Fear and loathing in Azerbaijan

Bayden Westerweller Roar Guru

By Bayden Westerweller, Bayden Westerweller is a Roar Guru

 , ,

9 Have your say

    Lewis Hamilton. (Photo: GEPA pictures/Daniel Goetzhaber)

    Related coverage

    Sebastian Vettel crossed the line on Sunday at Azerbaijan, though Lewis Hamilton cannot be relieved from his accountability in the episode which has instantly evoked comparison to controversies of bygone eras.

    A rush of blood, a descending of red mist, consumed Vettel on lap 20 of the chaotic event as the field lay behind the safety car, and the involvement of the title protagonists in the incident injected an inevitable hero versus villain narrative despite the circumstances leading to the outcome.

    The German, who had been caught napping by race leader Hamilton following the initial of the Mercedes AMG’s multiple appearances to clear debris from the circuit, fell victim to the Briton’s questionable braking tactics, running into the rear of the W08 as the third restart approached.

    Despite the 29-year-old’s protests that “he brake tested me. What the f*^k is going on?” this was lost to the four-time champion’s physical reaction, as he drew alongside Hamilton to gesticulate angrily and proceeded to turn into the leader, albeit inflicting no visible damage, as the racing resumed from the following corner.

    It wouldn’t take long for the recriminations to commence as friendly fire between the Force Indias into turn one on the restart caused the red flag to be deployed, sending all cars into pitlane, and allowing drivers, personnel and fans to draw their collective breath on what had just transpired.

    Outside the cockpit, Hamilton closely scrutinised the rear of his car, proceeding to the concerned sidepod and tyres as he attempted to emphasise his ordeal, while a sanguine Vettel kept his counsel, acknowledging only the events leading to the decisive blow as the restart approached.

    The postscript to the affair, with Hamilton required to stop from the lead on lap 31 so his conspicuously unfastened headrest could be replaced – borne independently from his collision with Vettel, coupled with the German’s punishment – a ten-second stop go penalty, effectively being neutralised, further canvassed the notion of the Briton as wronged and Vettel the wicked.

    Fourth for Vettel and fifth to Hamilton being the end game similarly incensed those believing the latter received a raw deal. Not least the man himself, when the reality was that his plight bore no consequence from the hit, rather a manifestation of disbelief that the German exited the weekend having extended his points lead, when a routine victory to the Briton and fifth to the penalised Vettel would have been labelled just.

    Vettel was undoubtedly wrong to use his vehicle as a weapon, though it must be viewed as the objective incident it was. Once Hamilton’s history behind the safety car is taken into account – similar tactics were employed at Fuji in 2007, resulting in the infamous collision between Vettel and future teammate Mark Webber, and corroborated with his antics on Sunday, it becomes apparent that it was a heat of the moment reaction rather than a charge of premeditated assault which Senna and Schumacher answered to yesteryear.

    Sebastian Vettel Red Bull

    (Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool)

    Notwithstanding the field running at greatly reduced speed, this wasn’t Suzuka 1990, Adelaide 1994 or Jerez 1997, which were moments comprised a solitary methodical act. If anything, the German’s actions were outright clumsy and the intellectual in him would have realised this immediately.

    Which is why Vettel’s stubborn refusal to address the deed in question is the most damning indictment, which in the context of the championship – short of rendering his actions understandable – speaks to the primal desperation when the ultimate prize is up for grabs and logic eludes the erstwhile rational.

    Hamilton must be aware that Vettel, who also received three penalty points on his superlicence, now lies only three adrift of a one-race suspension should he fall foul of the stewards at Austria, and may look to exploit this by placing the German in a vulnerable position if circumstances permit.

    His sentiment, “if I had any ill intent… brake testing, whatever it may be, I still think it’s not deserving of that kind of reaction” can be facetiously interpreted as a goad to ‘baiting’ employed by the Briton, which Vettel must contemplate if he is to avoid the tacit manipulation effected on the weekend.

    Lewis Hamilton press conference

    (Photo: GEPA pictures/Daniel Goetzhaber)

    Two can play when it boils down to one dream, some are better at playing the game than others, and had Hamilton prevailed at Baku, it would have been a perfectly executed set piece on his title rival. Vettel fell for the bluff and in this instance played the fool, though there’s an extremely fine line at the top and while he’ll be chastened, he’ll also be wiser for the experience.

    As all iconic rivalries and title showdowns elicit, the ‘antagonist’ has been sourced and defined with many strokes, and any subsequent events will henceforth be portrayed as part of the hero’s quest to overcome the villain and restore order, despite the reality that there are two sides to every story.

    This video is trending right now! Submit your videos for the chance to win a share of $10,000!

    Oldest | Newest | Most Recent

    The Crowd Says (9)

    • Roar Guru

      June 27th 2017 @ 10:28am
      Jawad Yaqub said | June 27th 2017 @ 10:28am | ! Report

      Whilst the immediate reaction to this incident is that Vettel is at complete fault for slamming into the side of Hamilton, your notion of Hamilton ‘baiting’ in the German is quite valid. There is no excusing Vettel for his on-track response, of which in footy terms would be a player punching another – for which the penalties are quite severe I believe?

      Though Hamilton is no saint and is quite cunning, as we’d seen during his time with Nico Rosberg as his teammate. There were many incidents there, where Rosberg would be reduced to the status of ‘villain’, as you could say the majority of German drivers competing for world titles have been.

      In the end, with no team restraints this year, these two are going to do whatever it takes to win this title. Vettel is the first to have bent the ethical boundary severely, but Hamilton is as equally desperate to win and would do whatever it takes, cite his demand on the radio to get Valtteri Bottas to slow down and hold up Vettel!

      • Roar Guru

        June 27th 2017 @ 1:37pm
        Bayden Westerweller said | June 27th 2017 @ 1:37pm | ! Report

        Vettel’s actions were brainless, though Hamilton clearly did something to have provoked such an incendiary reaction – and his history suggests it’s part of his plan to rattle the cages of his opponents. Had the incident occurred during racing proper, the German would absolutely have warranted disqualification, so he can consider himself fortunate.

        In isolation, this incident was a bad look, yet collectively is great for the theatre of competition, the introduction of spite will give the balance of the campaign a real edge, with Azerbaijan cited as the moment the gloves finally came off.

    • Roar Pro

      June 27th 2017 @ 12:19pm
      anon said | June 27th 2017 @ 12:19pm | ! Report

      39.5 No car may be driven unnecessarily slowly, erratically or in a manner which could be deemed
      potentially dangerous to other drivers or any other person at any time whilst the safety car is
      deployed. This will apply whether any such car is being driven on the track, the pit entry or the
      pit lane.

      Hamilton broke rule 39.5. He slowed to the point that the car behind rear-ended him.

      I don’t think anyone can accuse Vettel of driving recklessly or too fast behind Hamilton.

      • Roar Guru

        June 27th 2017 @ 1:43pm
        Bayden Westerweller said | June 27th 2017 @ 1:43pm | ! Report

        Hamilton certainly straddled the line of what is sporting and the telemetry doesn’t tell the complete story, through his ‘random’ variations in speed behind the SC, which happened to coincide with an extremely unusual exit/entry from the turn on the lap in question.

        He succeeded in channelling Vettel’s dark side, it’s something he’s done very well in the past and will continue to serve him well in the context of the championship if opponents fall for his subliminal borderline tactics.

        • Roar Pro

          June 27th 2017 @ 3:02pm
          anon said | June 27th 2017 @ 3:02pm | ! Report

          I think long term this has no negative impact on Vettel’s performance. Vettel performs better when he has the bit between his teeth.

          Vettel has shown he won’t tolerate Hamilton’s smart alec tactics.

          When Rosberg stood up to Hamilton by hurling the cap back at him, he went on a 6 race winning streak.

          Of course the difference is that Vettel’s Ferrari is one second per lap slower than Hamilton.

          I think you have it the wrong way around. Hamilton doesn’t like direct confrontation.

          Hamilton didn’t really try to pass Vettel in closing laps of Baku despite having an enormous straight line advantage. Hamilton settled to finish behind Vettel.

          • Roar Guru

            June 27th 2017 @ 5:42pm
            Bayden Westerweller said | June 27th 2017 @ 5:42pm | ! Report

            If Malaysia 2013 is an example, Vettel certainly won’t let this faze him. As much as Rosberg drew a line in the sand with some of his questionable tactics in 2016, this could be the German’s own moment which establishes the boundaries of the title showdown.

            Hamilton’s resort to pitwall for Bottas to sacrifice his own fortunes to aid his cause did smack a little of desperation and entitlement, rather than pushing like crazy to pass Vettel.

            • Roar Pro

              June 27th 2017 @ 8:36pm
              anon said | June 27th 2017 @ 8:36pm | ! Report

              I don’t like Vettel or Hamilton much.

              Vettel’s tantrums are pathetic from a man of his age and achievements. They both come across as like man-children.

              Vettel though is at his best when the pressure is on. Look at the final few races of both 2010 and 2012 where he drove out of his skin. He came from nowhere in the championship in 2010, in 2012 he came back from last in Abu Dhabi to finish 3rd, in Brazil his car was badly damaged and brought it home in the points in treacherous conditions. All the pressure in the world was on him.

              Think multi-21 when he pulled off a ballsy pass on a steaming Webber. Think Baku on Sunday into the first corner. One clipped front wing and it’s potentially a championship changing moment he can’t recover from given the Mercedes is the superior car.

              • Roar Guru

                June 28th 2017 @ 4:08pm
                Bayden Westerweller said | June 28th 2017 @ 4:08pm | ! Report

                I’m not taken by either, though I certainly prefer the former, his actions last season and on the weekend are primarily why I can’t fully embrace him, whilst the less said about Hamilton the better – he’s a great driver, though he leaves much to be desired elsewhere.

                A fifth title would be ultimate validation for Vettel, coming against an individual of Hamilton’s calibre in equal or superior machinery. Even if his 2010 and 2012 titles were much deserved, this is the one that would give those before credibility and he’s ruthless when that kind of reward on the line, so more can be expected across the balance of the season.

      • June 27th 2017 @ 2:02pm
        woodart said | June 27th 2017 @ 2:02pm | ! Report

        yes, both drivers were at fault. but, this is what makes rolling starts way more interesting than standing starts.

    Have Your Say

    If not logged in, please enter your name and email before submitting your comment. Please review our comments policy before posting on the Roar.

    , ,