Hamilton's Lunge on Verstappen a Dangerous Move Worthy of a Harsher Penalty?
One of the most controversial races in recent memory, but where do you stand on the issue?
The Hamilton vs Verstappen championship battle in 2021 has been very thrilling but also very respectful between the two. The media and off-track politics has tried to stir up some drama between the two but both Max and Lewis were having none of that and have kept a good relationship. Well you have a feeling that all of that will change now after the 2021 British Grand Prix. An opening lap collision heading into Copse corner saw Hamilton take out Verstappen and finish his race prematurely. It was a dramatic crash in a very high speed corner which saw Verstappen experience a 51G impact into the barriers. The crash was so massive that the race had to be red flagged in order to repair the barriers and clean up the mess left from the RB16B. While Verstappen was taken to the medical center for precautionary checks, the race stewards handed Hamilton a 10 second penalty for causing the collision. In the end, the penalty didn't do much damage to Hamilton's day as he fought back to overtake Charles Leclerc in the final three laps to win his 8th British Grand Prix. But as the celebrations commenced around Silverstone, something just didn't feel right or fair after the incidents of lap one. Was Hamilton's penalty too lenient and was his move on Verstappen dangerous? Well in what is sure to stir up some controversy and debate, let's take a closer look at the crash that defined the outcome of the 2021 British Grand Prix.
The Incident Itself
Before we get into the debate about the penalty, let's look at the crash between Verstappen and Hamilton. As both cars reached Turn 9, Verstappen was on the outside (which is the natural racing line for that corner) and slightly ahead of Hamilton. As they reached the turn in point to Copse, Hamilton slightly misses the apex as Verstappen is on the outside of him and ends up touching his left rear tyre which sends Max into the barriers. The stewards gave this specific reasoning as to why they determined Hamilton was at fault. " Car 44 was on a line that did not reach the apex of the corner, with room available to the inside. When Car 33 turned into the corner, Car 44 did not avoid contact and the left front of Car 44 contacted the right rear of Car 33. Car 44 is judged predominantly at fault." The reaction from fans and pundits a like were mixed but in this case, I think the stewards explanation was correct. You could make an argument that is was a racing incident but it was still Hamilton who caused the contact and not Verstappen. Car 33 was slightly ahead and turning into the corner which in my book leaves the responsibility on Car 44 to back out of the move as the attacker. At no point were both cars 100% side by side, if they were, a collision probably would've been avoided. Could both drivers have done better at avoiding a collision? Yes they probably could have but this was very much a case of both drivers committing 110% to the corner on the opening lap of a race. Hamilton ended up causing the contact which led to his penalty, but the question is was that penalty too lenient?
Should Hamilton Have Gotten a Harsher Penalty?
Courtesy - RACEFANS.net
Despite Toto Wolff's desperate emails to Race Director Michael Masi, Hamilton was awarded a 10 second penalty and two penalty points on his super license. This decision has gotten fans riled up as even though Hamilton punted the race leader out of the race, he went on to win the British Grand Prix at the end of the day. Something just doesn't feel right or fair about a driver taking another driver out and then going on to collect maximum points. Which begs the questions, do instances like that of the British GP deserve harsher penalties for the driver causing the accident? In this case, Hamilton's penalty was the second most lenient they could've given him behind a 5 second time penalty. If you take another driver out of a race, even if it is a close racing incident, it should come with a stiff penalty that also hampers your race. No matter which drivers were involved, the racer who causes the accident shouldn't be able to go on and take full points in the same race. Now what would've been a fair penalty for Hamilton? Certainly a ten second stop/go penalty would've been a more fair punishment to fit the crime which would've meant that Hamilton would not have been able to change tires while serving the penalty. If you ask Red Bull's Helmut Marko, (who's never shy about sharing his opinion) he's looking for the maximum penalty for Lewis. Marko said post race; “You can’t do that with the normal sporting code. I don’t know what the maximum penalty would be, but such dangerous and reckless behavior should be punished with a suspension or something.”
Was Hamilton's Move on Verstappen Dangerous?
Whether you agree with the penalty or not, Red Bull's extreme frustration is totally understandable. While Hamilton and Mercedes were celebrating, Red Bull's driver was sitting in a hospital getting check ups after an accident that their main rivals caused. Helmut Marko continued to show his anger post race by continuing to say; "If a competitor massively touches our rear wheel with his front wheel, then that’s no longer a racing accident in the fastest corner of the track – that is negligent-to-dangerous behavior.” So was Hamilton's move on the inside dangerous? Their is an argument to be made that is was considering the type of corner and the fact that it was the opening lap of the race. As we saw in the opening stint of the Grand Prix, Hamilton did not want to be following another car in those hot conditions. His move seemed desperate and hopeful and eventually it was Max Verstappen who payed the price for it. Being a now 8 time winner at this circuit, I think Hamilton should've known that Turn 9 is a high speed corner in which committing to the inside while you're behind is a risky and dangerous move. As Christian Horner said, "That's not a place to stick a wheel up the inside of a car."
This incident is sure to stir up the intensity between Mercedes and Red Bull and also divide the fans in the F1 world. Everything aside, we really need to be thankful that Verstappen was able to walk away from that 51G impact. The post-crash radio of Verstappen is uncomfortable to listen to and gives you an idea of the intensity of the shunt. The latest news on Verstappen is that he is okay and no injuries have been reported. Max has released a statement on social media expressing his disappointment with Hamilton's driving, the penalty, and the post-race celebrations from Mercedes. The end to the 2021 British Grand Prix just left a sour taste in the mouth of many Dutch supporters and neutral F1 fans as well. Although Hamilton equaled the F1 record for most wins at a single circuit, it came off the back of a weak penalty and team orders all the while the guy he knocked out of the race was on his way to the hospital. The fallout from this race is going to be very interesting to say the least. It took 10 races for Verstappen and Hamilton to have their big dramatic moment but only time will tell what effect this will have on the 2021 championship.