The stewards in Formula One have made a controversial decision to blame Max Verstappen over Lewis Hamilton in the Brazilian Grand Prix. Hamilton had been running in third place when he was caught by Verstappen on the final lap, but they were both racing at the same time and it is unclear who caused the collision.
Lewis Hamilton met Max Verstappen, the driver of the Red Bull car that caused a collision with Hamilton in Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix. The stewards blamed Verstappen for the incident, despite Hamilton having been at fault.
MONZA (Italy) – An on-track duel between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen culminated in a collision for the second time this year. The two title contenders collided in a devastating collision only four races after their high-speed battle at Silverstone, leaving both drivers out of the Italian Grand Prix and F1 thankful for its recent improvements in safety.
The incident occurred after Verstappen’s pit stop was delayed, putting the Red Bull driver’s position in jeopardy. As Hamilton exited from his pit stop, he was barely edging past Verstappen, who was speeding down the pit straight at almost 200 mph. Hamilton pushed Verstappen to the outside of the track through the first section of Monza’s Rettifilo chicane, before trying to force his way past on the inside of Turn 2 during the second phase of the chicane.
Verstappen’s Red Bull hopped over the kerbs on the inside of the second apex, collided with Hamilton’s rear tyre, and launched itself into the air and over the Mercedes as a consequence of the ensuing squeeze. Verstappen’s right rear tyre slid over Hamilton’s cockpit, brushing towards the 36-year-helmet old’s before being deflected by the halo over his head.
Hamilton claims that the halo’saved’ him in the Monza accident.
“That’s what you get if you don’t leave any room, f—-ing hell,” Verstappen shouted over team radio as he walked away from the collision with hardly a look at his rival.
Hamilton’s vehicle was still stuck under the rear of Verstappen’s Red Bull, so he climbed out and made his way back to the pits on foot after failing to reverse out from beneath it.
Neither driver earned points at the Italian Grand Prix as a result of the collision, but the championship race is now more intense than ever. It’s sure to be a defining moment of the 2021 season, and one that may be repeated before the title is determined, with eight rounds remaining.
Why was Verstappen penalized?
The vehicle of Max Verstappen was thrown into the air and landed on top of the car of Lewis Hamilton. Getty Images/Peter Van Egmond
Verstappen was found “predominantly to responsible” for the incident by the race stewards, who handed him a three-place grid penalty for the following race in Russia.
They said Verstappen’s move between Turns 1 and 2 was “attempted too late for the driver of Car 33 [Verstappen] to have the right to racing space,” and that the Red Bull driver was “not at all alongside Car 44 [Hamilton] until substantially into the entrance into Turn 1.”
They basically said Verstappen had the right to try a move around the outside of Turn 1 but never got close enough to put the onus back on Hamilton to give him room in Turn 2.
“While Car 44 might have steered farther away from the curb to prevent the collision, the stewards decided that his position was reasonable and, as a result, find that the driver of Car 33 was primarily to fault for the incident,” the stewards said.
Given the relative positions of the two vehicles as they passed through the chicane — i.e. Verstappen was never completely alongside Hamilton, and it was up to Verstappen, not Hamilton, to prevent the collision.
Despite the fact that the stewards were not the same as those who penalized Hamilton at Silverstone, they used the term “predominantly” in their judgment. According to F1’s rules, a driver should be penalized if the stewards feel they are entirely or mainly to fault for a collision, which meant the stewards in Monza were always going to penalize one of the drivers if they didn’t believe it was a 50/50 racing event.
That’s not to suggest Verstappen’s punishment was consistent with previous stewarding judgments (more on that below), but once the stewards determined Verstappen was in the wrong for attempting to overtake Hamilton on the inside of Turn 2, a penalty was inevitable.
Why is there a three-position grid penalty?
Getty Images/Mark Thompson
Because Verstappen was eliminated from the race as a consequence of the incident, the stewards were unable to impose an in-race time penalty, as they had done at Silverstone, therefore they instead imposed a grid penalty for Russia. Although there is no provision in the rules to convert in-race time penalties into grid penalties at the next event, the stewards always have the option of issuing a grid penalty of any amount.
George Russell was the most recent driver to suffer a three-place grid penalty after colliding with Carlos Sainz during the Silverstone sprint race, causing the Ferrari to spin off the circuit. Russell’s incident occurred during F1’s new sprint qualifying format, whereas Verstappen’s occurred during a grand prix, yet, perplexingly, Russell received just one superlicence penalty point for his incident, while Verstappen received two.
That may be because Verstappen’s was judged more hazardous, despite the fact that when imposing a penalty, the stewards are only meant to consider the acts that led to the accident, not the consequences.
Comparisons to Hamilton’s punishment at Silverstone are unavoidable, although Hamilton was still in the race at the time and was given a 10-second in-race penalty as well as two superlicence points. The Mercedes driver eventually overcame the time penalty to win the race, which was one of the reasons Red Bull argued it was too lenient, but it’s also possible that Verstappen will win the race in Sochi despite his three-pace penalty.
More likely, the grid penalty in Russia makes it simpler for Red Bull to decide when to replace Verstappen’s power unit and accept the consequent grid penalty for exceeding his engine component limit for the year. Honda found damage to Verstappen’s engine after the Silverstone incident, requiring him to exceed his three-engine limit for the season and incur a grid penalty as a consequence.
Red Bull is said to have considered accepting the penalty in Russia anyhow since overtaking is feasible around the Sochi Autodrom, and doing so would now nullify Verstappen’s punishment in Monza.
Is it possible that Verstappen might have avoided the collision?
During the Italian F1 Grand Prix at Autodromo di Monza, Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton collided. Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images, photo by Dan Istitene
Verstappen said Hamilton “squeezed” him twice entering Turn 1 and approaching Turn 2, forcing him over the kerbs and causing him to lose control.
The Red Bull driver said that if Hamilton had given him more room at the apex, Hamilton would have had a better exit out of the turn and would have maintained position anyway.
“Of course, what occurred with the result was extremely terrible,” Verstappen remarked. “When he came out of the pits, he realized it was going to be tight; he realized that as soon as the white line [separating pit lane and track] was completed and he went to the left under braking, I had to go into the green bit [at the track’s side].”
“I still believed there was a chance to fight.” I walked around the outside, and then he continued to move me out of space, forcing me to take the sausage kerb. We unfortunately collided.
“At the end of the day, it was a pity because I do not believe it was necessary. He would have passed me out of Turn 2 if we had continued racing since the outside of Turn 2 had greater traction.”
Hamilton predicted Verstappen would pull out of the move and cut the chicane, as he had done on the opening lap at the Roggia chicane.
“I was ahead in Turn 1, I allowed enough space coming into the turn, but we barreled at the same speed, and I was ahead in Turn 2,” he said. “Ultimately, he lost control, crossed the curb, and collided with me, therefore I don’t consider myself to be at blame since I was struck from behind.”
“There comes a moment when you have to accept that you won’t make the turn and go over [the run off]. Everyone else has crossed the kerbs, so I’m not sure why Max hasn’t.”
Verstappen could have easily avoided the overtake and continued into the run-off. In less than 24 hours, Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez escaped a similar collision when attempting to overtake Lance Stroll’s Aston Martin in the sprint race.
Perez was trying to pass Stroll around the outside of Turn 1 and into Turn 2, similar to Verstappen, and had his vehicle considerably closer to Stroll on the approach to Turn 1 than Verstappen did with Hamilton. When they got to Turn 2, though, Perez abandoned the overtake and went to the run off, cutting the turn and averting a collision.
Perez continued to hang on to the place he earned by bypassing the chicane for half a lap after his team ordered him to give it back. The next lap, he made a successful move at the first chicane to seize the lead.
The stewards scrutinized the whole sequence of events to ensure Perez relinquished the position soon enough and did not acquire a long-term advantage, which he did not.
While the two events were not identical, with Hamilton returning from the pits before defending Verstappen while Stroll and Perez were racing at full speed down the whole pit straight, it was evidence that the accident on Sunday might have been prevented if Verstappen had chosen to use the run off.
Was Verstappen guilty of a “tactical foul”?
As Lewis Hamilton gets out of his vehicle, Max Verstappen walks away from the accident site. AFP/ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/Getty Images
Should Verstappen have followed his teammate’s lead and cut the chicane the day before?
Without a doubt, he would have avoided a collision, but he would have either lost the position on the spot or been obliged to hand it back to Hamilton, as Perez was. We’ll probably never know what went through Verstappen’s mind, but it’d be interesting to know whether he concluded that risking a collision with Hamilton was preferable than losing the race by bypassing the chicane.
Toto Wolff, the Mercedes team manager, even suggested Verstappen had made a “tactical foul” by not pulling out.
“It’s referred to as a ‘tactical foul’ in football,” Wolff added. “He presumably understood that if Lewis stayed ahead, he could win the race.”
“We don’t want to be in a scenario in the future when one loses a position and the only option to keep the other from scoring is to take him out,” he said.
Christian Horner, Wolff’s Red Bull counterpart, dismissed the idea that Verstappen had considered the implications of losing the position (plus championship points) and acted accordingly.
“I don’t believe he’s thinking about passing the vehicle ahead of him coming through Turn 1 into Turn 2,” Horner remarked. “I’d be upset if Toto said that, but it’s disappointing for me because we had a strong vehicle today and wanted to beat them on the circuit.”
“We had a tough pit stop due to a mechanical problem, and he was kept far longer than he should have been. So he shouldn’t have been near Lewis, and then Lewis had a problem and should have stayed clear of Max, putting them in a position where they had to race one other, so they’re both going for it.”
Again, we may never know, but it’s intriguing to speculate if Verstappen would have taken the same move if he hadn’t been up against Hamilton. Without a doubt, Verstappen was risking a collision by committing to Turn 2 without having his vehicle ahead of him.
A collision with another driver at that turn, such as Ricciardo in the first stint of the race, would have been catastrophic for his championship hopes, as he would have been forced out of the race and Hamilton would have had a clean run at victory. However, against Hamilton, the identical move either eliminates both of them, resulting in a zero-sum game, or offers Hamilton a chance to retain the position if he creates space.
So, what’s next?
The increasingly acrimonious rivalry between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen took another turn at Monza. Pool/Getty Images photo by Andy Hone
Verstappen soon became weary of talking about the Silverstone accident, describing the onslaught of questions he got at the following race in Hungary as “crazy.” Most of the inquiries centered on whether the two would avoid colliding again the next time they battled for a place, and despite Verstappen’s unwillingness to respond, we got the answer in Monza.
The two clashes, while being extremely different in character, highlight how fierce the championship fight is. Both drivers were fortunate to escape injury – Verstappen was sent to hospital for precautionary tests after Silverstone, while Hamilton will seek expert counsel this week after suffering neck discomfort on Sunday evening – and both were the consequence of neither driver giving an inch.
With Verstappen chasing his first world title in a competitive car and Hamilton chasing a record-breaking eighth title, the stakes were already high at the start of the year, but the two accidents have served as a stark reminder that there is a lot more at stake in Formula One than championship glory.
“It was a huge shock,” Hamilton said of the tragedy on Sunday. “I’ve been racing for a long time, and we’re always taking chances out there, so I suppose it’s only when something like that happens that you get that genuine shock and realize how frail we are.”
Although the stewards may threaten the two drivers with fines, no one other than Verstappen and Hamilton can prevent further accidents. It’s a case of an unstoppable force colliding with an immovable object, and even the most astute Formula One engineers will struggle to anticipate the result.
Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton both had a problem with the stewards in the Austrian Grand Prix. Max Verstappen was blamed for causing an accident, while Lewis Hamilton was let off after he admitted to driving into the back of Esteban Ocon. Reference: max verstappen salary.
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