During the safety car period, race-leader Hamilton slowed unexpectedly and the following Vettel could not avoid making contact from his rear.
Promptly, the German reacted to what he deemed to be brake-testing by immediately drawing level with Hamilton and turning his car into his rival in a deliberate act of revenge. Vettel was at fault – “dangerous driving” – and handed him a 10-second stop-go.
Simultaneously Hamilton was forced to pit as the headrest on his W08 had come unfixed. The championship protagonists rejoined P8 and P7 and recovered to fourth and fifth respectively.
Vettel’s fourth-place finish to Hamilton’s fifth extended the German’s standings lead to 14 points.
“I didn’t brake check him at all,” Hamilton told British broadcaster Channel 4.
“For him to pretty much get away with driving into another driver is a disgrace. I think he disgraced himself today.
“If he wants to prove he is a man we should do it out of the car.
“What happened was disrespectful. Imagine all the young kids watching today, seeing that kind of behavior from a world champion.”
Vettel was more self-possessed in reply though defended his actions.
“I have no doubt he brake-checked me,” Vettel said. “I didn’t run into the back of him on purpose. There is then a chain reaction.
“I think it was very clear. In the end we are racing with men. If one of us gets a penalty, we both do. We are both grown up men. We want to race wheel to wheel.
“Every week in the Premier League you have refs blowing the whistle, and some players agree, some disagree. It’s the same here.”