After ramming each other behind a safety car at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel didn’t sleep it off. In fact, no one in the Formula One universe really did. Hamilton wants to settle things outside of the car, and everyone else seems to be freaking out because there was a skirmish.
The whole deal started when race leader Hamilton slowed down ahead of Vettel behind the safety car, and Vettel wound up running into the back of his race car. Seemingly mad that Hamilton appeared to brake check him, Vettel drove around the outside of Hamilton and gave him a whack and some hand gestures. Vettel got a 10-second time penalty, and the two wound up barely finishing in the top five. That’s saying something in F1.
Hamilton later said he never brake checked Vettel, according to the Guardian. He said as the leader, there would have been no benefit in doing so.
But this episode between the top drivers in the championship standings sent some kind of weird shockwave through the F1 universe. The Guardian reports that Ferrari driver Vettel thinks everything’s fine, Mercedes’ Hamilton called Vettel’s actions a “disgrace” and questioned his mental strength, and ESPN reports that Mercedes chairperson Niki Lauda called Vettel “crazy.”
Here, just read what these people are saying. From the Guardian:
When Hamilton was asked if Vettel’s actions proved he was not as mentally strong as had previously been thought, the Briton was unequivocal. “It’s been obvious for some time,” he said. “Look at last year. Some of the things he said on the radio. We know how he can be. I would never have thought that would have happened on Sunday. We as a team know that can be a positive for us.”
Here’s an example of Vettel’s radio anger from late last year.
Lauda called the mid-race ramming out of character for Vettel, but it was kind of a backhanded comment. From ESPN:
“Vettel is a decent guy,” Mercedes’ non-executive chairman told reporters after the race. “Normally. This I don’t understand, because he’s crazy.
When asked if the incident tarnishes Vettel’s reputation, Lauda said: “Sure... Strange. He freaked out.”
Decent guy, but he’s “totally crazy.” The best ones always are.
Vettel, on the other hand, is just fine. From the Guardian:
Vettel, who was forthright in defence of his actions after the race, is now more conciliatory. “I don’t have a problem with him,” he said. “I respect him a lot for the driver he is. Now is not the right time to talk. I’ll do that just with him and clear it and move on. Maybe I’m not clever enough but I’m not complicated. I’m willing to sort it out with him. I don’t think there’s much to sort out.”
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, notorious for always telling Hamilton and the now-retired Nico Rosberg to play nice as teammates, is actually excited about conflict for once. Maybe that’s because he doesn’t have to babysit these two together in team meetings. From the Guardian:
“Nobody wanted to see the schmoozing anyway, so now the gloves are off,” he said. “The sport needs the rivalry.
“What we have seen is the ingredient of a great championship. They are warriors. They are at war at that moment. They are fighting for the race wins and the championship. At a certain stage, the best ones that compete for the world championship in that phase of their careers can’t be friends. Maybe we’ve seen the limit of that respect today.”
Yawn. That sounds like a plot from a bad movie with way too many metaphors.
But either way, F1 needs a new rivalry to poke fun at since Rosberg packed up and left at the end of 2016. Things have been a bit too smooth sailing—i.e., no hat throwing or shoving each other out of the way—and it’s time to get some real fun rolling again.
Let’s just hope no one makes them call and apologize to each other before the next race. Let them fight.