Ferrari's Spanish driver Fernando Alonso and Red Bull Racing's German driver Sebastian Vettel drive at the Hockenheimring circuit on July 22, 2012 in Hockenheim during the German Formula One Grand Prix. AFP PHOTO / THOMAS KIENZLE

McLaren have defended Lewis Hamilton's decision to pass Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel and un-lap himself during Sunday's German Grand Prix.

Hamilton, who fell to the back of the field after a second-lap puncture, emerged from his second pit stop with new tyres and chose to un-lap himself by passing Vettel, who was battling for the lead with eventual race-winner Fernando Alonso.

Vettel subsequently pitted and emerged behind Jenson Button in the other McLaren, whom he passed controversially to finish the race in second.

Vettel said Hamilton's decision to pass him was “stupid” and suggested it had ruined his chances of challenging Alonso for victory.

“That was not nice of Lewis,” he said. “I don't see why he was racing us,.

“If he wants to go fast he should drop back and find a gap. It was stupid as he was a lap down. I think that lost us the place to Button because shortly after that, we pitted.”

However, McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh defended his driver, claiming Hamilton's decision was perfectly legitimate.

“Racing drivers race,”

“He was quicker, he overtook and he pulled away,” Whitmarsh said. “I'm not sure what stupidity there is in that.”

McLaren's sporting director, Sam Michael, agreed and dismissed Vettel's argument that it had affected his race.

“Hamilton came out and he was fast,” he said.

“We said to him, you've got blue flags for Jenson. When you get a blue flag, you have two choices. You let the car past, or you speed up significantly.

“So we told him to speed up significantly and overtake Vettel and he did so. He didn't hold Vettel up at all because Vettel couldn't keep up with him. So it didn't have any material impact on Vettel's race and it's completely legal.”

Vettel was later hit with a 20-second penalty for his move on Button.

That dropped him to fifth place behind Kamui Kobayashi of Sauber and promoted Button to second.

Michael added that he agreed with the stewards' decision as Vettel had made no attempt to stay on the track.

“The stewards decided in Jenson's favour because Vettel left the track and gained an advantage,” he explained.

“Without leaving the track, he would not have been able to complete the manoeuvre and the stewards thought the same thing.

“That's why they gave him the penalty.” - AFP