Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton’s incident is unquestionably the hot topic of what was a crazy Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
For Ferrari it represents points lost in the Constructors’ Championship as Kimi Raikkonen retired after an eventful evening while Valtteri Bottas produced a comeback worthy of Felipe Massa to finish second behind eventual winner Daniel Ricciardo, after stealing extra points from Lance Stroll on the line.
Ultimately after a race containing more than a few melees Vettel gained on his title rival Hamilton by finishing fourth, a place ahead of the Brit, who had to pit from the lead to address a broken headrest.
So, I might as well get straight to it.
On lap 21 Lewis Hamilton appeared to slow slightly (Not brake) at turn 16 to prepare for the restart of the race after a Safety Car period for debris.
For whatever reason Vettel was wrong-footed and ran into Hamilton, angering the German.
While madly gesticulating in a return to last year’s red mist mayhem at Mexico, Vettel hit Hamilton with his hands off the steering wheel.
I would find it very difficult to believe that Vettel would risk his car in such a way as to deliberately wheel-bang into his rival.
At 50mph it is very easy to break the suspension of both your car and your target if you were to deliberately ram into another car.
What is more logical is that he simply wasn’t looking at his steering angle in his rush to perform hand-gymnastics in the direction of Hamilton.
And then there is the furore over the 10-second stop/go penalty that the stewards dished out on one of their busier days.
That cost Vettel half a minute, and was a fittingly severe penalty for a moment of stupidity from a vastly experienced World Champion.
It doubtlessly cost him the race victory.
The reason I say that is because no amount of F1 dodgems would have caused Hamilton’s headrest to become loose.
Without Hamilton’s strife Vettel would have lost at least 15 points and thus surrendered the lead of the World Drivers’ Championship, and with only himself to blame.
Had Hamilton not hit structural gremlins then precisely nobody would be calling Vettel’s penalty lenient, least of all the frustrated three-time champion – who branded Vettel a “disgrace.”
So yes, Vettel ended the race with upper hand but it had nothing to do with his lovetap of Hamilton’s Mercedes.
The punishment was announced at the same time that Hamilton pitted to fix his headrest, and that means it would have been decided beforehand.
So to then alter the punishment based on Hamilton’s issues would have been mind-bogglingly amateurish. They were rightly chastised with their handling of Daniil Kvyat’s penalty(ies) in Canada for parade lap infringements.
The stewards had to stick with what was the correct punishment.
The incident was at low-speed and because of aforementioned factors it was unclear just how deliberate the contact was bearing in mind Vettel wasn’t looking where he was going (The key shot is the onboard).
There have been far more heinous acts committed in a Formula One car, if not necessarily far more thoughtless ones.
The incident adds fire to what was a peaceful Drivers’ Championship fight. This could turn into a fight as heated as the Rosberg years.
Jack Prentice @JPrentice8