Instead, he let his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas past at the end and the Finnish driver took third, with Hamilton finishing fourth. He was returning a favor after Bottas had earlier let Hamilton overtake him in order to chase down the Ferraris of Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, who placed second.
But the end result was that Hamilton now trails Vettel by 14 points — rather than 11 — in the title race heading into the month-long summer break. When scrapping for every point, those are valuable. "I want to win the championship the right way. I don't know if that will come back to bite me or not," Hamilton said in the Mercedes motorhome afterward. "I do think today was the right way to do things. Today shows I am a man of my word and that I am a team player."
Bottas, who is third in the championship and an outsider for the title, was certainly appreciative. "I don't think every teammate would have done the swap back going for a podium," said Bottas, who now trails Vettel by 33 points.
Over the past three seasons, Hamilton endured an often brittle relationship with former teammate Nico Rosberg, who retired from F1 after narrowly beating Hamilton to win last year's title at the last race.
They feuded on several occasions, and were sometimes openly critical and suspicious of each other. There seems to be genuine harmony between Bottas and Hamilton, even though the British driver accepts it was hard to throw points away.
"It's more a decision from the heart, probably. The brain is more cut-throat and every point counts," he said. "I think if you do good things, good things come back to you." In the past three years, Mercedes crushed the competition and secured three straight drivers' and constructors' championships while Ferrari chased the shadows of the Silver Arrows.
Although Hamilton has won four of 11 races this season so far, and Bottas has won two, Mercedes is experiencing more problems than before. So far this season, there have been issues with tires, with the balance in the car, and now the malfunctioning team radio.
On Sunday, the communication link went down for a long spell, meaning that Hamilton could not inform his team how the car felt. "I had a lot more pace than Valtteri, but at the time the radio wasn't working and I couldn't communicate with the team," he said. "When you don't have the radio it's like driving with a blindfold on. You know your pace but they (the team) don't know how fast you are pushing and how hard you are pushing."
The F1 championship resumes at the Belgian GP in Spa on Aug. 27.