Lewis Hamilton’s move may have netted him 25 points in the Formula 1 world championship battle, but it could cost him in the long run.
Lewis Hamilton won the British Grand Prix for an eighth time at Silverstone Circuit on Sunday, beating erstwhile race leader Charles Leclerc, who scored his first podium of the 2021 Formula 1 season for Ferrari.
But the true action happened long before Hamilton was charging down on Leclerc in the final laps of the race.
On the opening lap of the race, polesitter Max Verstappen and home driver Hamilton duked it out in the first few corners, with Verstappen managing to hold the lead from Hamilton as they exited Woodcote and made their way toward Copse.
Then Hamilton got a bit of a run on Verstappen down the straight, and from nowhere, the seven-time world champion rocketed into the Dutchman at Copse, sending him spinning and eliminating him from the race.
At full speed, the crash was one of the most scary and dangerous incidents we have seen in a long time.
Mercedes and Hamilton can try to justify this in whatever way makes them feel better, but the reality is that Verstappen was the lead car going into the corner, he gave Hamilton space on the inside, and the British driver slammed into the side of him at over 180 miles per hour.
It resulted in Verstappen experiencing a 51G impact, and he had to be airlifted to Coventry Hospital, from which he was later released.
Hamilton was penalized with a 10-second time penalty and two penalty points on his license.
Considering the fact that Lando Norris and Sergio Perez (twice) both got five-second penalties for “forcing another driver off the circuit” in the Austrian Grand Prix and George Russell had a three-place grid drop for the same thing in the British Grand Prix sprint race, this is an incredibly lax penalty for such a stupid and dangerous maneuver by Hamilton.
The penalty should have reflected the scale of the error committed, which was huge. Lunging up the inside of Copse corner and eliminating the lead driver should have garnered at least a 10-second stop/go penalty.
Also, considering the fact that Verstappen was hospitalized as a result of the accident, there is even an argument that the race should not have been restarted.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner did not mince his words after the race, telling Sky Sports the following:
“I hope Lewis is happy with himself. He stuck a wheel up the inside of a corner that he knows you just don’t do that. He has more than enough experience to know that is unacceptable.”
But when he was interviewed by Sky, Hamilton felt Verstappen was the one to blame after the crash and said he felt anger at Verstappen’s aggression on the opening lap.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff defended his driver by adding that “it takes two to tango”, implying that Verstappen has to take his fair share of the responsibility.
While there may be some truth behind that, it is clear that Hamilton was the one behind and he hit Verstappen, eliminating Verstappen from the race with an overambitious, reckless and dangerous overtaking attempt.
This year, the pair have gone wheel-to-wheel several times, and this is the first time where it has ended in controversy and disaster.
Verstappen has had the edge in wheel-to-wheel combat thus far, and this incident will only solidify in his mind that he has an edge in that regard compared to the Briton.
The move looked desperate and dangerous from Hamilton, and while Mercedes and Hamilton were undoubtedly the biggest winners from the British Grand Prix, in the course of the championship battle, this could come back to bite them.
Recall the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix at Circuit de Spa Francorchamps, when Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton made contact at Les Combes on the opening lap, giving Hamilton a puncture and eliminated him from the race.
Rosberg was able to climb back up to second place and emerged from that weekend as the big winner in terms of the driver standings. But from there, he seemed dead and buried for the next few races, with Hamilton bullying the German to the 2014 world championship.
So while Hamilton and Mercedes will leave Silverstone Circuit with cheeky smirks on their faces and both Lady Luck and the FIA shining down on them, Verstappen and Red Bull could be the true winners from this debacle.