The opening round of the Grand Prix of Great Britain, Sunday afternoon at Silverstone, will be discussed for a long time to come. About the moment that reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton took his Dutch challenger Max Verstappen out of the fight with a reckless maneuver. His front tire tapped the rear wheel of Verstappen’s car, which then skidded and crashed hard sideways into a wall of car tires along the track. End race. Verstappen was visibly shaken when he got out, after what was the worst crash of his career to date.
The dismay at Red Bull Racing, and the Verstappen family, was great. And the mood did not improve as Hamilton effortlessly made up for his ten-second penalty after the restart and delighted Silverstone with his eighth victory. Just before the end of the race, he overtook Charles Leclerc (Ferrari), who had been in the lead for almost the entire race. Leclerc finished second, Valtteri Bottas was third.
Verstappen responded to the incident on Instagram a few hours after the race. “First of all, I’m glad I’m okay. Obviously I am very disappointed that I am flying out this way. The penalty that was handed out does not help us at all and does not do justice to Lewis’ dangerous action on the track. To have to watch his celebration after the race while I was in hospital is disrespectful and unsportsmanlike. But we just keep going.”
Hamilton: no fault
Hamilton didn’t say much about his role in Verstappen’s crash afterwards. Just that he didn’t agree with the time sentence he’d been given. Furthermore, he celebrated his victory lavishly with his many fans, apparently unaware of any harm. “It’s a dream for me to do this, in front of my own audience.”
Verstappen’s crash meant a huge damper for the Dutchman, who this season with Red Bull is finally superior to competitor Mercedes, for years unapproachable in Formula 1. Verstappen had won the last three races in a row and Hamilton in the battle for the world championship. considerable backlog.
Verstappen was the first in Formula 1 history to conquer pole position on Saturday via a qualifying race, a ‘sprint’ over seventeen laps. In that he had fairly easily left Hamilton behind. That gave Verstappen an extra point ahead of the reigning world champion, who finished second in the qualifying experiment.
But little was left of that lead on Sunday afternoon. After Hamilton’s victory, the difference between him and Verstappen is only eight points in favor of the latter. During and after the race, the question of guilt was frequently raised by followers, experts and media. Red Bull team boss Christian Horner said he found Hamilton guilty of Max Verstappen’s retirement. “This is the fastest corner on the circuit. Everyone knows you shouldn’t do that in this corner. Hamilton is responsible.”
But there was also agreement at Red Bull on one thing: the most important thing was that Verstappen got away unscathed at first sight.
The big question is how Verstappen will react to this setback. To be flow weeks of dominance in Formula 1 was rudely interrupted on Sunday afternoon. He had never been in a comparable position before. The fact is that the battle between Hamilton and him has now really ignited, with 13 races left this season.
The next race is the Hungarian Grand Prix on August 1. This is followed by two ‘home races’ for Max Verstappen: Spa-Francorchamps (August 29) and the Grand Prix of the Netherlands, at the Zandvoort circuit (September 5).
Supplement 18 July 2021: Max Verstappen’s reaction via Instagram was later added to this article.
A version of this article also appeared in NRC in the morning of July 19, 2021