It's certainly not often that you see a lapped car try to race its way past the front runners to get back onto the lead lap, but that's exactly what Lewis Hamilton attempted during the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim, to the fury of one of the front runners he encountered - Sebastian Vettel.

"That was not nice of him," said Vettel after the race. "It's a bit stupid to disturb the leaders. He was a lap down so I don't see the point anyways." (See separate story - CLICK HERE.)

But McLaren stoutly defended their driver, with team principal Martin Whitmarsh telling reporters after the race: "Racing drivers race. If that's stupid, I don't know what isn't," he said. "He was quicker and he overtook [Vettel] and he pulled away. So I'm not quite sure where the stupidity is in that."

Lewis Hamilton himself went even further in defending his actions - and in attacking Vettel's criticism.

"It doesn't really bother me what he says," he said. "Maturity has come through I guess. It shows his maturity."

McLaren's sporting director Sam Michael explained that Hamilton was forced to make a decision when the blue flags started being shown.

"He came out and he was fast," said Michael. "We said to him that you've got blue flags for Jenson. When you get a blue flag, you have two choices. You let the car past, or you speed up significantly.

"So we told him to speed up significantly and overtake Vettel and he did so," he continued. "He didn't hold Vettel up at all because Vettel couldn't keep up with him. So it didn't have any material impact on Vettel's race and it's completely legal."

"I never give up, so I'm not going to back off and let everyone past me when I've got the pace to go past the guy in front," Hamilton himself told the UK Daily Mirror newspaper. "I don't think I've made any silly decisions throughout the race. I had nothing to gain apart from staying out of the way of my team-mate."

The incident was not referred to the race stewards, although Vettel's own move on Hamilton's team mate Jenson Button was - and Vettel was given a 20s penalty for exceeding the track limits to gain an advantage, which cost him his podium finish at his home event after the stewards did not accept that Vettel was 'forced' to run wide while making his pass so as not to crash into the Briton.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner was slightly more reserved in supporting Vettel's comments over Hamilton's unlapping moves.

"We're not saying Lewis did anything wrong [but] when you're fighting over tenths and hundredths it's frustrating," he said. "It was nip and tuck between Fernando, Jenson and Seb. Seb probably dropped one second when Lewis unlapped himself."

But Hamilton was just content to have got something out of a race in which he was pretty much written off on the second lap after sustaining a puncture on the debris left by Felipe Massa's discarded front wing.

"At least I was able to have some fun out on track - my pace was good enough to be able to match the leaders during the middle stint," he said. "And that's encouraging for me, because we know our car's been genuinely quick this weekend."

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