Lewis Hamilton says Canadian GP decision was right after Vettel error

• ‘He did block me, it’s the rules,’ says Mercedes driver
• Vettel has until Thursday to decide whether to appeal

Lewis Hamilton has said Sebastian Vettel knew what he was doing when he incurred the penalty that cost the Ferrari driver first place at the Canadian Grand Prix.

Hamilton won despite finishing behind Vettel after the stewards penalised the German by adding five seconds to his time in Sunday’s race. Hamilton believes they were right to do so while Vettel was adamant the decision was symptomatic of the sport having taken the wrong direction with rules that are too stringent.

Vettel had led from pole, closely pursued by Hamilton. On lap 48 Vettel lost the rear of his car going into a turn. He was forced to cut across the grass and rejoined the track while Hamilton attempted to go past him on the outside of the corner. The Mercedes driver was pushed wide and had to brake to avoid an accident.

The stewards deemed Vettel’s return had been unsafe and that it had forced Hamilton off. Vettel took the flag but Hamilton was close enough to ensure he was awarded the win. Vettel was furious, insisting he had no control of the car as he rejoined the track.

The championship leader suggested Vettel was in control as he pushed his rival wide to maintain his place. “I watched the replays. It’s obviously very close,” Hamilton said. “What I can say is, if I was in the lead and I made a mistake and went wide, I probably would have done the same thing.

“It happens so quick and you’re just trying to hold position. And when I say I’d do the same, I would have tried to squeeze him too. That’s ultimately what happened. So my opinion on that has not shifted. Regarding the rules, say you didn’t have that rule, I would have kept it lit and we would have crashed. One way or another it was going to go badly.”

It is understood the FIA fully backs the stewards’ decision and that it agreed it unanimously, based on evidence that Vettel allowed his car to drift right towards Hamilton once he had it under control.

There is a precedent for the ruling from last year at Suzuka where Max Verstappen received a five-second penalty after running off at a chicane and in rejoining pushed Kimi Räikkönen wide.

Immediately after the incident Hamilton said he believed Vettel’s return had been “dangerous” – an opinion he maintained. “Usually the first instinct is often the right one,” he said. “When I watched the replay and had a look at my data, I had to brake at the exit of turn four. There was a hazard there and, if I had not done that, we would have crashed. I don’t feel any different about that. He did block me but unfortunately he went off track and the way the rules are written that’s how it’s prescribed.”

Many former drivers supported Vettel, who claimed the race had been stolen from him. Ferrari have lodged their intent to appeal and have until Thursday to decide whether to proceed.

Vettel went on to express his distaste with what he sees as F1’s inflexible rules. “This is not the sport I fell in love with,” he said. “We all sound like lawyers. It just gives no edge to the sport. It is not just about this decision but other decisions, too. We have an official language and it is wrong. We should be able to say what we think but we are not. In this regard I disagree with where the sport is now. I rejoined the track, Lewis had to react but for me that is racing and a lot of the old Formula One drivers and people in the grandstands would agree that this is part of racing.”

Somewhat lost in the furore, however, has been the fact that it was Vettel’s error that caused the incident. He made five costly mistakes last year and this is his second this season, having spun while being passed by Hamilton in Bahrain. Hamilton pointedly noted his clean record in comparison.

“I take lot of pride in my work and particularly my track record of not making mistakes,” he said. “That’s a real focus. There are 21 races and every single point counts, even seven points or three points, it adds up. It is great being quick but if you are an all-round driver, you work well outside the car and particularly in the car. You are able to pull these things that perhaps others are not able to pull together.”


Giles Richards

The GuardianTramp

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