Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: In a rarely-seen showing of competitive camaraderie, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel swapped crash helmets to demonstrate the mutual respect between them after Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The five-time champion Briton, of Mercedes, and four-time champion German, of Ferrari, finished first and second in Sunday’s race and have won eight of the last nine drivers’ championship titles.
"The ultimate respect between racing drivers," said Mercedes on Monday in a comment on Twitter alongside a short video clip of the pair exchanging their head-wear.
The duo have scrapped for the last two world titles with Hamilton coming out on top both times, but their rivalry has been characterised by a fair sporting relationship.
Hamilton said the exchange of their helmets was an honorary gesture that was comparable to players swapping shirts after football matches.
"This is kind of an honorary thing that drivers do, so this is the highest regard of respect that we can have as drivers," he said in the video post. "This is like our jerseys. So here's one of mine…
"Great job this year and it's a real pleasure racing against you."
Vettel said he had been “looking forward" to making the swap with Hamilton for the first time. "Well done to you," he responded. "Five championships -- that is a great achievement. I hope I stop you from any more."
As the pair smiled and posed, Hamilton told Vettel he will not "be able actually to use it" because the German driver has “a small head.”
The goodwill between the two leading championship contenders produced a warm glow to the end of a memorable season and Hamilton’s 11th victory of the year.
But the race may be remembered as much for the opening lap crash that resulted in German driver Nico Hulkenberg’s airborne barrel-roll into the barriers where he was left hanging upside down until marshals rescued him as flames began to erupt from his car.
He escaped unhurt and was able to joke about being ‘near the barbecue’ after the race as speculation mounted that his car’s ‘halo’ cockpit protection device may have been hampered his extraction.
That was quelled on Monday when Formula One’s official race director Charlie Whiting said that the halo on his Renault had not slowed his extraction at the Yas Marina Circuit. Hulkenberg had said he felt and was “hanging like a cow” before he was rescued.
Asked if the halo was a problem in the extraction of Hulkenberg, Whiting said: “No, not at all. We knew he was okay. There’s nothing to worry about there.
"The routine under those circumstances is to put the car back on its wheels… which has to be done carefully, of course.
"He was able to get out by himself. It was very controlled from what I could see. Our medical delegate was more than happy with the way it was done. It all worked exactly as it should.
"When you have an accident like that, the radio from the car is automatically routed to race control, so that we get immediate information.
"Drivers normally say ‘I’m fine’ or ‘I’m okay’. So we get that and we relay that to the doctors on the way to the scene, so they know that he’s okay.
"Then, they can take their time to get the car righted and just let him get out. Quite clearly, it’s one of the sort of accidents that the halo was designed to help with because it provides more space for the driver once the car is upside down."