SUZUKA, Japan (Reuters) – Sebastian Vettel blamed Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on Sunday for a Japanese Grand Prix tangle that dealt a huge blow to the Ferrari driver’s fading Formula One title hopes.
Formula One F1 – Japanese Grand Prix – Suzuka Circuit, Suzuka, Japan – October 7, 2018 Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel during the drivers parade ahead of the race REUTERS/Toru Hanai
Vettel started eighth after a failed tyre gamble in qualifying, dropped to 19th after the incident before fighting back to sixth and 67 points behind winner and rival Lewis Hamilton.
The German was trying to pass Verstappen, who still had to serve a five-second penalty, for third place at the fast left-handed sweep of Suzuka’s Spoon corner when they made contact, with Vettel spinning around.
Stewards reviewed the incident and decided to take no further action but Vettel made clear where he felt the blame rested.
“I was obviously pushing to get past but I wasn’t desperate to get past,” he said.
“As soon as he saw me obviously he defended but I had the inside. And as soon as he realises somebody is close or next to him he tries to, in my opinion, push when you shouldn’t push any more.
“For me the gap was there otherwise I don’t do it… I think you need to always leave a space and in that case I couldn’t go anywhere and then we touched.”
Verstappen, who finished third, had been handed the penalty for forcing Vettel’s team mate Kimi Raikkonen off the track earlier in the race and would have dropped behind Vettel anyway at the pitstops.
Asked whether he might think twice in future when alongside Verstappen in future, Vettel bridled at the suggestion.
“Do you ask him whether he should think twice when he defends?” he said.
“In the end we are all racing so this is part of racing, don’t get me wrong. I don’t regret the move. Obviously with that outcome you would do different because with hindsight it’s always easy.”
Verstappen saw it differently, naturally.
“In that corner you can’t overtake. I even gave him space but he understeered into my car,” he said.
Reporting by Abhishek Takle, editing by Alan Baldwin, Amlan Chakraborty and Pritha Sarkar