Sebastian Vettel believes Max Verstappen did not leave him enough room and unnecessarily “pushed” in his defence as the pair clashed in the early stages of the Japanese Grand Prix.

Vettel made a quick start from eighth on the grid and progressed into fourth when Verstappen and Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen duelled at the final chicane, with the Dutchman forcing Raikkonen wide and picking up a five-second time penalty in the process.

Following a Safety Car period for debris on track, Vettel closed onto the back of Verstappen and went for a lunge on the run to Spoon, only for the pair to make contact, sending the German into a spin that dropped him to 19th.

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The clash was investigated by the race stewards who ultimately opted not to take further action, concluding the collision was a racing incident.

“I mean I was obviously pushing to get past but I wasn’t desperate to get past,” Vettel said.

“I also felt we were faster. He was then clipping on the straight with the battery and I was catching, I had a good exit, obviously the Safety Car helped to be closer.

“Then the gap was there but as soon as he saw me, he defended but I had the inside and as soon as he realises somebody is close or next to him he tries to, in my opinion, push when you shouldn’t push anymore.

“I mean look at Kimi, he’s off the track, he comes back. If Kimi just drives on they collide but it’s not always right the other guy has to move. We are all racing, the race is long.”

“For me the gap was there, otherwise I don’t do it,” he added. “I think I got through the whole field without any trouble. Sometimes closer, sometimes with more margin.

“It is normal that sometimes it gets close but you’ve got always to leave the space and in that case I couldn’t go anywhere, then we touched.”

Vettel recovered from the rear of the field to finish a lonely sixth behind Raikkonen, leaving him 67 points adrift of race-winner Lewis Hamilton in the title race, meaning the Briton can wrap up his fifth championship crown as early as the next race in Austin.

Vettel stressed he does not regret the move, despite knowing he would have more than likely gained the position at a later stage once Verstappen had served his time penalty.

When asked if he will think twice when attacking Verstappen in future, Vettel replied: “Do you ask him whether he should think twice when he defends?

“In the end we’re all racing so, this is part of racing don’t get me wrong. I don’t regret the move.

“Obviously with that outcome you would do different because with hindsight it’s always easy but as I said, inside the car, the gap was there.

“His battery was clipping, I was boosting, I saved my battery, I had more speed, I would make the corner, I was side by side then he didn’t give enough room and we touched.”

Verstappen felt he gave Vettel enough room and suggested the German was being over-ambitious in attempting a move at a corner “you can’t overtake” at.

“In that corner you can’t overtake,” he said. “I even gave him space but he understeered into my car. It’s a shame but still happy to be on the podium.”

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