Picture: Jean-Paul Pelissier / Reuters.

Le Castellet, France - Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton has defended title rival Sebastian Vettel against charges of being prone to costly mistakes.

The Ferrari driver collided with the Briton's Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas at the start of Sunday's French Grand Prix, an error that handed the championship lead to eventual race winner Hamilton.

Vettel's 2017 title bid collapsed due to mistakes and misfortune, and Hamilton was asked whether he was surprised his fellow four times world champion was still making them at such a level.

"I’m not really going to get into that," said the Briton, now 14 points clear at the top and with the races coming in quick succession.

"I know what you’re saying but it is really a racing incident in turn one, and those things can happen. We’re all going into that first corner at great speeds.

"I don’t feel that he’s particularly made more mistakes," added Hamilton, who won from pole position without putting a wheel wrong.

The Briton has now gone a record 33 successive races in the points.

"We’re all on the edge, we’re fighting for the world championships, we’re not pootling around, we’re out there putting our lives on the line," said Hamilton.

"We’re out there putting the cars as far beyond the edge as we can in the safest manner. It’s not like a train track, you don’t just stay on the rails. Sometimes you can go off. We’re only human."

Change your style!

However, Max Verstappen jokingly suggested Sebastian Vettel should change his style after Sunday's collision.

The comment was one that Red Bull's 20-year-old Dutch driver has himself heard frequently enough this season.

"Honestly, it's not acceptable. That's what they said to me at the beginning of the season, so I think they should do the same," Verstappen told reporters.

"And then, of course, Seb shouldn't do anything and just drive again and learn from this and go on. That's my advice to everyone in this room."

Verstappen has finished on the podium in three of the last four races after an accident-prone start to the season.

Asked about Verstappen's comment, Vettel refused to rise to the bait.

"I'm too old for this stuff," he said with a smile, adding that with hindsight he would have been better off making a slower start and then fighting back.

"My start was very good but then I had no place to go," he said. "I tried to get out of it but in turn one it got very tight.

"I was very close to Lewis in front and Valtteri tried obviously to get his position back. He was under pressure from Max as far as I saw as well. And then I had no grip and lost the car," he added.

"There wasn't that much that I could have done differently."

Mutual respect

Hamilton, who still felt Vettel should have been given more than a five-second penalty, and his rival have been full of mutual respect since their rivalry took off in earnest last season.

They have also had their spats, notably in Azerbaijan last year when they collided in a 'road rage' incident and Vettel accused the Mercedes driver of 'brake testing' him - allegations he quickly withdrew and apologised for.

Vettel also jumped to Hamilton's defence in Bahrain last April when the Briton was caught insulting Dutch youngster Max Verstappen in the drivers' room before the podium celebrations.

"I don't know what Lewis did, but we've all been in that situation. We fight someone and sometimes we go wheel-to-wheel and it's close - and we have a lot of adrenaline going," the German said at the time.