Retired Australian Formula One driver Mark Webber and former world champion Damon Hill have weighed into the debate following a fiery Singapore Grand Prix.
The German, his fast-starting teammate Kimi Raikkonen and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen crashed out as they raced to the first corner. Stewards summoned all three drivers after the race but decided none was totally or predominantly to be blamed.
The view was not shared by others who either pointed fingers at Verstappen or accused Vettel of needless aggression at a key point in the championship.
Long before Hamilton had stretched his lead to 28 points with six races remaining, Ferrari’s official Twitter feed stated that “Verstappen took #Kimi7 out and then he went to #Seb5.”
“What we tweeted was a factual description of events. No need to speculate on this,” Ferrari added later as reaction on social media flared.
Television footage and in-car cameras showed Raikkonen making a storming getaway from fourth on the grid and around Verstappen on the outside. Vettel, on pole, was slower off the line and steered left to squeeze Verstappen, who kept his car straight and was pincered by the Ferraris.
The Dutch teenager and Raikkonen tangled wheels, with the Finn’s car slewing sideways and into Vettel’s before again careering into the Red Bull and also collecting Fernando Alonso’s McLaren.
Verstappen thought initially that Sebastian saw he was a little bit better off the line than him so he wanted to close him, so he drove to the left.
Retired Australian driver turned pundit Mark Webber, who had a few clashes with Vettel as Red Bull team mates, defended Verstappen.
Retired triple world champion Niki Lauda, now the Mercedes team’s non-executive chairman, said it was an incident Vettel could have avoided.