Lewis Hamilton ‘like’ stokes the flames of rivalry with Sebastian Vettel

Lewis Hamilton has stoked the flames of his rivalry with Sebastian Vettel by appearing to endorse a social media post which criticises the German and Formula One’s governing body.

Vettel, 30, escaped further punishment from the FIA on Monday after he accepted full responsibility for causing a deliberate collision with Hamilton at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

The four-time champion also issued an apology to the Englishman via a statement which he released on his personal website.

Hamilton is yet to officially comment on the FIA’s ruling, but ‘liked’ a damning Instagram post published on Monday night.

The message was critical of Vettel’s actions, the FIA’s handling of the case, and suggested that the sport’s governing body would not have been as lenient towards Hamilton.

The FIA was unavailable for comment yesterday.

“Lost all respect for the FIA, Ferrari and Sebastian Vettel after that ruling,” the post, published by tillykeeper_zackfan, said.

“The message this sends is that you can do whatever you want on track, smash into each other, but if you suck up and just apologise, you get away with it.

“If that was Lewis, he’d get banned, fined and points deducted. FIA are a bias set of fools towards Ferrari. Always have been and always will (be).”

Hamilton, who has more than four and a half million followers on Instagram, was one of more than 100 people to ‘like’ the post.

Following a meeting at the FIA’s Paris headquarters on Monday — at which Vettel was accompanied by Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene — the German issued a private apology before releasing a public statement in which he acknowledged that he had “caused a dangerous situation’’ and “overreacted’’ after swerving into Hamilton’s car on lap 19 of the chaotic Baku race.

The FIA, of which former Ferrari team principal Jean Todt is president, could have elected to haul Vettel before the international tribunal with the threat of disqualification from the grand prix in Azerbaijan — and the 12 points he scored for finishing fourth — or indeed a race ban.

But although the sporting federation expressed its disdain at the championship leader’s conduct, it accepted his apology and closed the case.

As such, Vettel’s 14-point lead over Hamilton remains intact ahead of the next round of the championship in Austria on Sunday.

Hamilton branded Vettel a “disgrace’’ and “disrespectful’’ and said that the 10-second stop-and-go penalty which his rival served during the Baku race was not a firm enough punishment.

Despite his penalty, Vettel finished one place ahead of Hamilton after the British driver was forced into an unscheduled pit-stop when his headrest came loose.

Hamilton’s Mercedes boss Toto Wolff, however, moved to draw a line under the Baku incident.

“Every great Formula One season is marked by a great rivalry,” Wolff said.

“As calm as it started, it was only a matter of time until the rivalry would eventually become more fierce and controversial. That moment happened in Baku and we saw the results of that tension on track. We have moved past that moment now and it is a closed chapter.”



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