Lewis Hamilton has said Sebastian Vettel deserves more respect after moving to defend his championship rival.
Vettel attracted criticism for his collision with Max Verstappen at Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix which leaves Hamilton on the brink of winning his fifth world title.
The Ferrari driver’s coming together with Verstappen was his seventh significant error of the campaign, and his 10th in two seasons fighting Hamilton for the championship.
But Hamilton, who will secure the title if he wins in Austin, Texas next Sunday and Vettel fails to finish second, insists the German is owed greater credit.
“You simply cannot imagine how hard it is to do what we do at our level, for any athlete at the top of their game that is.
“It is to be expected that being humans we will make mistakes but it is how we get through them that counts.”
While a dominant Hamilton, who will visit the Mercedes factory in Brackley, Northamptonshire on Wednesday, has secured six victories in seven rounds of remarkable racing, Vettel and Ferrari’s championship challenge has fallen dramatically off the rails.
Ferrari were at fault for putting Vettel on the wrong tyres in Saturday’s dry-wet qualifying session in Suzuka before the German’s clash with Verstappen in the race dropped him to last. He recovered to finish sixth.
Vettel protested his innocence afterwards, and said Verstappen was to blame. Toto Wolff, the Mercedes team principal, didn’t believe Vettel was at fault.
“I’m not sure it was his mistake,” he said. “Sebastian recovered well from his starting position and at that stage was a solid fourth.
“As a racing driver you either have to go for it or not and the door looked open. He gave it a go but a racing incident caused him to drop all the way back.”