The love up between title challengers Lewis Hamilton and Sebastien Vettel was never going to last. It was only a matter of time before one or the other did something which crossed the proverbial line. Following Vettel banging wheels with Hamilton it seems as if all the mutual respect and courtesy we have seen up to this point will be going out the window. And for the sake of the fans, thank goodness it’s happened as soon as it did. Realistically, who really enjoys all this tip-toeing about? The reason fans watch formula one is for the sense of adrenaline that surrounds the entire sport. The childhood friendship of Hamilton and former teammate Nico Rosberg is perhaps irreparable following three years battling for the world title. Do the fans care? No. The battle between the pair was a spectacle to behold and by the look of things this years duel could be even better.
Vettel is not a stranger to controversy, with his radio outburst at race director Charlie Whiting last year singling him out as a driver with a short temper. With motor racing’s governing body the FIA finding that Hamilton did not ‘brake test’ Vettel whilst trailing the safety car in Baku, the blame for this incident lies solely in Vettels lap. Clearly frustrated with Hamilton’s slow pace Vettel made his thought clear after touching the back of Hamilton’s car, by pulling alongside and banging wheels with the car of the Mercedes driver. Hamilton was immediately on the radio to make a complaint and in due course Vettel was given a ten second stop-go penalty following a stewards investigation. If Hamilton had proceeded to win the race there may not have been such a backlash from the Mercedes driver and his fans. However, due to a loose headrest Hamilton ended up finishing in 5th, behind Vettel who extended his championship lead by 2 points.
With Hamilton labeling the German a disgrace and ruling out the possibility of partaking in ‘clear the air’ talks it seems as though for now they will remain at loggerheads. He also questioned the example Vettel is setting for younger fans of the sport; “Driving into a car could put someone at risk. Imagine all the kids watching today and seeing that from a four times world champion.” Vettel refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing post race and actually made reference to the fact that he believes this is not the first time that Hamilton has shown improper conduct behind the safety car; “The problem is with me right behind, getting ready and all the other cars, the there’s a chain reaction. He did something similar a couple of years ago in China at a restart. It’s just not the way to do it.”
Hamilton was quoted mid-week as saying that he believes the clash shows that Vettel is beginning to feel the pressure as the title battle heats up; “That shows that often pressure can get to even some of the best of us.” Hamilton is determined not to change is approach to racing Vetttel and he believes that he championship battle can be settled in a fair way without foul play. He intends to “do the talking on track and win this championship the right way.”
The FIA, this week, have launched a formal investigation into whether or not further action needs to be taken on the matter, with their findings to be released before the next race in Austria. Hamilton’s former teammate Jenson button has given his opinion on the matter and feels that Vettel’s punishment during the race was enough. He also highlighted the fact that the race in Baku was a great race and that the incident should not overshadow what was a great weekend of motor racing. Whether or not the FIA decide to further punish Vettel could have a great bearing on the championship when it gets to the business end of the season. From a fans point of view, Baku has hopefully set the scene for Austria in that it will provide the unpredictability, adrenaline and excitement that makes F1 so special.