SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton accused Williams driver Sergey Sirotkin of being “disrespectful” on Saturday after a near-miss with the Russian in Brazilian Grand Prix qualifying.
Both were on an ‘out’ lap in the second phase of qualifying — positioning themselves for a quick following lap by keeping a gap with the car in front.
Sirotkin then came up fast behind Mercedes’ five times champion, who jinked to the left but almost into the Russian’s path as the Williams took evasive action by running onto the grass.
“I was making sure I had the gap but then all of a sudden...I saw a car coming at high speed so I was like ‘Oh my God, is that someone on a lap?’,” Hamilton, who qualified on pole position, told reporters.
“So I went to move to the left and that’s where he decided to go but he wasn’t on a (quick) lap, so I don’t really know what his thinking was really...
“We all know to keep our space by that point so it was generally quite a disrespectful move in the sense of where it was dangerous between us both, because I was not expecting it to happen that way.”
Hamilton said the Russian rookie than slowed at the next corner to make sure of his gap and let him pass, which he defined as “kind of strange.”
“Ultimately his lap and my lap weren’t great from that so hopefully he can learn from it,” said the Briton, who wrapped up the championship in Mexico last month.
Stewards later summoned Sirotkin for another offence, driving unnecessarily slowly on an in-lap.
Sirotkin, making a rare appearance in the second phase of qualifying for his struggling team, felt Hamilton had done nothing wrong but also defended himself.
He explained that his team had no pre-warmed tyres ready for him, which meant he had to push hard to get heat into them so they would perform.
“I don’t think there is anything he did wrong. It was just the situation that I had to push, which was quite unusual for the out-lap, but these things can happen,” he said.
“If you look generally at what I am doing on track, there are not many other drivers who pay so much respect, especially to the leading cars that I know are fighting for the title.”
Writing by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Ian Chadband