Sebastian Vettel chose to be diplomatic and respectful when it came to the subject of his battle with Michael Schumacher that could easily have culminated with neither making the finish of the Belgian Grand Prix.

The two Germans, who share nine world championship titles between them, were battling for position approaching the half-way point of the 44-lap Spa-Francorchamps encounter, with Vettel attempting to make his way back through the field after starting tenth and losing places during a chaotic opening corner that claimed title rivals Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso.

Having passed several potentially difficult opponents, including Ferrari's Felipe Massa and RBR team-mate Mark Webber, the young German lined Schumacher up for another move at his favoured spot into the Bus Stop chicane - only for the veteran to chop across his bows and head for the pit-lane and his first stop. Somehow contact was avoided and, instead of lambasting his countryman, Vettel opted to put the 'moment' down to a case of crossed wires.

"With Michael, there was a bit of confusion, I think," he said, "He probably wasn't that keen to defend his position because he was going into the pits anyway, [but] I thought he would block the inside and then he came on the outside, so it was very very close under braking. I nearly ran into the back of his car, and then tried to get into a better position for the start/finish straight, but he kept turning right and went into the pits. I think I was, within three seconds, twice very lucky not to lose my front wing."

Vettel went on to suggest that there was nothing wrong with his compatriot's competitive desire, despite being nearly three years into a comeback with Mercedes that has yielded but a single podium.

"It doesn't matter where you get Michael on the circuit, whether you're fighting for P1 or P15, he will fight like hell, which is great to see," he insisted, "He hasn't lost it. It obviously makes it hard for you, but it's always a great challenge. It's very, very close with him, but always fair, and I enjoyed that."

Asked later whether he really felt that way about his rival and the move that could so easily have scuppered a race that eventually ended in second place, Vettel preferred instead to criticise the layout of the chicane, which has been much altered during its time as part of the Spa circuit.

"It's not anybody's fault, it's the way the track is designed with the pit entry," he claimed, "If you decide to pit, then you have to go right, so you can't blame him if that was always his idea. As I said, I probably misunderstood, initially, as I thought he would cover the inside under braking. I went on the outside and there was hardly any room, so he probably didn't expect me there - or didn't see me.

"I need to talk to him [but], after turn 18, the first right hander, back to the left, I was probably in a better place to get good acceleration out of the last corner, but he wanted to pit, so what do you do?"

Vettel also played down suggestions that Schumacher may have attracted the attention of the stewards for his move, insisting that that was not the necessary course of action.

"I don't think so," he maintained, "I think I will talk to him, [but] I don't think we need penalties all the time. It's probably easier for us to judge from the inside of the car than for the stewards.

"As I said, I think the problem, in a way, comes because the pit entry is on the right, the corner goes to the left. It's nobody's fault, it's not Spa or the circuit to blame and, as I said, it's not Michael to blame. I will talk to him and that's it. I think that's the way we should handle this kind of situation.

"We got away with it, nothing happened but, if we crashed, it would have meant the end for both our races. I think that's the approach I would have. When I crashed into Jenson [Button in 2010], fortunately he had already left for the airport, but I gave him a call and apologised. I think that's part of the sport. In the end, I think you should treat people the way you expect people to treat you."

Mentioning the accident which effectively ended Button's hopes of claiming back-to-back titles in his first year with McLaren provoked a little banter between the top two finishers in 2012, before Vettel admitted that he was to blame for misjudging a move at a point on the circuit that proved to a favourite of his this time around.

"For some reason, it seemed better on the way back, to attack into the chicane," he explained, "You also have more of a braking zone, which I think allows you to be a little bit more flexible and try something, which I did for most of the people, round the outside.

"I f*cked up a couple of years ago when I pushed [Button] out of the race, so I learned my lesson. It was very tight, but I knew I had to get past [this time]. I was somewhere, sitting in twelfth or tenth position at the beginning of the race, and obviously the target was to have a chat [in the press conference] at the end of it, so I knew I had a bit on. I tried everything and, most of the time, it seemed to work, so I was quite happy with that."