‘Dis­grace’

Hamil­ton slates For­mula One cham­pi­onship ri­val Vet­tel af­ter the pair col­lided dur­ing Azer­bai­jan Grand Prix.

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Lewis Hamil­ton claimed his For­mula One cham­pi­onship ri­val Se­bas­tian Vet­tel had “dis­graced” him­self af­ter the pair col­lided dur­ing yes­ter­day’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 drove 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 hav­ing to make 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 have been pe­nalised by the stew­ards too.

“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 though that it was the Mercedes-GP driver who had caused the in­ci­dent. “I have no doubt he brakechecked 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 at if it would be cut to five points, looked to try to 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 added. “We have to wipe the slate clean.”

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

Valdrin Xhe­maj / EPA

Lewis Hamil­ton takes a pit stop at Fer­arri’s Se­bas­tian Vet­tel passes in the fore­ground at Baku City Cir­cuit, in Baku, Azer­bai­jan.

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