Lewis Hamilton has called his rival Sebastian Vettel a 'disgrace' for colliding with him on the Baku circuit. Photograph: (DNA)
A double collision on Baku circuit between the multiple world champions has added drama to the 2017 season
Formula 1's race to the world championship title has got spicier as the two main contenders and multiple world champions -- Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel -- bitterly harangued after the Azerbaijan Grand Prix over a racing incident.
The race was dramatic right from get-go, with a surpising winner in Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo, several instances of teammates ramming into each other, a red flag and three safety cars, but the realms of news space were dominated by four-time world champion Vettel and three-time champion Hamilton.
Sparks flew during one of the safety car situations on Sunday when Vettel was handed a ten-second penalty for colliding twice with race leader Hamilton.
But the real venom poured out after the race, with Hamilton dubbing Vettel a "disgrace" and calling him out to sort the matter "face to face".
What peeved Hamilton the most was that Vettel, despite the ten-second penalty, managed to finish a spot above him in fourth place and thereby extending his world championship by two further points. Hamilton now trails Vettel by 14 points with 13 races to go.
While Hamilton was apoplectic about Vettel's aggressive driving, the German accused the Briton of "brake-testing" him at a dangerous place on the circuit.
The Ferrari driver also denied allegations that he had deliberately rammed into Hamilton.
He said: "I didn’t run into the back of him on purpose. I damaged my wing, I think he had a little bit of damage as well. Nothing that would have impacted on the race. It’s just not the way to do it. I think it was very clear. In the end we’re racing as men. I don’t have a radio to him. If I get a penalty, then we should both get a penalty.
We had a little contact, but I drove alongside him mostly to raise my hand. I did not give him the finger. I just wanted to tell him, because I can’t literally talk to him, that what he did was not right.”
When Hamilton was asked to respond to Vettel's statement, he said: "If he wants to prove that he’s a man, I think he should do it out of the car face to face. I think driving dangerously which can put another driver at risk – luckily we were going slow – but if we were going fast it could have been a lot worse. Imagine all the young kids that are watching Formula One today and see that kind of behaviour from a four-time world champion. I think that says it all.”
Asked if he would like to bury the hatchet and move forward, Hamilton didn't seem too impressed. He felt the situation would get ugly if they did meet.
Tempers were high in the garage too, with Mercedes' non-executive chairman Niki Lauda launching into Vettel.
"He (Vettel) is crazy. Lewis will hit him one day. Not with the car but with the fist. If I was Lewis, I would speak to Sebastian and ask him what is wrong.”
Ferrari's team principal Maurizio Arrivabene was a little more guarded in his response to the racing incident.
"We don’t want to get into an argument but I think I can say that some decisions that were not entirely clear never worked in favour of our team."
But despite the bitter asides, it was a race of thrills. For the first time this year, a non-Ferrari or Mercedes driver won.
Ricciardo made some stunning passes to win the race, especially in the middle of the race when he overtook two cars in one bold move.
McLaren-Honda's Fernando Alonso, viewed by many as the best driver in the world, finally got an engine that lasted an entire race to come in a creditable ninth and log his first points on board.
Bottas, Hamilton's understudy, flew under the radar to snatch the second place despite being a lap down in early stages of the race, while under-fire Williams driver Lance Stroll drove a mature, calculated race to finish third and shoot down heavy criticism he has faced since joining the F1 jamboree.