Lewis Hamilton produced a classy gesture on podium after Russian Grand Prix

AUTO-F1-PRIX-RUS

Defending Formula One champion and 2018 leader Lewis Hamilton survived a near collision with arch-rival Sebastian Vettel to win the Russian Grand Prix in dramatic fashion on Sunday.

The usual celebratory mood on the podium was marred by the incident, with the Englishman chatting to runner-up and Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, but pointedly having little to say to the German, who was 40 points behind him going into Sunday’s race and finished third.

With the victory, Hamilton has opened up a further 10 points on his lead at the top of the standings, but the controversial incident on Lap 16 also appears to have added another element to the long-standing rivalry between the drivers.

Vettel appeared to move twice into the path of Hamilton’s vehicle to thwart his bid to overtake him.

The Ferrari driver had taken a pitstop on Lap 14 for new tyres and then immediately succeeded in overtaking Hamilton, who really was seeing red when he spotted the Ferrari drive by him.

“Guys, how did that happen?” he exclaimed in frustration.

Major drama unfolded when Hamilton went full speed ahead at Vettel; his camera seemed to show the four-time F1 World Champion swerving into his path twice as their cars came within inches of each other.

Collision somehow avoided, the Mercedes lead driver was eventually able to pull away on the inside on the next turn.

The incident provoked gasps from onlookers and whipped up a heated debate into who was at fault in the incident.

Race stewards were reportedly examining footage to determine if Vettel had moved twice.

Asked if he considered the German had indeed moved twice, former F1 driver and TV commentator Paul di Resta said: “I saw him move once, but not sure about twice. Hamilton was coming pretty quick and he has the right to block it off – you have to have a car in front. I think on the balance of it he’ll probably get away with it.”

Hamilton started the race behind teammate Bottas in pole position after qualifying on Saturday, with Vettel in third spot behind them.

After team orders were received by both Hamilton and Bottas, the Brit overtook the Finn to win the Grand Prix, and afterwards, Hamilton made it clear that he didn't feel too great winning the race in that fashion.

His post-race interview was rather downbeat, and than on the podium, he wanted to hand the trophy to Bottas, who politely refused.

A class gesture from Hamilton, but a surprisingly tough day for Mercedes.

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