SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS (Belgium) • Lewis Hamilton took issue with Formula One's race direction on Sunday, suggesting the safety car was deployed longer than necessary at the Belgian Grand Prix to make the race more exciting.
The Mercedes driver won from pole position, slashing the championship lead of Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel to seven points.
The safety car was deployed on the 30th of 44 laps and stayed out for a while as marshals cleared debris from a collision between Force India's Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon. The re-start proved a key moment of the race, with both Hamilton and Vettel on fresh tyres after pitting but the German was on the faster ultra-softs that threatened to give him an advantage .
"Why's the safety car out?" Hamilton asked his team over the radio. "There literally is no debris. That is a BS call from the stewards."
Hamilton managed to hold off Vettel at the re-start, but only just, and then pulled away with the race settling down.
The Briton said that he had actually benefited from an error which left him in the wrong power mode, allowing Vettel to pull level at the first La Source corner but denying the Ferrari driver a chance to get a subsequent run at him downhill to Eau Rouge.
After the race he suggested the safety car deployment had been a bit "like Nascar where they keep pulling out the safety cars for no reason".
Number of podiums Hamilton has been on in his 200 Formula One races.
Races won by Hamilton this season - one more than Vettel, but the Briton is still seven points behind in the standings.
He said: "I guess they (the stewards) wanted to see a race, so that's for sure the reason they did that because there was hardly any debris."
Hamilton eased off a little on the criticism later. "At the end of the day it doesn't matter, but there was no-one in harm's way on the track," he said. "You could say the marshals had to come on to clean up but they did it quite quickly.
"Then we did all those laps behind the safety car and it just opened up doors."
More worryingly for the Briton is that, despite steering his Mercedes to victory on Sunday, Ferrari have a faster car and he faces an uphill struggle to catch Vettel.
The 32-year-old said he had found it difficult to resist the German's attacks.
"I think Ferrari were ultimately quicker. I was just able to keep them at bay," he said. "But, if our cars were reversed, I don't think I would have been able to hold as close as he did.
"If anyone thinks we have the best car then they need to think again because it's not the case. We might have the upper hand in power, but that's not enough, we have to keep improving."
Heading into Ferrari's home race at the Italian Grand Prix, Hamilton knows he needs to make the most of Mercedes' power advantage in his bid to take the championship lead for the first time this year.
Mercedes introduced an upgraded engine at Spa-Francorchamps and their speed on the long straights was critical to the result of qualifying and the race.
"The pressure is on," said Hamilton. "The next race, package-wise, should be similar to this weekend, but when we get to Singapore that's really where the test is going to be - and where Ferrari should be really fast, as they were in Hungary.
"I hope we have more to come and we need more to come in order to win this thing for sure.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE