FIA race director Charlie Whiting is satisfied that Sebastian Vettel did not drive dangerously during his Safety Car restart in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix despite a complaint from Lewis Hamilton.
Hamilton was running second on the road to Vettel at the start of the race, with the Safety Car having been deployed on the opening lap due to debris and Esteban Ocon’s stricken Force India. On the restart, Vettel left it extremely late to accelerate toward the finish line in order to limit the tow effect on the long straight in Baku, but Hamilton complained the Ferrari driver accelerated and slowed a number of times.
With Whiting being in a position to judge whether any driver needs penalizing for the way they drive during Safety Car restarts, he says Hamilton made such a complaint during the race but did not feel it was worthy of action.
“I think [Vettel] controlled it very well but it’s up to the leading driver to say when we go,” Whiting said. “Unlike some other series, they have an acceleration zone, a place where you can accelerate. You can’t do it before or after that. Once it goes green, the Safety Car comes into the pits, it’s up to the leader to decide when he is going to go.
“[Baku] is a tricky place – they catch the Safety Car too early if they go too quickly. I think Seb controlled it well. There was a bit of a complaint from Lewis that he wasn’t going at a constant rate, but if you look down the field, there’s a few places where that happens. To expect them to go at one speed doesn’t happen. So long as no one does anything dangerous, we’re happy.”
Hamilton’s complaint followed a tempestuous incident between the two drivers at the same race last season, when Vettel ran into the back of Hamilton before a Safety Car restart and then drove alongside the Mercedes and banged wheels having felt the race leader had brake tested him.