McLaren F1 team principal Martin Whitmarsh is usually a measured kind of guy when it comes to dishing out criticism to rivals, but he certainly did not mince his words on Sunday on the subject of Sebastian Vettel after the young Red Bull driver slammed into Jenson Button’s car, probably not only ruining his own world championship chances but also those of the reigning title holder.
In a stinging critique of Vettel - which many felt was fully justified on this occasion – Whitmarsh laid into his team’s rival and at the same time in effect questioned whether the penalty for his serious driving error was sufficient, given the consequences for Button. But to be fair to Whitmarsh, his observations seemed prompted more by frustration than anger on a day when Lewis Hamilton had driven a beautiful Belgian GP to win at Spa for the first time.
"It was not what you would expect to see in F1 - more reminiscent of junior formulae," Whitmarsh said on Sunday after the race. "A drive-through seemed a pretty light punishment to me."
Whitmarsh added that he did not understand why Vettel put himself in such a position on the track as he fought Button – who was struggling with a damaged front wing. "It was a bit of a strange mistake I have to say," he commented. "I realise it was not intentional but it was a pretty strange one really. If he was going for the inside he had three inches to sneak down there, so God knows what he thought he was doing. That was frustrating. But that is motor racing; we've got to move on now."
He added: "He [Vettel] is a nice guy and he didn't need to do it, but when you keep doing these things you have to reflect on what is on your mind on this occasion. It looked like he was trying to go for an inside gap where, as I said, there were a few inches. What he thought he was doing there, I don't know. And he lost it. I would rather he did it with his team-mates rather than do it with us!"
As triple world champion Jackie Stewart added thoughtfully, “It was just a case of youthful exuberance for Vettel getting a bit out of hand. And a reminder that, even during his third year in F1, there is still much to learn.”