Sebastian Vettel says sorry to Valtteri Bottas for French GP crash
Vettel loses title lead after losing his front wing at first corner in France; Mercedes question severity of penalty imposed on Ferrari driver
By James Galloway at Paul Ricard
Last Updated: 10/12/18 1:25pm
Sebastian Vettel said he went to see Valtteri Bottas after Sunday's French GP, as the Ferrari driver took responsibility for the opening-corner crash which ended both drivers' hopes of challenging Lewis Hamilton for victory.
Bottas was tapped into a spin and sustained a puncture, while Vettel broke his car's front wing, when the Ferrari driver missed his braking and hit the Mercedes as they battled for second place behind Hamilton in to Turn One at Paul Ricard.
Vettel had enjoyed the better start and ran on Hamilton's tail towards the first corner, but Bottas came back down the outside and was ahead into the braking zone before the contact.
"In the end there wasn't that much that I could have done different," Vettel said.
"Just a bit the wrong place [at the wrong time]. What you don't see is I lose a lot of grip and I saw the two cars [Bottas and Verstappen] running round the outside trying to get their position on me because I was stuck. But I couldn't slow down more than I did
"I lost the car and hit Valtteri. I guess the rule is causing a collision and that's what I did because I lost the car. Was it intentionally? Certainly not, because it could have been the end of the race for me.
"For Valtteri, it was very bad because it affected his race and he had nothing to do with it, so I went to him after the race."
Stewards swiftly found Vettel at fault and handed him a five-second time penalty, which he served at his second pit stop later in the race, plus placed two penalty points on his superlicence to take him up to five for the last 12 months.
While both drivers had to pit for emergency repairs at the end of the opening lap, the clash did more lasting damage to Bottas' afternoon.
Vettel recovered to fifth place, with Bottas seventh.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said: "The damage was quite extensive, because it damaged the floor, and Valtteri's comments on the car were that it was shocking to drive afterwards. That's why it ruined his race.
"To be honest, with Sebastian, Sebastian misjudged the situation and took himself out of the race and lost valuable points. It bites them both."
Mercedes' Hamilton and Mercedes' Niki Lauda both questioned whether the five-second sanction was sufficiently harsh given the incident.
"Whether five seconds is sufficient or not, I don't want to judge that," Wolff added. "I guess where the stewards came from is that both were last at that stage of the race, so that was damage enough."