Hamilton accuses Vettel of breaking safety car re-start rules

Mercedes driver to seek clarification from race director ahead of next race in Spain

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton looks on from the drivers parade before the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku, Azerbaijan. Photograph: Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton has accused Ferrari title rival Sebastian Vettel of failing to play by the rules when leading behind the safety car in Sunday’s chaotic Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

The Mercedes driver told reporters he would seek a clarification from race director Charlie Whiting ahead of the next race in Spain.

Hamilton, who won in Baku and now leads Vettel by four points after four races, was on the receiving end of a famous “road rage” incident in Azerbaijan last year when the roles were reversed.

Then, the Briton was leading the German while the safety car was deployed and was accused of “brake testing”, with the two colliding and the Ferrari driver angrily pulling alongside to bang wheels.


Vettel later apologised for his behaviour.

“The rules are that when the safety car goes [in], you’re not allowed to start and stop, start and stop,” Hamilton said. “You’re not allowed to gas and then brake. You’re not allowed to fake the guy behind.

“Because naturally if there was not that rule, that’s what you’d do because eventually you’d catch them sleeping. You’re not allowed to do that.

Domino effect

“Every re-start I’ve done . . . I’ve abided by that,” the Briton told reporters. “In Australia, Sebastian accelerated and then braked and I nearly went up the back end of him. And today he did it like maybe four times.”

Hamilton said he believed Whiting had passed the matter on to stewards for their consideration but they had decided not to take action because the other cars were doing it.

The four-times world champion said that was because of a domino effect.

“That now sets a precedent, so that means everyone leading a grand prix under a safety car can start and stop, start and stop,” he said.

“I need to get that rectified when I have the briefing next because clearly they don’t care about it, and if that’s the case then we will see more of that. And I will expect that from him next time I am racing with him.”

Sunday’s race had two safety car periods due to crashes, with drivers weaving to keep heat in their tyres in cold and gusty conditions.

Vettel was leading from pole position at the first re-start, with Hamilton’s team mate Valtteri Bottas at the head of the field for the second with the Ferrari behind and Hamilton third.

The German overcooked an attempt to pass Bottas at the second re-start, with Hamilton and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen going through as he went wide. Bottas retired with a puncture three laps from the end.

– Reuters