Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was fine with the stewards decision to take his clash with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton in Italian GP as a racing incident.
The two came together on Lap 1 of the 2018 Formula 1’s Italian GP at Monza when Vettel was trying an inside move on Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen. Hamilton used the opportunity to take the outside line in the right-hander.
The British then made the move stick on the exit as the German tried to fight Hamilton. However, they both touched which sent Vettel into a spin as he dropped dead last. In addition, he had a front wing damage for which he was forced to pit.
Hamilton also had some damage to the left of his car but was able to continue on well. The incident was put under investigation but the stewards decided it to be as a racing incident which was welcomed by Vettel.
“It is racing so I am quite happy that there was no decision from the stewards side,” he said after the race. “I think we are there to race. He obviously took a lot of risk and it worked for him, [even though] it didn’t work for me.
“It was [just an] unfortunate [incident], let’s put it that way. I had nowhere else to go and I was sort of squeezed. It was unlucky for me to then touch and spin around, have the damage and get to the back of the field.
“It could have been different obviously but it wasn’t so, in that regard I was the one looking the other way and the others kept going. I think it is obviously a disappointment to face the wrong way after two corners but after that I did what I could.
“I wasn’t aware that I had that much damage. The car felt quite horrible to drive [at first] but the pace given that was quite okay, so definitely we had the chance to win. It was [frustrating] but you could ask the same obviously in that case or scenario to Lewis I think.
“It could have been the other way, I could have hit him on the rear wheel then he spins and I keep going, so then we have a different outcome but like that, it is obviously a shame that it happened, a shame the way it happened.
“But now we can’t change it so I am not the one who is bothered about these little things. I am looking forward, obviously it is a disappointment for the weekend for the people, I just sort of feel I let them down because I think they deserved a different.”
On the radio, Vettel called the move as silly but after the race he was more calmer. Hamilton was asked on his reaction to Vettel’s radio message but the British driver played it down to a ‘heat of the moment’ comment.
“I think it was a racing move,” said Hamilton. “It’s pretty much the same move that Kimi did to me. I don’t really know what to say about that. It was a racing manoeuvre, it’s what we’re supposed to do out there. We’re supposed to be racing. I left him space.
“I was still on track but I’m sure it’s a comment that was done in the heat of the moment. And it’s never a great feeling when you spin and you’re facing the other cars coming the other way.
“And then you get back up and you start from the back and you have to come through. So, I don’t take anything from it. I know how it is to be in that emotion. I’m sure he really didn’t mean too much by it.”
The British driver made the most of the opportunity with the help of his team and Valtteri Bottas to eventually pass Raikkonen and win the grand prix to take a 30 points lead over Vettel in the crucial phase of the championship.
Post race, Mercedes also revealed the damages Hamilton suffered in the hit which didn’t hugely compromise his race. “In Vettel’s case, it required a front wing change and he had damage around the floor.
“In our case as well there was damage sustained on the left-hand side of the car, around the floor and sidepod area. It was not so extensive that clearly he couldn’t fight for the win anymore.
“It didn’t dramatically affect the balance of the car, but it was a loss of performance. We didn’t really see the extent of the damage until the end of the race when we could have a look around the car,” said chief strategist James Vowles.
While the no penalty for the opening lap incident was accepted by all, however, the penalty for Max Verstappen continues to be hugely debated. Ferrari also escaped an unsafe release penalty for Vettel when he was cleared onto the path of Marcus Ericsson.