Sebastian Vettel’s former team boss, Christian Horner, says the Ferrari driver’s actions at Sunday’s race at the Baku City Circuit were “heat of the moment stuff”, and that “a penalty was inevitable” following the collision.
The Scuderia Ferrari driver was in second behind Hamilton when, whilst preparing for a safety car restart, Vettel ran into the back of Hamilton’s Mercedes AMG Petronas car at the exit of turn 15. In what Horner described as “a red mist moment”, the Ferrari driver reacted to what he thought was a brake-check by pulling alongside the Mercedes, throwing his hand in the air, and swerving into Hamilton – causing wheel on wheel contact aggressive enough that the Ferrari was bounced into the air.
Horner, who oversaw Vettel take four World Championships whilst at Red Bull Racing, said to Autosport, “Sebastian obviously felt that Lewis brake tested him.”
“Then it just looked like a red mist moment to me, where he’s lost it and taken a swipe at him – which was only ever going to result in a penalty.
“But it’s heat of the moment stuff. A penalty was inevitable after that.”
The stewards took a dim view of his actions, reviewing the incident and deeming Vettel to be solely responsible. He was handed a ten-second stop-go penalty for the collisions – a penalty that could have been disastrous for his Championship hopes were it not for Hamilton’s headrest coming loose, forcing the Briton to stop as well. Hamilton came out in traffic and behind Vettel. He remained there until the flag, with the two coming home in fourth and fifth.
Horner believes it’s creating the start of a season-long battle for the World Title: “Emotions are running high, they’re fighting for a world championship. It cements the rivalry between the two of them for the rest of the season.
“It’s going to be a great championship battle throughout the rest of this year.”
Horner’s Red Bull team picked up a fantastic win thanks to Daniel Ricciardo, though he did admit that he doesn’t believe the Milton Keynes-based outfit can with the title this season: “We’re too far out of contention to compete for the championship, but I think we’re gaining performance and speed to be able to compete for race wins as we’re getting more and more performance of the car.”
Having won on Sunday, Ricciardo now sits in fourth in the standings, with Red Bull team-mate Max Verstappen in sixth.