Tit was an almost inevitable fatality in the clash between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen at the British Grand Prix. The two drivers are in a fierce battle for the Formula 1 World Championship. They are competitive, determined and, most importantly, unwilling to give in to each other for fear that this will reveal a loophole that could be exploited. The overwhelming force and the stationary object collided in the head and when neither gave in to Silverstone, the nature of their title fight fundamentally changed.
Hamilton and Verstappen are in a two-horse race for the world championship and have had a close fight this season, but this is the first time they have come up against each other on the track. In the first four races, while they were at the same pace, they clashed several times and grazed at Imola, when, in particular, Hamilton gave way rather than risk being knocked out while Verstappen made his way.
But at the British GP circumstances were different, with the world champion trailing Verstappen by a formidable 33 points. The Red Bull has improved considerably, proving to be the fastest car in the last five races, and if Verstappen had stayed ahead during the opening laps at Silverstone Hamilton would likely have been powerless against him.
After battling halfway through that opening lap, Hamilton attempted a pass inside Copse’s high-speed turn. Neither driver gave in and the champion’s left front wheel cut off the right rear of Verstappen’s car, sending him crashing down the barriers at 180 mph, where he suffered a 51G impact. was not injured and Hamilton won despite a 10-second penalty. It was a high-risk move but acceptable to attempt and, as Hamilton proved by repeating it twice later in the race, quite doable.
Verstappen condemned the move as dangerous and his team manager, Christian Horner, insisted he put the 23-year-old’s life in danger, the ‘amateur’ act of a ‘desperate’ pilot. “. These were battle lines finally drawn and Hamilton in turn responded with the most personal criticism he had ever leveled against Verstappen.
“I was pretty aggressive when I was young – I’m a lot older now and I know it’s a marathon and not a sprint,” said the 36-year-old. “I have a better view of how I approach my race. But we are in a battle and I think this year he has been very aggressive and most of the time I had to concede and avoid incidents with him and live to fight later in the race. But unfortunately the aggression stayed on its side and we collided.
Verstappen has always been clear he will stick his elbows out and Hamilton has now signified he won’t back down placidly. With Verstappen winning and retiring, that 33-point gap has been reduced to just eight, which will undoubtedly bother him and Red Bull enormously.
Hamilton was ruled at fault by the stewards and given a penalty, but accusations that he is a “dirty” driver simply ignore his record in 15 seasons in F1. Indeed, Charles Leclerc and Valtteri Bottas both admitted it was a racing incident, as did double world champion Fernando Alonso. “It was an unfortunate part of the race, but nothing intentional or nothing that either driver did wrong in my opinion,” he said.
Which seems a reasonable interpretation of a great pilot. But he’s unlikely to ease the tension as this cold war escalates. There are potentially 13 races left this season, and each could be another flashpoint between the two drivers. They are pushing to the limit and the intensity of this fight has now been taken to another level.
Bullying has been part of the rider’s arsenal since the start of the World Championship and what is clear is that neither Hamilton nor Verstappen will submit to the reception. What had been an engrossing fight now has a personal dramatic element neither can ignore and since neither will back down, Silverstone was likely the opening of one of the big sport rivalries.