19 April 2010
Hamilton, Vettel escape punishment for pit-lane clash
Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel get slapped wrists, but nothing more, from Chinese GP stewards after banging wheels in pit-lane.
Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel both escape serious punishment for their clashes in pit-lane during the Chinese Grand Prix, with race stewards deciding not to influence either the result of the round or their chances in Spain next time out.
While many were predicting grid penalties for one or both - the only real course of action had the stewards decided to come down heavily on the pair - they escaped with little more than a slapped wrist, despite both appearing to endanger others in pit-lane as they raced in and out of their tyre stops.
Hamilton had already made a contentious entry to his first stop, on lap two, cutting across the gravel trap after a late call to switch to intermediate rubber - a 'mistake' according to the driver after the race - but a subsequent stop coincided with a heated battle with polesitter Vettel as both made their way back up through the field.
Hamilton seemed still to be competing with the German as the left the track and entered pit-road, passing the Red Bull driver with at least two wheels over the white line separating what was legitimately considered part of the racing surface from the tarmac and grass that lay beyond, and then continued to race as the pair left their respective stalls.
Vettel's Red Bull crew, positioned early in the pits than Hamilton and McLaren, had managed to change the German's tyres and release the RB6 around a second before Hamilton could move, with the result that he was alongside as the Briton put the power down. A painted strip, wet from the rain that blighted the race, saw the McLaren snap sideways before Hamilton gathered it up and proceeded to run side-by-side with his rival to pit exit.
While it appeared that the 2008 world champion was the man with most to lose when the matter was referred to the stewards, Vettel did little to aid his cause by subsequently edging Hamilton close to pit equipment at garages further down the lane. The German eventually exited ahead, but had no answer to the superior McLaren as the race wore on, with Hamilton passing him on track six laps later, before going on to claim second place behind team-mate Jenson Button.
The Briton initially appeared not recall the incident - "I'm not really sure what they are talking about," he told reporters - before trying to play down the severity of it.
"I don't really remember too much about it," he admitted, "I think Vettel got on the outside of me on the exit of the last corner, and I was worried that he was going to turn into the last corner and I was going straight, so I just kept going and he came with me. We got round into the pit-lane, so it was fine.
"When I did the pit-stop, the guys waited for some time to let all the cars go past and they released me at what I thought was a good time, [but] there's a big, long, blue line down the pit-lane which is all painted and it's so slippery. As soon as I hit that, I had some major wheelspin and lost a bit of traction. Unfortunately, that let Vettel get alongside me, but otherwise it was good racing.
"As far as I am concerned I think it was okay. As I came out, I noticed Sebastian was there and he was pushing me a little bit to the right. We touched wheels but, otherwise, I think it was fair."
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