On lap 19 Hamilton was backing the line-up in preparation for a safety car restart but at turn 15 seemed to catch out Vettel as he slammed into the rear of the Mercedes driver which caused them both to pick up damage.
Following the incident Vettel 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. But the FIA’s analysis of Azerbaijan Grand Prix found no evidence in telemetry data of Hamilton either brake-testing or lifting off unexpectedly in his clash with Vettel.
The stewards’ statement explained: “The stewards examined video evidence which showed that car #5 drove alongside and then steered into car #44.
“The stewards decide this manoeuvre was deemed potentially dangerous.”
Speaking about that moment, Vettel said: “I drove alongside, then we had a little contact but I drove alongside mostly to raise my hand.
“I didn’t give him a finger or anything, I just wanted to tell him – because I can’t literally talk to him – that that was not right.”
Hamilton later lost his lead having to pit to re-fix his head restraint while Vettel, issued a 10-second stop-and-go penalty for dangerous driving in hitting Hamilton, managed to leap his title rival.
The German was also given three penalty points for the incident with Hamilton – which means he now has a total of nine for the past 12 months.
Hamilton told Sky Sports News HQ: “The fact that that’s the only kind of result [the penalty] you could get from such disgusting driving, that means for the whole paddock we can all drive like that and you can still score fourth place and still get away with it.
“I don’t really know what the penalty for that kind of driving is because I haven’t come across that in terms of wheel-to-wheel battling with anyone. I can’t really remember coming across that, particularly in Formula 1. It’s just not sportsman conduct.”
In his media briefing at Baku, Hamilton added: “What happened was disrespectful. There are kids watching us on TV and to see a multi-world champion…you would think he would behave better than that. Today wasn’t fair play. Today was a different Sebastian we are seeing.”
“I think that’s been obvious for some time, look at the things last year he said on the radio. We know how he can be,” said the triple-time world champion.
“That can only be a positive – he is obviously under pressure. That shows that pressure can get to some of the best of us.”