SEBASTIAN VETTEL refused to criticise the race director’s decision which paved the way for Max Verstappen’s dramatic win.
Former F1 world champion Sebastian Vettel has defended FIA chief Michael Masi for his role in the dramatic ending to Sunday’s season finale in Abu Dhabi. Max Verstappen pipped Lewis Hamilton to the drivers’ title on the final lap at Yas Marina after a hugely controversial decision was taken by Masi involving the safety car.
The two drivers came into the race tied on points, knowing that whoever claimed the win, or simply finished the highest, would take the trophy.
Hamilton overtook Verstappen on the first lap and, after some wheel-to-wheel racing, had built up a sizable lead going into the closing stages of the final race of the season.
But the Mercedes driver’s chances of claiming a record eighth title were dented when Nicholas Latifi crashed to bring out the safety car with five laps to go.
Red Bull took the opportunity to bring second-placed Verstappen into the pits for new tyres, but Mercedes decided to keep Hamilton on the track to maintain his lead, despite having wearing tyres.
Controversy and confusion then occurred with race director Masi allowing the lapped cars between Hamilton and Verstappen to unlap themselves, but not those between the Dutchman and Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari in third.
This gave Verstappen a clear run at Hamilton and he made his tyre advantage count, passing the Brit on the final lap to claim the title.
Mercedes lodged an appeal against the decision, claiming Masi had not applied the rules correctly, but their protests were rejected.
Vettel, who drives for Aston Martin and finished 11th in Abu Dhabi and 12th overall in the drivers championship, offered his take on the hop topic after the race.
“Everyone has an opinion, I think leave the stewards alone, it’s tough enough as it is,” he said.
“Ideally we’d like more consistency but there’s also a human side, so it’s probably difficult to get it 100 per cent right, but it has to be our target, so we need to see what we can improve.
“But I don’t think it has been any better or any worse than the past, with the exception of the fines for reprimands, in terms of cash, that’s just unnecessary.
“I think it looks stupid to ask for 10,000, 15,000, 25,000… I would like to see the receipt what happens with the money.”
Vettel won four consecutive titles between 2010 and 2013 for Red Bull and admitted before the race that he wanted Verstappen to win.
The German is a huge fan of Michael Schumacher and said he did not want Hamilton to move one title clear of the F1 legend by winning for an eighth time.
“Michael is my hero. For that reason, I probably don’t want Lewis to win,” he said.
“I get along with Lewis so as I said, the gut says I want Max to win just to keep Michael’s record alive, but my head is quite clean, quite clear in terms of may the better man win.”