Sebastian Vettel's claim that the safety car that interrupted Sunday's European Grand Prix was somehow aimed at derailing what appeared to be a runaway win has been panned by fellow countryman Hans-Joachim Stuck.
Both Vettel and Red Bull motorsport advisor Helmut Marko were quoted in certain sections of the German media as believing that there had been no concrete basis for the safety car deployment on lap 28 of the race in Valencia, despite Toro Rosso driver Jean-Eric Vergne's misguided move on Caterham rival Heikki Kovalainen had left debris from both cars spread over the circuit.
Vettel apparently claimed that the neutralisation of the race, when he held a near 20-second lead, was called not just to clear the shards of carbon-fibre but also 'to break our neck' in a NASCAR-style attempt at reinfusing some excitement into the proceedings. The double world champion was adamant that running at reduced pace - and increased temperatures - led to his eventual retirement one lap after the restart.
“It just went to sh*t,” Vettel told Germany's Sky
channel, “I think it was clear to see that [until then] we were pulling away without problems.
“I think we could have been spared the safety car period, [but] I think the reason is clear. I don't think there was a danger. There were pieces on the track earlier [following the collision involving Bruno Senna and Kamui Kobayashi
] and it was acceptable, [so] I think, in a sense, the safety car was to break our neck."
Marko made reference to NASCAR's policy of 'throwing a yellow' in a bid to spice up the show, which has led to the suspicion that cautions are called for 'phantom' debris, but has joined Vettel in being warned to cool his claims for fear of attracting the wrath of the FIA.
“Sebastian Vettel should learn to be a good loser,” former F1 and sportscar ace Stuck told Germany's Yahoo Eurosport
, “It was clear there was debris on the circuit, representing a danger of puncture to the other cars. For that reason, the safety car was justified."
Stuck also suggested that any car that failed because it was running behind the safety car would be because 'it is designed wrong'.
's Marc Surer, himself a former F1 racer, also claimed that there could be no basis for Vettel's claims, insisting that the call had been the right one, if only for the safety for the trackworkers attempting to clear the circuit.