Vettel defends Hamilton over jibe

Sebastian Vettel just pipping Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas to the chequered flag in Bahrain. The German now has four wins at the Sakhir desert circuit, more than any other driver, and his victory opened up a 17-point lead over reigning world champion Le
Sebastian Vettel just pipping Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas to the chequered flag in Bahrain. The German now has four wins at the Sakhir desert circuit, more than any other driver, and his victory opened up a 17-point lead over reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton, who finished third.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Ferrari driver plays down Mercedes rival's post-race comment on Verstappen collision

MANAMA • Sebastian Vettel leapt to the defence of Britain's Lewis Hamilton on Sunday when the latter faced questions over his post-race criticism of Max Verstappen's driving at the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Hamilton was heard calling the Red Bull driver a "d***head" during a private conversation, picked up by microphones in the drivers' room, shortly before the podium ceremonies. The comments were made in relation to the Dutchman's driving, which led to his collision with Hamilton of Mercedes early in the race, won by Ferrari's Vettel.

When Hamilton was asked about his comments during the mandatory post-race news conference, Vettel intervened.

"Can I answer that? It's not fair," said the German, who has had run-ins with Verstappen. "I don't know what Lewis did, but we've all been in that situation. We fight someone and sometimes we go wheel-to-wheel and it's close - and we have a lot of adrenaline going.

"Do you think, if you compare it to football, if you have a microphone on a footballer's mouth, that everything he says is something nice and it's a nice message when the guy tackles him and sometimes he fouls him?

"I don't think it's justified to give us this kind of s*** question and making up a story out of nothing."

  • BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX 

  • RESULTS 

    1 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 1hr 31min 59.491sec 

    2 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes +0.699 

    3 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes +6.512 

    4 Pierre Gasly (Fra) Toro Rosso +1:02.234 

    5 Kevin Magnussen (Den) Haas +1:15.046 

    6 Nico Hulkenberg (Ger) Renault +1:39.024 

    Fernando Alonso (Esp) McLaren 1 lap 

    Stoffel Vandoorne (Bel) McLaren 1 lap 

    Marcus Ericsson (Swe) Sauber 1 lap 

    10 Esteban Ocon (Fra) Force India 1 lap

  • OVERALL STANDINGS - DRIVERS

    Vettel 50pts 

    Hamilton 33 

    3 Bottas 22 

    4 Alonso 16 

    5 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) 15 

  • CONSTRUCTORS 

    Ferrari 65pts 

    Mercedes 55

    McLaren 22 

    Red Bull 20 

    5 Renault 15

  • AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Hamilton had earlier told television reporters "emotion is always firing when you get out of the car".

Of the collision, he said: "I realised I had to back out, but he continued to come across and that didn't leave me any room. So we ended up touching...

"My thoughts are on the world championship and I've lost two races now."

He finished third under the floodlights as team-mate Valtteri Bottas took second place.

It was Vettel's 49th grand prix win and an unprecedented fourth at the Sakhir desert circuit. It made him the first Ferrari driver since compatriot Michael Schumacher in 2004 to win the season's first two races, after the German's victory in Melbourne two weeks ago.

Vettel, 30, now leads Hamilton by 17 points with 19 more races to go.

In other comments to reporters, Hamilton said: "It was an unnecessary collision... There needs to be a certain respect between drivers.

"It didn't feel that respectful. It was a silly manoeuvre from him because he didn't finish the race."

Verstappen, who retired with a broken differential, insisted Hamilton was to blame.

With Red Bull suffering a double retirement after Daniel Ricciardo lasted only two laps, sister team Toro Rosso capitalised, with Pierre Gasly finishing a surprise fourth.

The points were the first of the 22-year-old Frenchman's Formula One career in his seventh start.

While Toro Rosso celebrated, Ferrari tempered theirs following an injury to one of their mechanics.

During a pit stop on lap 36, Kimi Raikkonen was given the green light to drive away even though the left rear wheel had not been changed. As the Finn pulled away, he ran over Francesco Cigarini, who was out of his field of vision, leaving him with a broken tibia and fibula in his left leg. Cigarini was rushed to hospital, where he underwent a successful operation, while Raikkonen retired from the race.

Ferrari was fined €50,000 (S$80,700) for the incident.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 10, 2018, with the headline 'Vettel defends Hamilton over jibe'. Print Edition | Subscribe