MONTREAL — Ferrari hailed Sebastian Vettel as the moral winner of the Canadian Grand Prix on Sunday while the German raged at being robbed of victory by race stewards.

"They are stealing the race from us," the angry German exclaimed over the team radio as he was told he was under investigation after running off the track and into the path of Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton.

Vettel was given a five-second penalty, finishing first but having to hand victory to Hamilton.

"No, no, no. Not like that. You have to be an absolute blind man, you go on the grass how are you supposed to control your car? This is the wrong world," the Ferrari driver yelled after being notified of the penalty.

"It's not making our sport popular, is it? I mean, with these kind of decisions," he told Sky Sports television after the podium ceremony.

He had earlier parked up in the wrong place and stormed straight to the Ferrari hospitality area before returning to the pitlane.

There he rearranged the numbers in front of the cars, switching the 'one' board from Hamilton's car to the space where his Ferrari should have been.

"If it had happened to me I would have kicked the damn board and thrown it against the car," said Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff, whose team has now won the first seven races of the season.

"I am of course biased for Mercedes, and I say there is a rule that says you need to leave a car's width when you go off the track and I think his instinctive reaction was 'I need to protect that position' and maybe that was a tiny bit too far."

Wolff said he was surprised by the stewards' decision but also defended them.

The officials included experienced Italian racer Emanuele Pirro, a former F1 driver and five times winner of the Le Mans 24 Hours sportscar race.

"I think the stewards up there need to be people that need to be supported," said Wolff. "There is Emanuele up there, it doesn't go any more professional and experienced than Emanuele.

Said Vettel, "People want to see us race and that was, I think, racing. I hope the people come back, that's the main thing obviously... it's just a shame when we have all these little funny decisions."

Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto indicated there could be no appeal by the Italian team but said there was no doubt about the real winner.

"It's not down to us to decide, and that's the sport. But certainly if you look at the crowd, everybody I think today believes that there was nothing Sebastian could have done," he said.

"I don't think he had any bad intention in what he was doing at all. He stayed ahead the entire race, he crossed the checkered flag first, for us he's the moral winner.

"We won today. I think honestly we have been the fastest on track today and that's important," he added.

Ferrari found considerable support from former champions who felt the regulations were at fault and that the stewards had come to the wrong decision.

Former Ferrari driver and 1992 world champion Nigel Mansell, who has also served as a steward, said on Twitter that the penalty was ridiculous.

"Very, very embarrassing. No joy in watching this race, two champions driving brilliantly, will end in a false result," he added.

Jenson Button, the 2009 champion commentating for Sky Sports, felt it was a sad outcome.

"It's always disappointing when there's a proper fight out on track between two greats, two multiple world champions, and then the stewards are able to come in and take that away from us really," he said.

"It's a shame. For me, it's a racing incident ... it doesn't deserve a penalty."

American Mario Andretti, the 1978 world champion, also joined the criticism on Twitter, saying: "I think the function of the stewards is to penalize flagrantly unsafe moves not honest mistakes as result of hard racing. What happened at #CanadaGP is not acceptable at this level of our great sport."


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