Hamilton and Verstappen’s first-lap collision at the British Grand Prix lit the fuse on their title battle, leading to fierce debate throughout F1 over who was to blame for the incident.
Hamilton was hit with a 10-second time penalty after the stewards deemed him to be predominantly to blame for causing the collision at Copse, which resulted in a 51G crash for Verstappen.
After serving the penalty in the pits, Hamilton was able to fight back to score his eighth Silverstone victory, cutting Verstappen’s advantage in the championship down to eight points in the process.
Hamilton and Verstappen have enjoyed a number of close wheel-to-wheel battles already this year, but Silverstone marked the first time they have made significant contact.
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB16B, battles with Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes W12, at the start
Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images
The duo came close to touching a number of times on the opening lap in the lead-up to their collision, particularly at Brooklands as Verstappen defended the inside line.
Speaking after the race, Mercedes trackside engineering director Shovlin said that the aggression shown by Verstappen had previously forced Hamilton to back out of battles, meaning an incident such as this was inevitable.
“If you look at the sprint race, [and] if you look at the opening lap of the main race, Lewis was constantly having to back out of it to avoid a collision,” Shovlin said.
“He was able to put his car into a position where he could stand his ground.
“Max drives aggressively and it’s inevitable that, one day, we’re going to get an accident.
“But we were pleased with the job Lewis did, and slightly disappointed to get the penalty but just relieved we could still win the race.”
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner fumed over the penalty handed out by the stewards, calling it “menial” after Hamilton was able to recover and win the race to cut Verstappen’s championship lead.
The incident has led to comparisons to previous crashes between title rivals, most famously involving Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost at Suzuka in 1989 and 1990.
Asked if he thought that a crash between Hamilton and Verstappen was inevitable, Mercedes F1 team boss Toto Wolff said it was “a situation you have all seen in the past when great drivers race each other”.
“When nobody is prepared to give in then this kind of situation can happen,” Wolff added after the race.
“But for me it takes two to tango.
“This championship, it was always very intense, because we were fighting with everything we have in order to hold onto this championship, while knowing we are not as performing as Red Bull and Honda.
“Therefore, we’ve had big points losses in the past and today we scored big points. So that is always balancing itself out.”