Lewis Hamilton fears a dangerous precedent has been set regarding Sebastian Vettel’s Safety Car restart tactics in the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, claiming his Formula 1 rival broke the rules. 

Vettel led the way as a Safety Car was deployed following a number of incidents on the opening lap, which littered debris across the Baku City Circuit. As was his right as race leader, the German dictated the pace at the front as he slowed the field and accelerated as late as possible in a bid to reduce the length of the main straight and prevent his rivals from gaining from a strong tow. 

Hamilton, who claimed the lead of the championship for the first time in 2018 with a surprise victory in Baku, believes Vettel actions went too far and risked a potential accident. At last year’s race in Azerbaijan Hamilton and Vettel collided under the Safety Car, with the latter falsely claiming the Briton had brake-tested him. 

"The rules are that, when the Safety Car goes, you are not allowed to start and stop, start and stop," Hamilton said. "You are not allowed to gas and then brake and you are not allowed to fake the guy behind. Naturally, if there was not that rule that is what you would do because it would eventually catch them sleeping. But you are not allowed to do that.

"You are allowed to weave but you are not allowed to start and stop, start and stop -- that's against the rules. If you look at all the times and examples -- particularly the four restarts I did last year -- I didn't do that and I abided by the rules.

"In Australia, Sebastian accelerated and then braked and I nearly went up the back end of him. In Baku he did it like four times. I need to speak to Charlie [Whiting, FIA race director] because I don't fully understand it. As far as I'm aware Charlie passed it on to the stewards and the stewards didn't do anything about it. 

“I think the stewards supposedly said that all the other cars were doing it, but we are the leaders so it cascades down and it's a domino effect. So what the first car does, everyone does the same thing.”

And Hamilton said he plans to raise the issue at the next drivers’ briefing at the upcoming Spanish Grand Prix as he wants clarification about what is deemed as acceptable or not. 

"If the rules aren't clear, that now sets a precedent, so anyone who is leading a grand prix under a Safety Car can start and stop -- and that goes the same down to Formula 2, Formula 3, Formula 4 because they are not going to get penalised. 

“I don't understand, because the rule is that you're not allowed to. So I need to get that rectified when we next have the briefing, because clearly they don't care about it and if that's the case we will see more of it.

"I will expect that from him next time I'm racing and I will prepare for it. If you noticed, I already put my car to the right to avoid a collision because he was starting and stopping, otherwise I would tuck in behind."

Whiting was adamant that Vettel had done nothing wrong, after confirming the FIA stewards had examined the restart.

"I think he [Vettel] controlled it very well but it's up to the leading driver to say when we go," he explained. "Unlike some other series, they have an acceleration zone, a place where you can accelerate. You can't do it before or after that. Once it goes green, the Safety Car comes into the pits, it's up to the leader to decide when he is going to go.

"This is a tricky place, they catch the Safety Car too early if they go too quickly. I think Seb controlled it well. There was a bit of a complaint from Lewis that he wasn't going at a constant rate, but if you look down the field, there's a few places where that happens. To expect them to go at one speed doesn't happen. So long as no one does anything dangerous, we're happy.”

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