Oct.31 (GMM) The drama was behind Lewis Hamilton as the Briton kept his world championship hopes just alive in Mexico.
Teammate Nico Rosberg, however, duly finished second, meaning that a win Brazil next time out will guarantee the title for Mercedes’ German driver.
“Nico is doing a great job to pull in the positions that he has to finish,” said Hamilton.
In truth, the real drama was behind the silver-clad pair in Mexico, even though Max Verstappen’s driving almost played a role in the title with a clash with Rosberg.
Mercedes chiefs Niki Lauda and Toto Wolff were furious.
Lauda said it was “unacceptable”, saying it is obvious “the anger of the (other) drivers is growing”.
But Dutchman Verstappen was defended by Red Bull boss Christian Horner.
“Max does not see Nico fighting for the title, he sees an opportunity to attack. That is why he is such a great driver,” he said.
Indeed, Max finished third on the line but the FIA shunted him off the podium with a stewards ruling.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was put on the podium in his place, only to be also relegated by the FIA in a post-race decision about his duel with Verstappen.
“It’s ridiculous what Vettel did,” he said. “Daniel (Ricciardo) was alongside him and he just turned into him.”
Red Bull’s Dr Helmut Marko said: “There was a new rule (about moving under braking) in the last race but I have never seen a more drastic move than Vettel’s.”
Verstappen continued: “Then he is shouting and I don’t know how many times he is using very bad language. I think he needs to go back to school.”
Some of that language was directed even at race director Charlie Whiting, who was deliberating about a separate on-track run-in with Vettel.
Vettel’s radio message was: “Here is a message to Charlie – f— off. Honestly, f— off.”
Marko commented: “Vettel’s behaviour is unworthy of a four-time world champion.”
In fact, it is believed FIA president Jean Todt is unhappy with the attack, with The Sun newspaper claiming a race ban for Vettel is even a possibility.
“I do wonder if Sebastian will get away with it,” said Horner.
Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene immediately told Vettel to “calm down”, and later revealed that his German driver apologised in person to Whiting.
Many of Vettel’s rivals think he is obviously frustrated at Ferrari.
“He is just a very frustrated guy,” said Verstappen.
Ricciardo agreed: “He is obviously a bit frustrated this year.”
And Nico Hulkenberg said: “In his eyes, the whole world is always against him. But what he said was pretty extreme.”
Arrivabene insisted: “There is no frustration, it’s just Sebastian’s temperament. He is a guy who wears his heart on his sleeve.
“Sebastian apologised to Charlie, we talked with him — that’s all.”