Hamilton defends Vettel’s driving style: “Not ruthless, not daredevil.”
A continuing disagreement regarding Sebastian Vettel’s defensive manoeuvre in Sochi cannot cloud the relationship with Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton defended Sebastian Vettel’s dual lead against his own criticism. As the Mercedes driver explains, his 2018 WRC rival, who was involved in numerous incidents, would have driven aggressively. “But he’s not ruthless,” says Hamilton. “It would be borderline if he were a daredevil, or ruthless out of immaturity and lack of self-control.
All points would not apply to Vettel. Hamilton’s plea comes as a surprise, after all there were several rattles between the two. In 2017 the Ferrari driver deliberately rammed him in Baku during a safety car phase (apparently no longer an issue), in 2018 in Monza the title aspirants collided in an overmotivated overtaking attempt by Vettel. And then there was Sochi.
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 30, 2018
At the race in Russia Vettel defended himself with hard bandages against the attacking Hamilton, which would have ended in the wall had the Mercedes driver not withdrawn. In the driver briefing in the run-up to the Japan Grand Prix a few days later, he asked FIA Racing Director Charlie Whiting whether one or two lane changes were permitted during the braking phase.
Of course, Hamilton knew that the current interpretation of the so-called “anti-Stappen rule” allowed a change of direction. He probably wanted to hear from Whiting that Vettel had not behaved correctly. “He changed lanes twice,” Hamilton emphasizes even months later.
Vettel argued, however, that from the frontal camera perspective it would be obvious that he would give in, but then brake and therefore pull a little less to the side – so that it’s still a movement, but it’s slowed down a bit and therefore looks like two. “So in the future it will be a lane change – as long as you at least steer something,” says Hamilton in disbelief.
But he agrees with the argumentation, he says – provided that Sochi had set a precedent and the interpretation would always be applied from now on. When he addressed the assembled colleagues in the driver briefing in Suzuka, only one spoke and supported Hamilton: Max Verstappen. “I had to laugh and said, ‘You’re the one who kicked the whole thing off in the first place. You are the king of the double lane change!
With four World Championship titles Sebastian Vettel is one of the most successful Formula 1 drivers of today. But his path, as with almost every great driver in history, is not only marked by successes and victories – but also by some controversial situations. We look at the most controversial moments around Sebastian Vettel.
With four World Championship titles Sebastian Vettel is one of the most successful Formula 1 drivers of our time. But as with almost every great driver in history, his path is not only marked by successes and victories – but also by some controversial situations. We look at the most controversial moments around Sebastian Vettel. Photo gallery
However, Verstappen Whiting was not able to change his mind. “But you can tell from the pictures of the onboard camera”, Hamilton insists, “he steers and then drives parallel to the wall. The distance doesn’t get smaller, then suddenly it does – so it was a double lane change.”
Two opinions remained in the room. “It wasn’t a quarrel,” says Hamilton, “we just had different interpretations.” The fear that in the future there might be borderline scenes with Vettel again, which could possibly end in a more momentous one, is not with the world champion: “The best – like Seb and Fernando (Alonso; editor’s note) – are not ruthless, but aggressive,” he says, “but they are fair and that applies to him as well.