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 victor Hamilton.
Hamilton led from lights to flag, with not his pit stop nor a safety auto period enough to knock the Briton of course to win his third race of the season.
The championship pendulum has swung back and forth between Mercedes and Ferrari, but it is Hamilton who now holds the momentum with four races to come in five weeks.
However, that was not the case.
Making a great start, the Ferrari driver closed right up on second placed Bottas.
The Finn went to take the corner first but his German rival locked a brake and collided with the left rear of the Mercedes, causing him to spin and also leaving him with a puncture.
Here is a video of this accident.
The debris from both accidents triggered a safety vehicle, behind which Vettel and Bottas could pit for new soft tyres - the most durable rubber available at the weekend - and rejoin at the back of the field to mount mammoth comeback drivers. They came into the pits and restarted the race in 17th and 18th place, respectively.
The stewards awarded Vettel a five-second penalty, but the penalty had little impact on the race after the Ferrari driver managed to build up a substantial gap over Bottas - who had been nursing floor damage, and the rest of the field.More news: Australia v Peru 26 June 2018
"Ultimately, Seb should not have not been able to finish ahead of Valtteri because he took him out of the race". In fact, Vettel was named the Driver of the Day after his comeback effort.
"I don't understand. It's too little".
Just after the run-in between Vettel and Bottas, there was further trouble when Pierre Gasly ran his Toro Rosso into the back of Esteban Ocon's Force India, knocking them both out of the race and bringing out the safety auto. "Then I ended up with nowhere to go", Vettel said.
Hamilton picked up his third win of the season on Sunday, re-taking the lead of the F1 World Drivers' Championship with victory at the French Grand Prix. It left him languishing in the lower points-paying places.
"When you look at yesterday's data, the quickest auto on the straight was Kimi, but we believe he was maybe running a different aero configuration", said Wolff.
Want your voice heard?
Ricciardo finished fourth ahead of Vettel in fifth.
All the teams are taking something of a step into the unknown when they head to Britain because the track has been relaid with a more abrasive surface being used, just as they had at Barcelona and Paul Ricard.