F1 Raceweek: Vettel and Hamilton probed on Baku row
Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton faced a barrage of questions over the controversy that erupted between them in Baku as the Formula One world championship rivals faced the media ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix.
The Ferrari driver hit the rear of Hamilton’s Mercedes ahead of the second safety car restart in an enthralling Azerbaijan Grand Prix and blamed the Briton for brake-testing him.
But it was Vettel’s on-track reaction that caused uproar as he pulled alongside the race leader and banged into his wheels.
The German escaped further punishment after issuing an apology, but naturally that was not the end of the discussion as on Thursday they sat separated by Kevin Magnussen at a drivers’ press conference dominated by questions over the incident.
Busiest press conference ever?
A packed house to see @LewisHamilton, Sebastian Vettel and @KevinMagnussen#AustrianGP#F1pic.twitter.com/aVzbVcSsMi
— Mercedes-AMG F1 (@MercedesAMGF1) July 6, 2017
REGRETFUL VETTEL NOT PROUD
The events in Baku and the highly publicised fallout produced no winners, but there was little doubt that Vettel was the man who came out the more bloodied and bruised.
Sat with arms folded and with a wry smile playing across his lips, Vettel did not hide from his actions and candidly shouldered the blame for them, while attempting to put the matter to bed.
"I don’t want to pump this up more than it already is," he said.
"It was the wrong move to drive alongside him and hit his tyre. There’s not much more to say. At the time I was surprised, it felt like Lewis hit the brake and I couldn’t stop hitting his car. But I don’t think he actually brake-tested me.
"Am I proud of that moment? No. Can I take it back? No? Do I regret it? Yes."
THERE’S A LOT OF PEOPLE IN HERE
Hamilton was amused to see the vast turnout of media on Thursday and the Briton was also in conciliatory mood ahead of a race in which he will look to cut Vettel’s 14-point gap.
The Briton, who finished one spot behind his rival in fifth last time out, spoke of his respect for Vettel and expressed a desire to focus on the challenge ahead.
"It’s an interesting press conference," he said. "So many people watching. People at home won’t see how many people are in here."
The three-time world champion continued: "I’ve told him [Vettel] that I still have the utmost respect for him as a driver and I’ll continue to race hard against him.
HAM [on VET apology]: "It’s the end of the matter for me. I said everything I wanted to say at the last race. I’m focussed " #AustrianGPpic.twitter.com/xCY0kp2ewO
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 6, 2017
"I accept his apology and move forward. It’s water under the bridge now.
"I really don’t think there’s any tension between us. You guys [media] might think there is, but I don’t feel it.
"It’s the end of the matter for me. I said everything I wanted to say at the last race. I’m focused "
But Hamilton refused to backtrack on his heated post-race comments in which he described Vettel as a "disgrace".
"I don’t think I said anything I wish I would particularly want to take back," he explained.
STUCK IN THE MIDDLE
Magnussen was stuck in between the two men who appeared to have struck an uneasy truce, but he was not spared a few awkward questions of his own.
At one point he was asked whether the next world champion was sat on his right (Hamilton) or left (Vettel), but after a pause and slightly shrug of the shoulders, the Haas driver opted for the diplomatic approach.
"I have no idea," he said. "I can’t see into the future. Let’s see."
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 6, 2017