Formula One: Defiant Sebastian Vettel bristles over 'idiot' jibe

Sebastian Vettel (right) of Ferrari and Nico Rosberg (left) of Mercedes collide on the first corner during the start of the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix in Sepang on Oct 2, 2016.
Sebastian Vettel (right) of Ferrari and Nico Rosberg (left) of Mercedes collide on the first corner during the start of the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix in Sepang on Oct 2, 2016. PHOTO: EPA
Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel was hit with a three-place penalty for this weekend's Japanese race after he collided with Nico Rosberg's Mercedes.
Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel was hit with a three-place penalty for this weekend's Japanese race after he collided with Nico Rosberg's Mercedes. PHOTO: REUTERS

Suzuka, Japan (AFP) - Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel said on Thursday he had done very little wrong when he collided with Nico Rosberg's Mercedes at last week's Malaysian Grand Prix.

The four-time world champion was hit with a three-place penalty for this weekend's Japanese race after darting inside the Red Bull of Max Verstappen at the first corner only to lock up and send Rosberg spinning.

The move ended Vettel's race but Rosberg roared back to take third and stretch his lead in the standings to 23 points over team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who was forced to retire after his engine caught fire.

Vettel, who has had a season to forget, was called an "idiot" by teenager Verstappen, while Rosberg said his fellow German was "out of control". But Vettel denied he had been reckless.

"I'm a bit surprised you say you've never seen me like this," he shrugged. "I've attacked quite a lot of cars in all the starts I did in my life into Turn One and most of the time got away with it - sometimes I didn't and I guess last time was one of the occasions where it just didn't work."

Vettel, who is languishing in fifth in the standings, called Rosberg to offer his version of events after Sepang, insisting he had been in total control.

"I went to the inside and obviously was able to go side-by-side with Max," he said. "As it turned out, I was probably a little bit too late in comparison to the first two cars but I made the corner.

"These things happen. I'm not shooting straight like crazy so of course it is a risk and in that case it didn't get rewarded. It was quite bad for Nico because he had nothing to do with it."

Vettel confessed he may have been guilty of pushing too hard at times this year as Ferrari struggled to keep pace with the rampant Mercedes and were out-performed by the Red Bulls.

"I don't think there is too much to analyse other than that you try to squeeze everything you can from the car at any time," he said. "Sometimes you find yourself overdriving. It's normal, it's human and sometimes you don't push hard enough, so it's about finding the sweet spot in the middle."