Hamilton challenges Vettel after Baku road rage

Friendly rivalry between Mercedes and Ferrari turns nasty after dramatic incident in Azerbaijan Grand Prix

Sebastian Vettel Lewis Hamilton
Sebastian Vettel crosses the line ahead of Lewis Hamilton after a dramatic Grand Prix in Baku
(Image credit: Valdrin Xhemaj/AFP/Getty Images)

Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton ended the Azerbaijan Grand Prix at daggers drawn after the German driver was penalised for deliberately ramming his rival.

Their friendly rivalry evaporated in the humidity of Baku, with the British Mercedes driver even appearing to challenge Vettel to a fight after the race.

It was a Grand Prix that featured four safety cars and a red flag, with neither of the title contenders finishing on the podium. Daniel Ricciardo of Red Bull took the chequered flag, while Vettel came home fourth, one place and 0.2secs ahead of Hamilton, increasing his lead at the top of the table to 14 points.

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On an afternoon of high drama, it was events on lap 19 that took the headlines.

Hamilton "was leading in Baku when the safety car was deployed for a second time. [He] slowed to bunch the cars up and give himself an advantage at the restart, as he is entitled to do," reports Rebecca Clancy of The Times. "Vettel, however, accelerated into the back of the Mercedes, damaging his own front wing and Hamilton's rear wing near the diffuser.

"The German's anger got the better of him and he reacted by driving alongside his title rival, gesturing with his left hand and veering into the side of Hamilton's car."

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Vettel believed Hamilton had "brake-tested" him - when a driver slams on the brakes to test his opponent's reactions - and was unapologetic for his move even though race data showed this not to be the case. He was handed a ten-second stop-and-go penalty, but argued Hamilton should also have been sanctioned.

"It was not a view shared by those in the paddock," says Phil Duncan of the Daily Telegraph.

Hamilton, now even further adrift of Vettel in the title race, was "the first to hit out", adds the journalist.

After branding Vettel "a disgrace", he added: "If he wants to prove that he's a man, I think he should do it out of the car face-to-face.

"It is a misjudgment from him and some people don't like to own up to their own mistakes.

"The stewards looked at my data and the reason I didn't get a penalty is because I clearly did not brake-test him. It could not be clearer. It is as clear as blue skies.

"Ultimately what happened was disrespectful. There are kids watching us on TV. You think a multitime world champion would behave better than that... That is not how you drive."

Hamilton was "seething", says Giles Richards of The Guardian. A headrest problem, which cost him ten seconds in the pits and therefore the chance of winning the race, would not have added to his mood.

His words were "blunt and confrontational", adds the writer, and "a relationship that has up until now been defined by mutual respect and cordiality escalated swiftly as the gloves came off and full-blown battle lines were drawn up".

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