Lewis Hamilton has labelled Sebastian Vettel’s actions during Sunday’s race in Azerbaijan as unfitting for a four-time world champion, adding that the Ferrari driver had ‘disgraced himself’ by side-swiping him behind the safety car.
Vettel was given a 10-second stop-go penalty for dangerous driving after what appeared to be retaliatory contact with Hamilton’s car moments after the German had run lightly into the back of his title rival leading up to the re-start on lap 18.
Speaking after the race Vettel, who finished one place ahead of Hamilton in fourth, accused the Briton of brake-testing him – an allegation Hamilton was quick to refute.
“I didn’t [brake check him],” Hamilton told UK broadcasters Channel 4. “I control the pace, so like all the other re-starts I slowed down at the same spot. He was obviously sleeping and drove into the back of me.
“But that wasn’t the issue for me. Driving alongside and driving deliberately into a driver and getting away scot-free, pretty much – he still came away with fourth – I think it’s a disgrace. I think he disgraced himself today, to be honest.
“I think driving dangerously which in any way could put another driver at risk, I mean luckily we were going slow, if we were going faster, it could’ve been a lot worse. Imagine all the young kids that are watching Formula One today and seeing that kind of behaviour from a four-time world champion. I think that says it all.”
Asked if the incident would change the nature of his championship battle with Vettel, Hamilton said: “Not for me, I’m going to keep going. I think we had the upper hand this weekend. I think we can continue to move forwards in the future. Through difficult times, true colours show, so it’s a good day for me.”
Having started from pole, Hamilton comfortably led in the early stages of the race, and continued to lead after the contact with Vettel until he was forced to pit with a loose headrest following the red flag period.
Despite having victory slip through his hands through no fault of his own, Hamilton said he preferred to focus on the positives to emerge from the weekend.
“I know my boys will be devastated. I’m sure we all are,” said Hamilton. “But I think it’s really important to take away the great performance we had yesterday, the great work we did through Friday night into Saturday, the speed we had as a team. They did a great job in the pit stop.
“I love the guys and I just ask that we wipe the slate clean, move forwards and take this performance. There’s a long, long way to go and it’s Hammer-time, that’s for sure.”
By finishing one place behind Vettel in fifth, Hamilton dropped to 14 points behind the Ferrari driver in the world championship standings.