Sebastian Vettel was accused of deliberately driving into Lewis Hamilton after the safety car lights went out and the grid went racing again for the third time. What could have been another opportunity in the race to take the attack to Lewis Hamilton and challenge for the lead was thwarted by the actions of Sebastian Vettel.
In any other Motorsport, if a driver were to deliberately use their car to try and damage another competitor, it would be an automatic black flag. The race stewards so far this season have been on point (with exception to Kvyat’s double penalty in Montreal), actively deciding to let many racing incidents pass and being much less trigger-happy on dishing out penalties when compared to last season, but this one was a bit tentative. They may have perceived an uproar if they had disqualified one of the key players, but the move from Vettel doesn’t belong in any race, let alone F1.
— Formula 1 (@F1) June 26, 2017
It was clear by the pictures that the German Ferrari driver was probably as frustrated at himself for napping at the restart and hitting the back of the Mercedes. It isn’t the first time Vettel has been too emotional on track either. It highlights an unwavering competitiveness and passion, but clearly one that that can be self-harming too.
Hamilton was correct to call it disgraceful behaviour and you’d expect Vettel to be experienced enough to put his hands up and admit the error, but in the press pen, he avoided responsibility by backing out of any hard questions. This incident is without doubt the turning point in the rivalry, there won’t be any honey-glazed schmoozing between the championship protagonists anymore. On the incident, Hamilton said,
“Driving alongside and driving deliberately into a driver and getting away scot-free, pretty much – he still came away with fourth – I think that’s a disgrace. I think he disgraced himself today, to be honest.
If he wants to prove that he’s a man, I think we should do it out of the car, face-to-face.”
– Lewis Hamilton
Who knows? They could headline a fight with the Mayweather/McGregor bout as a supporting scrap? In response, Vettel said,
“I drove alongside and we had a little contact but I drove alongside him mostly to raise my hand. I didn’t give him the finger or anything I just wanted to tell him that it was not right.
I don’t think it was deliberate him brake checking me, he is not that kind of guy, but it looked that way so I wasn’t happy. I don’t agree with the penalty we got because if they penalise me they should penalise both of us.”
– Sebastian Vettel
The restart could have been an opportunity for Vettel to take the lead, instead, we got an advert for hotheadedness. This was the Sebastian Vettel that exists in Mark Webber’s Autobiography, the walking tantrum that expects perfection and avoids accountability. It’s a shame that such a talented driver can at times be his own worst enemy.
The incident has taken the light away from a superb drive from Valtteri Bottas too. The Finn not only chipped away at the 13s gap to the Williams of Stroll for 2nd, but also kept what was a ferocious chase between an adrenal Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton behind. Despite the first lap contact with Raikkonen, it was a performance that will work in favour of Bottas continuing with Mercedes for 2018.
At the top, Vettel leads Hamilton by 14-points. One variable that may come into play this season concerns race licence points. Vettel was given three penalty points for the incident, meaning that three more points in 2017 will result in a race ban, which would be pivotal in the title race.