Lewis Hamilton vs Max Verstappen | Huge title drama at Monza

13-09-2021 18:38
General

Chaos, drama, a major crash, and many a DRS chain - the 2021 Italian Grand Prix had everything. That chaos is perhaps best epitomised by the fact George Russell scored points for the third time in the past four races, yet nobody has spoken about it!

With the second iteration of the F1 Sprint occurring on Saturday, and underwhelming after the first few laps, Sunday’s race was poised nicely with Max Verstappen on pole, and his title rival Lewis Hamilton down in P4 after a difficult Saturday for the seven-time world champion.

The Dutchman was therefore expected to drive into the sunset, and secure yet another win in this remarkable season. However, Daniel Ricciardo and McLaren had other ideas, with the Aussie taking the lead into turn one, and never looking back. It marked McLaren’s first win since the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix, and their first 1-2 since 2010, with Lando Norris finishing right behind his teammate. 

It was such an impressive drive from Ricciardo that he may well have won the race even if the pivotal moment didn’t occur.

And unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know what I’m talking about - the incident at turn one involving Hamilton and Verstappen. After a woeful Red Bull pit stop, Verstappen was in Hamilton’s clutches once the Brit then pitted, and into the first chicane, the pair were side-by-side. Two seconds later, Verstappen's RB16B was parked on top of Hamilton’s W12.

It was yet another moment of controversy between the pair, and the elbows out approach that has been adopted all season long was seen once more. 

Throughout this season, it’s generally been Red Bull and Verstappen blaming their competitors for the issues faced. After all, they’ve suffered more from the accidents than Mercedes and Hamilton. However, at Monza, the tables were turned - Hamilton accused Verstappen of being in the wrong. And, his accusations were heard by the stewards who have handed Verstappen a three-place grid penalty for the next race in Sochi. The Dutchman will also receive two penalty points on his license. How big an impact that will have on the championship, only time will tell.

The stewards “reviewed the video evidence and determined that the driver of Car 33 was predominantly to blame for the collision with Car 44 at Turn 2.” 

Speaking to Sky Sports after the race, before this penalty was handed out, Hamilton said: “We were obviously just ahead, we had a bit of a slow stop, came out, 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 kerb or something like that – he obviously knew he wasn’t going to make the corner – and he drove into me.

“So, 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.”

“It’s exactly the same scenario that happened at Turn 4, where I went round the outside, I was in exactly the same position, but I gave way – and that’s racing. He just didn’t want to give way today and he knew that when he was going into [Turn] 2, what was going to happen. He knew he was going over the kerb but he still did it… I don’t really know what else to say.”

Hamilton’s team boss Toto Wolff was in agreement with his star driver, admitting “I would say it was a tactical foul, he [Verstappen] probably knew that if Lewis stayed ahead that's the race win. It doesn't look like he's alongside and he goes along the sausage kerbs in the middle” after the race.

The Mercedes team principal did, however, also say to Ziggo Sport: "As teams we should stop commenting on who is to blame. We all have biases, we will tend to our own driver. The stewards will judge and whatever the stewards say we need to accept."

It’s fair to say that Wolff will certainly be happy with what the stewards judged as it hands his team a boost going into the Russian Grand Prix. On the other hand, Christian Horner won’t be a particularly happy man. He spoke to SkySports straight after the race to reveal his thoughts on the incident. "Max had the momentum, he had enough space around the outside - Lewis gave him enough through turn one. Our opinion is that Lewis closed him too much into turn two.

"I think Max earned enough to be given more space. You could argue it from both sides, if you want a middle ground it's a racing incident. You can argue Max should've bailed, you can argue Lewis should've left more space. Difficult to point blame."

When told about Wolff’s comments about Verstappen making a “tactical foul”, Horner added: "I am disappointed that Toto would say that. I think it's a racing incident and thankfully no one was injured."

However, Horner’s wish to deem the accident a racing incident wasn’t to be, and Verstappen will now be on the back foot around a typically Mercedes-dominant circuit in Sochi.

The Dutchman himself took to Twitter before the stewards delivered their verdict to make his own argument. He tweeted: “Today was very unfortunate. The incident could have been avoided if I had been left enough space to make the corner. You need 2 people to make that work and I feel I was squeezed out of it. When racing each other, these things can happen, unfortunately.” 

If one thing’s for certain - there’s no love between the two championship rivals right now. The intensity of their battle is definitely affecting things, but I, for one, am loving it - especially if their squabbles allow Danny Ric to get back on the top step of the podium.

For seemingly the first time this season, it’s Red Bull on the end of a penalty, and Mercedes glad to have won a decision made by the stewards. With Sochi up next, a track the Silver Arrows typically dominate, Hamilton could find himself back at the top of the standings come the end of the Russian Grand Prix.

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