Baku, Azerbaijan - Sebastian Vettel 'freaked out' under pressure in his 'road rage' eruption during Sunday's Azerbaijan Grand Prix – and is likely to be hit back with Lewis Hamilton's fist, according to Mercedes boss Niki Lauda.
The three-times world champion and non-executive chairman of the 'Silver Arrows' team said he had never seen anything like it before after Vettel had driven his Ferrari into Hamilton's Mercedes on lap 19 of Sunday's tempestuous race.
As Vettel woke to face the global reaction - mostly disappointment - to his actions and attitude - and sought out Hamilton's phone number for a private chat - many observers said the 10 second penalty he received for the incident was not enough.
Lauda's contemporary John Watson suggested that the Ferrari driver should have been given a one-race ban, or other stronger sanction, while Lauda forecast that it would not be long before Hamilton punched back.
"He freaked out in himself," said Lauda. "When you hit somebody from behind it is your fault. No question. But then to drive next to him and hit him on purpose, I have never seen anything like this.
"To do that I don't understand. Vettel is a decent guy normally. This I don't understand. He is crazy. Lewis will hit him one day. Not with the car but with his fist."
'He disgraced himself today'
Hamilton finished fifth, one place behind Vettel, and is now 14 points behind him in the title race after eight of this year's 20 races. He managed to remain calm after the race, despite the provocation, after the stewards had confirmed that he had not 'brake-tested' Vettel, as the Ferrari driver had alleged, leading to the Ferrari driving into him.
"For him to pretty much get away with driving into another driver is a disgrace," said Hamilton. "He disgraced himself today. If he wants to prove that he is a man we should do it out of the car, face-to-face.
"It is a misjudgement from him and some people don't like to own up to their own mistakes. He was sleeping. The stewards looked at my data - and the reason I didn't get a penalty is because I clearly did not brake test him. It could not be clearer.
"It is as clear as blue skies. Ultimately, what happened was disrespectful. There are kids watching us on TV. You think a multiple world champion would behave better than that.
"I really hope that kids don’t see that and think that is the right way. That is not how you drive."
Vettel was also given three points on his driver's licence, increasing his total to nine, and any further misdemeanour before he loses two next month could see him face a one-race ban.
Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff welcomed the arrival of the 'gloves off' moment that may signal the end of the two multi-champions' friendly rivalry.
"Nobody wanted to see the schmoozing anyway, so now the gloves are off," said Wolff. "The sport needs the rivalry. What we have seen today is the ingredient of a great championship.
"They are warriors. They are at war at that moment. They are fighting for the race wins and the championship. At a certain stage, the best ones that compete for the world championship in that phase of their careers can't be friends. Maybe we've seen the limit of that respect today."
'Talk it over'
Vettel refused to accept any blame for the incident and said he would call Hamilton to talk it over.
"I don't have a problem with him," insisted Vettel. "I respect him a lot for the driver he is, but now is not the right time to talk. I'll do that just with him and clear it and move on. Maybe I'm not clever enough, but I'm not complicated. I'm willing to sort it out with him. I don't think there's much to sort out."
Told of Vettel's planned call, Hamilton said: "He doesn’t have my number."
It was a succinct summary of an incident, and a day, that left Vettel and F1 in disarray.