Lewis Hamilton has hit back at Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel's victory celebrations after the British Grand Prix.
Hamilton will head into Sunday’s German Grand Prix eight points adrift in the championship standings following the Ferrari driver’s win at Silverstone a fortnight ago.
Vettel celebrated his victory by roaring in Italian over the Ferrari radio: “We are leaving with the British flag to hang at (Ferrari’s headquarters in) Maranello. We have won here at their home.”
Ferrari stoked the rivalry further by headlining their triumphant post-race press release with an ironic play on words. “A hammer blow,” they wrote.
Mercedes’ Formula One operation is based only a stone’s throw from Silverstone, while Hamilton’s comeback drive from last to second – after he was punted off at the first corner by Vettel’s Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen – was cheered on by 140,000 British fans.
Responding to Vettel’s radio message, Hamilton said: “I heard something was said, but I see that as an act of weakness. It doesn’t affect me whatsoever. Good for him.
“We will keep our heads down, keep quiet, and focus on doing a better job across the board. That is our approach right now.
“I hope that when we do a good job this weekend, we won’t respond by saying, ‘oh, we did it at his home ground’. That is not necessary.”
Hamilton’s own conscience wasn’t exactly clear in the moments after his defeat at Silverstone. He snubbed an interview with broadcaster Martin Brundle before accusing Ferrari of dirty play.
Hamilton’s wild theory was that Ferrari had hatched a plan to wipe him out of contention by ordering Raikkonen to bang into him on purpose.
A day later, Hamilton admitted he got it wrong, and said sorry to Raikkonen in a series of apologetic posts to his 6.7million Instagram followers.
“Obviously it was silly to say,” Vettel said as he reflected on Hamilton’s accusation. “We are racing and we have all been there. It is never great if you get hit when you have done nothing wrong. It’s two weeks ago. We move on.”
Hamilton and Mercedes moved on by ending the 33-year-old Briton’s long-running contract saga by ensuing his future on the grid for at least another two seasons.
He will be rewarded with an eye-watering £80million, and will once again be partnered by Valtteri Bottas after Mercedes resisted the temptation of signing Daniel Ricciardo from Red Bull.
The scars of three years of toxic in-fighting between Hamilton and Nico Rosberg remain too raw, while Bottas has proved an able understudy.
“I am sure for the team there were questions and discussions at lunch,” Hamilton continued. “‘Is he staying? Is he not staying?’ So, now this has been announced it has stopped all of that, and we can now embark on a strong future together.
“I now can put every bit of energy and every bit of thought into this championship. There are no questions lingering around so for the team that is a positive, and we need all the positive energy we can get to fight.
“We’ve not won enough races this year and, at times, we’ve definitely stumbled. A small stumble this year is magnified because it’s so close but I’m super-focused on making sure we get everything and more out of the car, and myself, so we can win this weekend.”
Hamilton finished second in both practice sessions on Friday with Ricciardo, and latterly Max Verstappen, leading the way for Red Bull. Vettel was fourth fastest.