Lewis Hamilton says his relationship with Sebastian Vettel remains unchanged despite their clash and spat in Baku two weeks ago, claiming to have the “utmost respect” for his Formula 1 title rival.
Vettel and Hamilton came to blows behind the safety car during the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, with the latter receiving a penalty for dangerous driving when he side-swiped Hamilton at slow speed.
Hamilton told NBCSN after the race that he believed the lack of serious penalty set a “dangerous precedent” for the future, and was quoted by foreign media as saying Vettel had been “a disgrace”.
The clash was investigated by the FIA, who opted to take no further action, with Hamilton and Vettel facing the media for the first time since the ruling in Thursday’s press conference ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix.
When asked if the matter was over, Hamilton said: “It is for me yeah. I’m solely focused on this weekend. I said everything I felt I needed to say at the last race and just left it there.”
The Mercedes driver went on to reveal that he spoke with Vettel about the incident the day after the race, believing that their cordial rivalry and relationship had not changed.
“Sebastian and I spoke after the race on the Monday and then shortly after that he messaged me the day after,” Hamilton said.
“For me, I just said that I still have the utmost respect for him as a driver and will continue to race him hard throughout the rest of the season in the same way I always have. No less hard than we have already up until now.”
Hamilton did, however, want to make clear that he did not brake-test Vettel, as he had been accused of doing.
“My only point to Sebastian was him saying that I had brake-tested him. I said I hope you can correct that in public because people who were watching felt that was something I did and the data obviously showed that was not the case,” Vettel said.
“In actual fact he accelerated. I think he wanted to be as close as possible to me but that was an error in judgment.
“My only point there in my reply to him was that I hope he makes that clear because there was no need for me to do something like that because I was in the lead.
“I accept his apology and we move forward.”
” I’m happy to hear that it doesn’t seem to have a big impact [on their relationship]” added Vettel.
“Obviously what I did was wrong and I apologized. I think it’s totally up to Lewis. I did a mistake and it’s nice to hear that we’re able to move forward.
“I think the respect we have for each other on track, off track, it helps us in this regard.”
Regarding his post-race comments, Hamilton did not wish to take anything he said back, but was happy to move on from the incident and leave it in the past.
“I don’t feel I was particularly upset after the race. If I was it was for other reasons but I don’t feel like I said anything that I would wish to take back,” Hamilton said.
“I’m still under the same opinion of what happened but it is water under the bridge now.
“We have spoken about it and want to move forward so there is no point in saying much more.”