Accusations fly as Ferrari take out Hamilton
The Formula One title battle was mired in anger and acrimony last night after Mercedes refused to rule out the possibility that Ferrari had cheated their way to victory in the British Grand Prix.
After an electrifying race at Silverstone, where Sebastian Vettel claimed a 51st career victory to extend his championship lead to eight points, Lewis Hamilton suggested that he had been deliberately targeted by Kimi Raikkonen, the German's Ferrari team-mate, in an opening-lap collision.
"Interesting tactics from this side," said a visibly angry Hamilton on the podium, after staging one of his most stirring recoveries to vault from dead last to second.
Referring to an incident at Le Castellet last month, where Vettel hit Valtteri Bottas at the first corner, he explained: "It's two races in which a Mercedes has been taken out by a Ferrari. Valtteri and I have both lost out in those scenarios."
Silver Arrows team principal Toto Wolff was no less provocative, pointedly raising the idea that there were underhand tactics at play.
"In (technical director) James Allison's words, 'Do you think it is deliberate or incompetence?'" Wolff said. "So, this leaves us with a judgement."
The stewards punished Raikkonen with a 10-second penalty, usually reserved for the most open-and-shut cases.
"Car 44 (Hamilton) clearly left significant room on the inside of Turn Three," the ruling read. "Car 7 (Raikkonen) locked up his right front tyre, understeered and caused a collision with Car 44."
The version of events offered by Niki Lauda, Mercedes' non-executive chairman, was even pithier, as he labelled the crash "unfair" and "not funny".
Hamilton is not the type to take such treatment lightly. After the chequered flag, he was a diagram of rage, stalking off without conducting his mandatory interview in parc fermé and continuing to seethe in the podium green room, refusing even to look in Raikkonen's direction.
That he had lost the chance to be the first driver to win his home race five times in a row was galling enough. That he had done so potentially as a consequence of a Machiavellian plot was impossible to accept.
The incident propelled Hamilton's contest with Vettel into the next dimension. If their tussle has been largely civil so far this season, the ill-will brewing between F1's two dominant teams suggests that battles in the 11 races to come could be anything but.
Hamilton was not without flaws, having thrown away his pole position with over-aggression on the start line, generating wheelspin that allowed Vettel to fly past.
That setback was compounded just a few hundred yards down the road, as Raikkonen pushed him off the asphalt, relegating him to the back of the pack.
What followed, though, was among the most stellar passages of Hamilton's F1 life, as he catapulted himself from 18th to sixth in the space of 10 laps. Always at his best when riled, Hamilton scythed his way through the pack with demonic intensity. (© Daily Telegraph, London)