Whilst unwilling to apportion any blame on Scuderia Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel following his furious actions at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix until the German has explained his reasons for them, Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team Boss Toto Wolff did state that driver Lewis Hamilton behaved exactly as he should.
The two drivers came together behind the safety car, after Vettel felt he was brake tested by Hamilton, as the safety car was called back in. Telemetry data pulled after the race, proved this was not the case however, and as the lead car, the Brit was well within his rights to set the pace.
Vettel’s presumptions on when Hamilton would accelerate caused him to plough into the back of the Mercedes driver, which enraged the German, seeing him drive alongside Hamilton to show his frustration, which included throwing some hand gestures his way, before ramming the side of the W08.
Not really the sort of response you would expect from a four-time world champion, especially as Hamilton stayed well within the rules, as Wolff stated when speaking to motorsport.com recently.
“First of all, the leading driver can manage the pace.
“The safety car was barely 150 metres in front of him, and you could have seen at the restart before that he almost caught the safety car over the safety car line.
“So there was never a question that at that stage he would accelerate. No way.
“Looking at the data, there was no brake involved.
“He went through the corner and went out of the throttle and Sebastian went into him.”
Vettel was penalised for his actions, by way of a ten-second stop / go penalty, and whilst Hamilton did not feel this was punishment enough, Wolff believes it depends entirely on how much intent was involved.
“If a driver does that on purpose in anger, then you have to think about the size of the penalty.
“Of course he is a four-time world champion and in Formula 1 we are setting examples to all the young drivers out there about what is all allowed and what is not.
“It is difficult for me to understand. It didn’t change anything.”
Asked if he felt Vettel had disgraced himself by reacting as he did, which is what his driver Hamilton had implied, Wolff said he could not really comment until he had heard what Vettel had to say. He did however, stress that it would be beyond comprehension that a driver of the German’s calibre would meaningfully do such a thing.
“You know the emotions go high in a race car.
“Like we’ve seen in the past, you have the visor down and you have your own perception of events so I guess the only explanation I have – and I’m not going to protect Sebastian here – is that Sebastian thought Lewis was brake-testing him, which he wasn’t.
“We have seen that in the data, with the safety car being 150 metres ahead. So that was a wrong judgement.
“I almost can’t imagine that he did it on purpose in shunting into him.
“So I’d like to speak to him personally and hear what he says about the incident rather than making a judgement without properly having heard his statement.”