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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 19 July 2018

Sebastian Vettel dismisses 'silly' claims by Lewis Hamilton of nefarious Ferrari tactics at British Grand Prix

Silverstone victor Vettel plays down contact between his teammate Raikkonen and his title rival on first lap

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel leads Mercedes-GP's Lewis Hamilton on his way to victory at the British Grand Prix. Action Images via Reuters
Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel leads Mercedes-GP's Lewis Hamilton on his way to victory at the British Grand Prix. Action Images via Reuters

British Grand Prix winner Sebastian Vettel dismissed accusations from title rival Lewis Hamilton that his Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen had deliberately driven into the Briton on the opening lap of the race at Silverstone as “silly”.

Hamilton was spun to the back fof the field on the opening lap by Raikkonen when they made contact, and although the four-time world champion recovered to finish second in his Mercedes-GP, he had hinted post-race he believed he had been deliberately targeted by Ferrari.

Standing on the podium alongside Vettel and Raikkonen, who finished third, he said: “Interesting tactics I would say from this side, but we’ll do what we can to fight them.”

But Vettel, who passed Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas with four laps to go to win for the 51st time in his career, shot down the suggestion there had been any subterfuge over the incident that saw Raikkonen punished by race stewards by having to sit in the pits for an extra 10 seconds at his first pit stop.

“Things can happen,” said the four-time world champion, who now leads Hamilton by eight points in the standings. “It’s quite silly to think that anything that happened was deliberate.

“I, at least, would struggle to be that precise and take somebody out.”

The incident came after Vettel had been involved himself in a similar incident in France last month where he struck Bottas at the first corner.

“In France I lost my wing, so I screwed my race,” he added. “It’s easy to attack and have a great move and easy to have an incident.

“I only saw it briefly but I don’t think there was any intention and I find it a bit unnecessary to even go there.”

Raikkonen also hit out at any notion the clash had been deliberate, but did acknowledge it had been his mistake that caused the contact.

“Funnily enough you start blaming us but I locked up a wheel and unfortunately we touched,” the 2007 world champion said. “That’s how it goes sometimes. It’s easy to say after the last couple of races but we’ve been hit plenty of times in the past.”

Hamilton, aided by a mixture of good overtaking, and his team’s decision not to pit when the safety car made its first of two appearances with 20 laps to go after Marcus Ericsson had crashed his Sauber heavily at Turn 1, recovered to take runner-up spot at his home race.

Hamilton said he felt it was down to he and his teammate Bottas to improve their race starts and qualifying pace to avoid being in close proximity of the Ferraris in the future.

“All I’d say is it’s now two races one of the Ferraris has taken out one of the Mercedes,” the world champion said.

“There’s a lot of points there that Valtteri and I have lost in those two scenarios.

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“We’ve just got to try to position ourselves better so we are not exposed to the red cars because who knows whether that’s going to happen again.

“We’ve got to work hard as a team to try to lock out the front row and make sure we’re fully ahead of these guys.”

Bottas, who had led going into the late stages after not pitting when the safety car came out, fell to fourth in the final stages of the race, holding off a late charge from Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo.

It was a disappointing day for Red Bull as Ricciardo’s teammate Max Verstappen, who ran third in the opening laps, as a gearbox problem stopped the Dutchman in the closing stages.

Nico Hulkenberg was sixth for Renault, ahead of Esteban Ocon’s Force India, with Fernando Alonso’s McLaren completing the top eight.