SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium -- Lewis Hamilton has questioned the FIA's decision to deploy a Safety Car in the closing stages of the Belgian Grand Prix, one he felt was made to ensure a close finish.
A collision between Force India drivers Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez left a piece of front wing and a scattering of debris on the long run down to Eau Rouge. Rather than deploy the Virtual Safety Car, which neutralises the pace of the race by ensuring drivers slow to a delta time to allow marshals to clear the circuit, the race stewards decided a Safety Car was needed.
Hamilton made his opinion clear over radio -- telling Mercedes he thought the call was "B.S" -- because the track had been cleared quickly. Though he managed to overcome a tyre disadvantage and hold off Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel at the restart and win the race, Hamilton criticised the deployment of the Safety Car after the race.
"I felt like it was a bit like NASCAR where they keep putting out the safety cars for no reason," Hamilton said. "The wing was clear after we'd slowed down, and they could have done a VSC but I guess they wanted to see a race. That's for sure the reason they did that, because there was hardly any debris, if at all because they'd cleaned it so well."
"Before that it was obviously close. The Ferraris I think genuinely had the upper hand particularly on race pace throughout the weekend. It was very, very strong today, and I was towing him around everywhere, so they were getting a good tow down the straights. On the restart the safety car was driving so slow, it was I guess to let the other people catch up, so keeping tyre temperature, given I was on the harder tyre, was very, very difficult."
The Safety Car period put Hamilton's lead in doubt because Mercedes was left with only soft tyres to fit on his car when he pitted, while Vettel was given the ultra-soft -- the quickest tyre in Pirelli's range. That meant the restart would be crucial in dictating the outcome of the race.
Vettel got close at La Source and then pulled alongside Hamilton on the long Kemmel Straight, but the Mercedes driver held firm to keep the lead into Les Combes. Hamilton believes the restart was an example of proper racing.
"I came to the restart, Sebastian was very, very close, the front tyres weren't switched on initially. He got a good tow. I think he was a little bit too close on the run out of Turn 1, so I think he had to lift off as he would have otherwise come by potentially before Eau Rouge which perhaps was a good thing for me because he lost a little bit of performance.
"He did a great race, he was very, very consistent throughout. It was fun to be racing against another team and Sebastian really at his best and the car at his best, battling within half a tenth every lap. That's what racing is about. I think they're able to keep up and follow quite closely for a long, long time, so I think they had the better pace today. But fortunately I was able to do just enough to stay ahead."