SOCHI, Russian Federation, Sep 30 – Sebastian Vettel admitted he did not see Lewis Hamilton in his Ferrari mirrors when the pair battled for position during a classic mid-race scrap in Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix.
The four-time champion German was accused of performing a double-defensive move by the Mercedes driver as he blocked Hamilton to stop him passing.
“I didn’t see him and I wasn’t sure where he was,” said Vettel, who finished third behind the triumphant Hamilton and his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas.
“I saw he was on the outside and I needed to give him room even if I didn’t want to – so it was fair, it remained fair, but he got past…”
Hamilton had complained that the move was not fair.
“Ultimately, for me, he did move over to the inside and moved again and he nearly put me in the wall.
“I thought it was a double-move, but the race stewards didn’t see it that way.”
A stewards’ investigation decided the tussle was a normal racing incident and no further action was needed.
Hamilton reacted to the incident with another on-track attack that saw him swoop by on the inside.
“I think everyone had the same pace, but we managed the tyres differently,” said Vettel.
“I tried to put pressure on Valtteri, when I was behind, but I couldn’t get close enough, and then, when he backed off and lost 1.5 seconds, I had a tiny lock-up and Lewis had new tyres…Mine were only a lap old.
“I think we were close, but it’s not what we wanted.”
Vettel added: “It was tricky. They worked well together and, at the start, I had nowhere to go.
“Then, we surprised them with a good out-lap (after his pit stop) and I managed to jump Lewis and Valtteri. Lewis was close, but then we nearly had a run-in…”
A subdued Hamilton, unhappy to win with the assistance of team tactics as Bottas was asked to move aside and allow him to pass, added that he felt lucky to have escaped an accident with Vettel.
“Fortunately, I was able to get out of it. I don’t know how we ended up in that place, but that’s what happened.”