Hamilton: my opinion stays the same
Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel have agreed to put their Baku clash behind them at the Austrian Grand Prix, but the Briton says he remains dissatisfied with the penalty doled out to his German rival.
Vettel infamously drove into the side of Hamilton under safety car conditions In Azerbaijan, incensed by the belief the Mercedes driver had brake tested his Ferrari after the two made light contact.
Hamilton was absolved of any wrongdoing, but the stewards handed Vettel a 10-second stop-go penalty. The FIA later in the week opened an investigation that resulted in no further penalty beyond community service work and a public apology.
With a hitherto cordial championship fight looking set to burst aggressively into life, both drivers were keen to emphasise that neither would hold a grudge over the incident.
“Sebastian and I spoke after the race on the Monday and then shortly after that he messaged me,” Hamilton said. “I just said that I still have the utmost respect for him as a driver and will continue to race him hard through the rest of the season in the same way I always have.
“My only point to Sebastian was that saying that I had brake tested him — I was like, ‘I hope you can correct that publically, because people who were watching felt that that was something that I did’. The data obviously showed that that was not the case — in actual fact he accelerated.
“I accepted his apology and I move forwards.”
Vettel, who leads the drivers championship standings by 14 points, made limited elaborations on the apology he posted to his website later that afternoon.
“I am happy to hear it does not seem to have a big impact [on the relationship with Hamilton],” he said. “Obviously what I did was wrong, and I apologise.
“Obviously I had a very different view inside the car than I had with a little bit of a gap and outside the car, hence why I obviously made the statement.
“It was the wrong decision, it was the wrong move, to drive alongside him and hit his tyre.
“Am I proud of the moment? No. Can I take it back? No. Do I regret it? Yes.”
Hamilton hit out strongly against Vettel and the stewards after the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, labelling both ‘a disgrace’ given Formula One’s position at the pinnacle of motor racing, turning the drivers into role models for aspiring racers.
“It sets a precedent within Formula One, and I think it also does for all the young kids that are watching us Formula One drivers drive and conduct ourselves,” he told Sky Sports F1 at the time. “They’ve seen today how a four-time world champion behaves. Hopefully that doesn’t ripple into the younger categories.”
On Thursday in Austria the Briton stood by his commentary, adding that he was perplexed by the FIA’s decision not to penalise Vettel further, emphasising that the sport ought to ensure it sets a good example for the rest of the motor racing world.
“I don’t feel like I said anything I’d particularly wish to take back. As I said, I’m still under the same opinion of what happened,” he explained.
“With all due respect, Jean [Todt, FIA president] should be sitting next to us, to be honest, to answer some questions, because they didn’t change anything on the Monday, so the message that was sent still remains the same.
“We are used as a platform, we are supposed to be role models, we are supposed to give a certain message. We’re only human beings, so we don’t always get things right — however, collectively as a sport we are supposed to inspire and send the right message to young kids.
“There are so many people who want to be in our position, so we are in a position of power. How we utilise that is very important.”