British Formula One great Sir Jackie Stewart has defended Sebastian Vettel over his extraordinary bust-up with title rival Lewis Hamilton at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix on Sunday.
The former world champion conceded that Vettel was guilty of “inappropriate behaviour” for deliberately ramming his Ferrari into Hamilton’s Mercedes halfway through the race in Baku.
But Stewart backed Vettel’s assertion that he had been provoked by Hamilton’s decision to back off the safety car, which led to an initial accidental collision that damaged the German’s front wing.
“What created the incident is what occurred when Lewis slowed down so quickly in a very unlikely place. You have got to take that into account,” he said.
“That was a shock to Sebastian, and that is why he came alongside Lewis to ask ‘what the hell are you doing?’.
"What Vettel then did was to unquestionably collide with Hamilton. There is no room for that, no excuse for that and it is wrong. It is inappropriate behaviour.
“It would be very simple to put the complete blame on one man, but what initiated the bad behaviour was what happened before.”
Ricciardo warns former team-mate
Furious Hamilton branded Vettel “a disgrace” after the race, in which he finished one place behind the German, who extended his title lead to 14 points.
Vettel’s former Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, meanwhile, has warned him to control his temper.
“Seb probably sometimes doesn’t think before he acts,” said Ricciardo, who won in Azerbaijan.
“It’s probably driven through passion and hunger. He’s just got to put a lid on it sometimes.”