F1: Hamilton and Verstappen Reach Boiling Point

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When the cars, teams, and drivers of Formula 1 return to the track for the Austrian Grand Prix on July 2nd, two weeks will have passed since the tumultuous British Grand Prix at Silverstone. That feels like a shame. If the races had been on consecutive weekends, Red Bull and Mercedes might not have had so much time to calm down. Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen might still be taking shots at each other in the press. We’d have had a race featuring two world-class drivers at boiling point, and that may have laid the foundations for a classic. 

Formula 1 thrives on great rivalries between great drivers. When Hamilton and Verstappen collided during the first lap at Silverstone, sending Verstappen thudding into the wall at more than one hundred miles per hour, it was a shocking and dramatic incident. It brought back memories of Prost and Senna, and Schumacher and Hill. The first concern of racing fans around the world was for Verstappen’s health, but when the Dutchman climbed out of his wrecked Red Bull and waved to the crowd to reassure them, thoughts turned to the big question of who was to blame for the crash. That’s when things became heated. 

Although both Mercedes and Hamilton feel that the Brit was alongside Verstappen when the coming-together occurred and that Verstappen should have given Hamilton more room, the general consensus appears to be that the crash was primarily Hamilton’s fault. There’s still debate about it, though, and from the debate it’s apparent that it’s a difficult issue to call. Hamilton arguably should have stayed closer to the apex, and backed off when Verstappen didn’t budge. Verstappen arguably should have given Hamilton more room, and shouldn’t have defended so aggressively. From the way that the two weaved all over each other from the moment the lights went out, a crash always seemed inevitable. This was always going to happen at some point this year. The fact that it happened at Hamilton’s home Grand Prix, with Hamilton celebrating wildly with fans after his eventual victory, left a sour taste in the mouths of Verstappen and Red Bull team boss Christian Horner. 

Being disappointed in a loss and a crash that might not have been your fault is understandable. The way that both men went after Hamilton and Mercedes in the aftermath of the crash is harder to understand. From the way Horner spoke about Hamilton after the race you’d have thought that he’d tried to murder Verstappen deliberately. Verstappen complained that Hamilton’s post-race celebrations were distasteful on the grounds that he was still being assessed for potential injuries in hospital when the race ended. This is the same Verstappen who had no issues celebrating a race win in Bahrain last year while Romain Grosjean awaited skin grafts in hospital after being burned in the famous fireball incident earlier in the race. Verstappen’s comments make him a hypocrite. Horner’s make him seem like a very sore loser. 

Chief among Horner’s complaints was the idea that no responsible driver would attempt an overtaking move on the corner that Hamilton tried to pass Verstappen, because it’s one of the fastest corners in Formula 1. Hamilton demonstrated the nonsense of that idea by safely passing two other cars on the same corner later in the race. Horner felt that the ten-second penalty handed to Hamilton was insufficient. In doing so, he ignored the thirty agonising minutes the stewards spent analysing footage of the collision before awarding the penalty. They didn’t hand the penalty out on a whim. They looked at it from every angle, consulted the rules, and made their judgment accordingly. Hamilton’s penalty wasn’t severe because his fault wasn’t severe. Verstappen could have avoided the collision. Had their roles been reversed and Hamilton ended up in the wall after being clipped by Verstappen, Horner would doubtless have told the press that his driver had every right to hold his line. 

Formula 1 is not a safe sport. Crashes happen. Risks are taken. Drivers get blamed. Only a few days ago, Horner spoke up again to bemoan the anticipated $1.3m cost of replacing Verstappen’s utterly destroyed car. That’s the price you pay to compete in the sport. It’s like the most expensive online slots game in the world. You pay money to take part in it, but when things start spinning you have no idea what might happen next, and your money isn’t worth a thing until the spinning tops. Sometimes you’ll log into an online slots website and end up with far more money than you put into the games. Other times – perhaps more often – you’ll spend your whole bankroll and come out of it with nothing. Racing always makes for good gambling metaphors. That’s probably why F1-themed online slots are so popular at Online Slots UK. If Horner is willing to take gambles, he shouldn’t complain about the cost. He knows the odds of success and the cost of failure just as well as anybody else in the sport does, and a man of his experience should know better than to behave the way he has in the past week. 

Regardless of how we or anyone else feel about it, all of the anger will be fuel for the metaphorical fire that burns inside Red Bull, Verstappen, and Horner. They feel wronged, and they have revenge on their minds. Verstappen’s big world championship lead that he built up prior to Silverstone has now all-but evaporated. Another Hamilton victory over the Dutchman would put him back on top of the leaderboard. Red Bull will be more driven than ever to prevent that. Mercedes, on the other hand, might feel like they’ve turned their season around after a difficult few races. Will this incident give them a psychological edge, or will it motivate their biggest rivals to come after them harder than ever before? How will secondary drivers Valtteri Bottas and Sergio Perez play into all this? We have a lot of questions to answer in Austria, and we’re looking forward to getting those answers. 

Nobody wants to see heavy crashes because nobody wants to see drivers get hurt. So long as everyone’s safe, though, incidents like these are what makes F1 exciting. After so many years of Mercedes domination we’re now virtually guaranteed the closest contest for a decade for drivers and constructors alike. Bring it on!

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