A WAR of words is erupting in the world of Formula 1 after the first lap contact between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen in last Sunday’s British Grand Prix, which sent Verstappen’s Red Bull careening into a tyre barrier at some 288km/h.
It took the Dutch driver out of the race and into hospital.
Hamilton was hit with a 10-second penalty for his actions, but he still went on to win.
The furious Red Bull team has asked F1 officials for a stiffer penalty for Hamilton and they’re also likely to challenge the decision that enabled him to win after nudging his championship rival out of the race.
Verstappen was taken to hospital dizzy, bruised and battered but checked out after appearing otherwise unhurt in his massive 51g crash.
However, he lost no time in slamming Hamilton for wildly celebrating his home win. Verstappen said he watched Hamilton’s raucous celebrations on TV from hospital, which he described as “disrespectful and unsportsmanlike.”
Hamilton reacted by calling Verstappen “very aggressive,” adding that he went on to win after taking the resulting 10-second penalty “on the chin.”
“I was like ‘I’m not going to let anything get in the way of the crowd’s enjoyment of the weekend and the national anthem and the British flag,” he said.
But the bigger implications for the 2021 title battle, according to Verstappen, is that Hamilton’s lenient penalty “does not help us and doesn’t do justice to the dangerous move Lewis made on track”.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said he expected that Red Bull would be looking into challenging the penalty.
“They will explore everything that is available to them,” he said. “We’ll see what comes out of it, but I think it’s clear when you open the rulebook.”
Red Bull Racing’s Dr Helmut Marko thinks a race suspension is appropriate for Hamilton.
“If the competitor hits out rear wheel heavily with his front wheel, this is no longer a racing accident. It’s negligent and dangerous behaviour,” Marko said.
“So it is no longer a normal sporting penalty that applies here. You have to judge it differently.
“I don’t know if it was a miscalculation from Hamilton but in the sporting rules there are only certain penalties that are not appropriate for this.”
Max’s father Jos said: “You can’t do what Hamilton did, in that place. I think a 10-second penalty is really ridiculous. It was also dangerous for the public.
“As far as I’m concerned, they could have disqualified him for a race.”
Jos Verstappen said 23-year-old Max felt good physically, but doctors wanted to take a look at his brain with a scan after he reported feeling dizzy.
“He also has a little pain in his shoulder, which is quite blue,” Jos added. “He has bruises all over his body but otherwise he is fine.”
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner also weighed in: “We have some rights available to us, but unfortunately I think the stewards were pretty firm in their decision. I think it’s pointless ultimately but we will discuss it and look into it.
“What I will say is that it’s not a penalty if you win the race.”
However, F1 race director Michael Masi said he backed the stewards’ decision on the basis that the “consequences of the incident itself” are not taken into consideration.
“In this case, the stewards decided that Lewis bears the majority of the blame, but he wasn’t solely responsible,” Masi said.
“We are currently clarifying which options the rules provide for and looking at the evidence again,” said the Red Bull boss.
“For us, the matter is very, very clear.”
Horner said Hamilton wildly celebrated a “hollow victory,” but Toto Wolff, his Mercedes counterpart, reckoned the crash was just “part of racing.”
Next round is at the Hungaroring in Budapest on August 1.
Will hot-headed Max be tempted to reciprocate?
We’ll soon see.
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