Sebastian Vettel critical of Max Verstappen over Suzuka clash

Sebastian Vettel has defended his attempted passing move on Max Verstappen that ultimately wrecked his comeback drive at Formula 1’s Japanese Grand Prix.

Vettel had worked his way from eighth to fourth and was reeling in Verstappen after just seven laps of the race, with the Dutchman already facing a five-second time drop.

Vettel dived to the inside into Spoon Curve but the pair collided; Verstappen continued and came home third while Vettel dropped to the rear of the field and classified sixth.

It added a further dent in his slender title ambitions and now trails Lewis Hamilton by 67 points.

“I went for the gap that was there and as soon as Max saw that I was side-by-side, he tried everything to squeeze me but didn’t give me any room,” he said.

“So, then it was then inevitable to make contact.

“Being that close as well through Spoon, I was quite sure that it would be difficult to stay there and try something on the back straight.

“I was fairly open-minded when coming out of the hairpin. The tow that I had was very powerful and the gap was there. As I said, I was side-by-side.

“I think the problem was that as soon as he saw I was side by side, he opened the brakes, tried to push.

“But, I think that’s wrong because I don’t think he makes the corner either.

“He just looks at me but I think he should keep the overview of the track and we should both try and make the corner in the first place and then sort out who is inside, outside, first, second, whatever.

“I don’t want this to end up as Sebastian says this, Max says this. I will talk about it with him when it’s the right time. This way I prefer. But obviously you ask me these questions so I give you my answer.”

Vettel dismissed suggestions that he could have waited longer before trying to pass the Red Bull driver.

“What do you think? How many times you can afford to wait? Obviously, I am racing not just him. I’m racing also the guys in front ideally.

“His battery was derating, I saw the light flashing.

“I saved up my battery on the way up through the Esses, trying to stay close, had a good exit from the hairpin and had a big tow through Turn 12 and was side-by-side when we hit the brakes and turned in.

“I had similar encounters with others and we managed to make it through the corner.

“Obviously, not the prime overtaking spot. But, if you’re side-by-side then I think that it’s fair. In the occasion I did my best to try and avoid contact. But he kept closing, then where am I supposed to go?”