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Vettel defends Hamilton after post-race Verstappen storm

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Lewis Hamilton and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen clashed during the race © AFP / Andrej ISAKOVIC

SAKHIR, Bahrain, Apr 9Sebastian Vettel leapt to the defence of his rival Lewis Hamilton on Sunday when the Briton faced questions over his post-race criticism of Max Verstappen’s driving in the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Hamilton was heard calling the Dutchman a “dickhead” during a private conversation, picked up by microphones in the drivers’ room, shortly before the podium ceremonies.

The comments were made in relation to Red Bull driver Verstappen’s driving, which led to his collision with Hamilton of Mercedes early in the race, won by German Vettel for Ferrari.

When Hamilton was asked about his comments during the mandatory post-race news conference, Vettel intervened.

“Can I answer that?” he said. “It’s not fair. I don’t know what Lewis did, but we’ve all been in that situation.

“We fight someone and sometimes we go wheel-to-wheel and it’s close — and we have a lot of adrenaline going.

“Do you think, if you compare it to football, if you have a microphone on a footballer’s mouth, that everything he says is something nice and it’s a nice message when the guy tackles him and sometimes he fouls him?

“I don’t think it’s justified to give us this kind of shit question and making up a story out of nothing.”

Vettel said it was normal for a driver to react emotionally in high-pressure situations.

“We are just racing, we are full of adrenaline and we say these things,” he added. “If I hit you in your face, you are not going to tell me, ‘Sebastian, that wasn’t nice’.

“It’s a human reaction and sometimes I feel it’s all a bit blown up and artificial if we have these questions trying to make something out of nothing.”

– ‘Emotion always firing’ –

Hamilton had earlier told television reporters that “emotion is always firing when you get out of the car” and added that he could not remember making the comment until reminded that it was in the pre-podium room.

Of the collision, he said: “I realised I had to back out, but he continued to come across and that didn’t leave me any room.

“So we ended up touching. I was just really grateful that my car wasn’t broken and I could continue. That would have really been difficult.

“My thoughts are on the world championship and I’ve lost two races now. I am 17 points down already after just two races. Hopefully, when we go to the next race, we will have a better fight with the Ferraris.”

In other comments to reporters, Hamilton had explained: “It was an unnecessary collision… There needs to be a certain respect between drivers.

“It didn’t feel that respectful. It was a silly manoeuvre from him because he didn’t finish the race.”

Verstappen, who retired with a broken differential, insisted Hamilton was to blame.

“I was next to him — going in to the corner, I was ahead,” he claimed. “Of course, you always try to squeeze each other a bit.

“I think there was still enough space on the left, but he drove into my left rear, gave me a puncture and also destroyed the ‘diff’.”

Hamilton added: “He ran me out of road, which I felt at the time was just unnecessary. He was past. I couldn’t get by. There was no need to push by.”

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said the clash had been a “racing incident”, agreeing with the race stewards’ verdict that, after an investigation, no action was required.

Verstappen has endured an incident-filled start to the season in both Australia, where he ran off track and spun in the race, and in Bahrain where he crashed in qualifying and in the race.

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