Lewis Hamilton has revealed high-ranking FIA stewards told him they did not believe Sebastian Vettel crashed into him on purpose at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, giving the Ferrari driver the benefit of the doubt in one of the most controversial incidents of the season.
In a bizarre loss of composure, Vettel drove into the side of Hamilton in Baku while the pair were preparing for a restart behind the Safety Car. The Ferrari driver believed he had been brake-tested by his title rival exiting the previous corner and in a moment of fury drove alongside Hamilton and turned into him.
Vettel was punished with a stop-go penalty in the race but avoided further sanctions after apologising to FIA president Jean Todt in person. But Hamilton has now revealed that some FIA stewards told him they felt the incident had been an accident rather than deliberate.
"I think the worst thing was there were certain individuals who I spoke to later on and they'd be like 'he didn't do it on purpose surely'," Hamilton told Sky Sports. "And I'd be like 'don't you realise we're both at the top of motorsport, F1, we both know how to drive a car in a straight line?'
"And this is like high up stewards who'd say this and then afterwards they'd say 'maybe you're right, maybe you're right'. I'd be like 'what race were you watching?'"
Speaking in the same interview, Hamilton said the 2017 title race had been his biggest challenge yet.
"My whole mindset was there's a four-time world champion we're competing against. There's no-one else in my view or in my mirrors, it's just him and it's going to take everything to extract everything from the car weekend in, weekend out.
"If I don't he will and also he's going to be consistent because he's a four-time world champion so I've got to be even better and try to raise the bar every time."