nalised then he should get pe­nalised,” said Seb. “We’re all grown-ups, we’re men. Emo­tions are run­ning high in the car.”

And with that was the ad­mis­sion he’d lost con­trol of his tem­per – if not his Fer­rari. Much ado about noth­ing? Not re­ally. Vet­tel was bang to rights on the most se­ri­ous con­tra­ven­tion of rac­ing driver hon­our. A ten-sec­ond stop-go was the cor­rect penalty by reg­u­la­tion, but dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion or a fu­ture race ban would have be­fit­ted the crime.

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