The Italian Grand Prix at Monza waxed poetic Sunday (Sept. 12) as Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton, currently first and second in the Formula 1 standings, respectively, have been duking it out in points (and on the track) all year. As they battled hard for position, another climactic crash between the pair occurred, this time with disastrous results.
On lap 26, Verstappen’s Red Bull approached Hamilton’s Mercedes as the latter exited the pits, drawing to Hamilton’s outside as they began the hard right turn into the Variante del Rettifilo chicane on the front straight. That section of the track at Monza, which turns right and doubles back a hair before turning left onto another straightaway, is lined with curbing.
Hamilton swung as wide as possible in order to avoid Verstappen but attempted to make the apex of the corner, so the two were side-by-side heading into the turn. Both cars went wide through the chicane, as well, pushing Verstappen onto the curb. He lost control and the two collided, Verstappen getting airborne and both cars sliding into the gravel trap with the Red Bull machine on top of Hamilton’s.
The collision led to two penalty points and a three-place grid drop for Verstappen in the next Grand Prix, slated for Sochi, Russia in two weeks.
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 12, 2021
“We saw it was going to be tight into turn 1 and Lewis also realized that,” Verstappen said afterwards. “So after the white line, he nearly moved to the left under braking, so I already had to move onto the green side next to the track.
“I thought we were going to have a nice fight into turn 1, through turn 2. But as soon as I was next to him, he just kept on squeezing me more and more to the left … unfortunately, he ran me a bit too much out of road, so then I clipped the sausage curb and that’s why we touched.”
Hamilton saw things a little bit differently.
“We were obviously just ahead, we had a bit of a slow stop, came out,” Hamilton said. “Braking into turn 1, I made sure I left a car’s width on the outside and I was ahead going into the corner, and next thing I know, I guess Max went over the second curb or something like that. He obviously knew he wasn’t going to make the corner and he drove into me.
“Next thing you know, he’s just on top of me. So, definitely unfortunate and we’ll speak to the stewards after this, I’m sure.”
— Formula 1 (@F1) September 12, 2021
It appeared Verstappen shot Hamilton a look as he walked away, while the latter was still trying in vain to get his car out of the gravel. Hamilton soon exited his machine, as well, both drivers unhurt but rather frustrated with how the other drove into the corner.
“In that heated moment, it’s better to just walk off and everyone just to calm down,” Verstappen said when asked if he had talked to Hamilton. “I’m sure we’ll talk about it.”
The wheel of Verstappen’s car looked to come dangerously close to Hamilton’s helmet, but the recent installation of the halo on Formula 1 cars likely prevented any severe contact being made.
It's days like today, I am reminded of how lucky I am. It takes a millisecond to go from racing to a very scary situation. Today someone must have been looking down, watching over me! #TeamLH: I'm so thankful for each and everyone of you, you are truly the best. Still we rise! pic.twitter.com/H2sGtXPKrr
— Lewis Hamilton (@LewisHamilton) September 12, 2021
“Yes, a little bit stiff…” Hamilton said. “I took a bit of a whack on the head. I was just hopeful to get the car going, but the car was destroyed, so it wouldn’t have made any difference anyways.”
It also wasn’t the only contact between the two. On the opening lap, tight racing and light contact between Hamilton and Verstappen sent the former off track and he was forced to cut the turn.
“It’s exactly the same scenario that happened at turn 4, where I went round the outside,” Hamilton said. “I was exactly [in] the same position, but I gave way, and that’s racing.
“[Verstappen] just didn’t want to give way today and he knew … what was going to happen. He knew he was going over the curb but he still did it… I don’t really know what else to say.”
In a statement, the stewards outlined that they had heard out Verstappen, Hamilton and team representatives before delivering their ruling in which Verstappen was penalized.
“At the 50m board before turn 1, Car 44 was significantly ahead of Car 33,” the statement said. “Car 33 braked late and started to move alongside Car 44, although at no point in the sequence does Car 33 get any further forward than just behind the front wheel of Car 44…
“The Stewards observed on CCTV footage that the driver of Car 44 was driving an avoiding line, although his position caused Car 33 to go onto the curb. But further, the Stewards observed that Car 33 was not at all alongside Car 44 until significantly into the entry into turn 1.”
Elaborating further, the stewards said Verstappen’s move was too late for him to have the “right to racing room” going into the chicane.
“While Car 44 could have steered further from the curb to avoid the incident,” it said, “the Stewards determined that his position was reasonable and therefore find that the driver of Car 33 was predominantly to blame for the incident.
“In coming to the penalty, the Stewards emphasize that they have only considered the incident itself and not the consequences thereof.”
The two drivers account for 11 of the season’s 14 victories, Verstappen with seven and Hamilton with four. Daniel Ricciardo won Sunday’s Grand Prix at Monza in a 1-2 for McLaren, his first win of the season and first in F1 since 2018, while Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez have also recorded appearances on the top step of the podium.
Verstappen, Hamilton and the rest of the F1 field now head to Russia in two weeks for the Sochi Grand Prix. Lights out for the 15th race of 2021 will take place at 8 a.m. ET on Sunday, Sept. 26.
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