Hamilton is left furious as Vettel points way forward
Lewis Hamilton pulled no punches in his damning assessment of Max Verstappen after branding the Red Bull driver a "d*******" following their collision in yesterday's thrilling Bahrain Grand Prix.
Defending champion Hamilton lost further ground to Sebastian Vettel in their title battle after the Ferrari driver masterfully managed a one-stop strategy to hold off Valtteri Bottas and claim his second victory in as many races.
Hamilton had to be content with filling the final spot on the podium after he started ninth. Indeed, it may have been one place lower, but for Kimi Raikkonen's retirement following a dramatic pit-stop collision with his own Ferrari mechanic.
The mechanic suffered a broken leg in an incident befitting the thrill-a-minute race that remained impossible to predict until the moment Vettel took the chequered flag.
Hamilton's flashpoint with Verstappen arrived on the second lap. Both drivers were in unfamiliar positions after Hamilton started down the order following a grid penalty and Verstappen's qualifying crash.
The Red Bull driver sensed blood in his early pursuit of Hamilton, but his no-holds-barred move cost him dearly.
Verstappen lunged underneath Hamilton on the 220mph turn one charge, inadvertently colliding with the Mercedes car. Hamilton lived to fight another day, but Verstappen sustained an ultimately terminal left-rear puncture.
Seconds after removing his helmet in the green room before the podium, the Englishman watched a replay. "Such a d*******," Hamilton said. The stewards took no action, but Hamilton was clearly aggrieved.
"I had a coming together with Max and it was an unnecessary collision," said a marginally more reflective Hamilton. "There needs to be a certain respect between drivers.
"It didn't feel like a respectful manoeuvre, and it was a silly manoeuvre because he didn't finish the race. Obviously, he has made a few mistakes recently."
Verstappen did not concur.
"In my opinion there was plenty of room for both of us to go around that corner and to say 'no action taken' by the stewards is a bit harsh. If it was the other way around I'm sure he (Hamilton) would want it looked into."
Bottas was breathing down Vettel's neck in the final exchanges, but despite a semi-attempt at glory on the last lap, the German crossed the line 0.6 seconds clear of the Mercedes.
The feeling in the paddock last night was that the other Mercedes driver would have given Vettel a better run for his money.
"I came on the radio with 10 laps to go and said I had everything under control, but that was a lie as I had nothing under control," said a jubilant Vettel, who is now 17 points clear of Hamilton.
"When they told me the pace of Valtteri I thought there is no way I could do that. I was doing the maths in my car. I tried to nurse the tyres as much as I could. It worked, but only just."