Mercedes boss Toto Wolff was doing his best to cool things down, following the furious row that’s erupted between Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.
Vettel accused Hamilton of brake-testing him behind the safety car during Sunday’s race in Baku. He then pulled alongside the Mercedes and banged into him in retaliation, for which he received a 10-second stop-go penalty.
The ever-forthright Niki Lauda later called Vettel’s action “crazy” and said that the driver’s actions had been “strange – he freaked out.”
But talking about incident later, Wolff took a more cautious line. Interviewed by the Formula 1 website, he choose his words carefully to make sure he didn’t add more fuel to the fire.
“The emotions go high in a race car. You have your visor down and have your own perception of what is reality.
“It was probably a wrong judgement from Sebastian’s side,” he suggested. “I find it hard even to think that he bumped into Lewis on purpose.
“I’d like to speak to him personally rather than making a pre-judgement only on hearsay.”
Wolff was reluctant to be drawn on whether the penalty Vettel received was too light given the nature of the incident.
“Imposing penalties is always a matter of fine judgement,” he said. “And also in the eyes of the millions of fans that are watching us. Now for me this is done and dusted.
- Lauda: ‘Vettel freaked out in Baku!’
“If a driver does something like this on purpose – in sheer anger – then you need to think about the size of the penalty,” he admitted.
“He is a four-time world champion. We are setting examples to all the young drivers out there about what is allowed and what a no-go. We have to think twice.
“Lewis and Sebastian share seven title wins among them, so they know the business.”
Wolff hoped that Sunday’s incident didn’t end up entirely derailing the ‘budding bromance’ between the two drivers.
“We are eight races into the season and the two guys respect each other a lot,” he said. “Now we have a situation where there is more controversy.
“It was always clear that this could happen at any race.
“I still believe that today’s incident will not change the respect level,” he insisted. “But yes, with every race the heat level will rise between the two greats of their sport. Maybe the schmoozing times are over.
“Those who fight for the title in the end cannot be friends. What can remain is respect. Maybe we’ve seen the limitations of that respect.
“This sport needs rivalry, and what we have seen today has the ingredients of a great championship.”
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