Lewis Hamilton feels he was fortunate not to be involved in the clash between Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel during the Chinese Grand Prix but says he “thankful for the way Verstappen drives” as it boosted his Formula 1 world title picture.

With both Red Bulls charging up the order on fresh tyres after the safety car period during the Chinese race, Hamilton accepted he was powerless to stop both Verstappen and teammate Daniel Ricciardo from passing him in the closing stages.

Hamilton was directly behind Verstappen when he locked his rear brakes and clattered into Vettel at the hairpin, sending both drivers into a spin, which he feared he would be collected in with both drivers facing the wrong way on the track.

The Mercedes driver required avoiding action by going off track around the outside of the hairpin exit, which enabled Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen to dart up the inside to overtake him for third place, but having collided with Verstappen last week in Bahrain the British driver admitted he dreaded a repeat at the Shanghai International Circuit.

“I didn’t see them as I came towards the apex [of the hairpin] but I saw them both facing me,” Hamilton said. “I couldn’t do the tighter turn that Kimi did so I had to go left on the outside.

“I was definitely worried of catching them, particularly as they were trying to turn around so I thought I might get caught there.”

Despite losing a place to Raikkonen due to the incident Hamilton was grateful for the clash as it hampered F1 world championship leader Vettel who dropped to eighth place at the chequered flag. With Hamilton finishing a promoted fourth, after Verstappen’s 10-second post-race time penalty, the Mercedes driver has cut Vettel’s championship lead down to nine points.

“When I watched the replay, I don’t understand what he [Verstappen] was doing, but it wasn’t a problem to me,” he said. “I’m naturally thankful for the way he drives because that meant that we didn’t lose too many points.”

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