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The Hamilton Versus Verstappen Incident: A Fair Analysis

Today's British Grand Prix ended in tears; and here is my analysis.

9w ago

It was bound to happen at some point, wasn't it? The experienced, determined 7-time world champion colliding with the young, aggressive superstar of Max Verstappen in a tense battle for the 2021 Formula One championship crown.

Today's British Grand Prix saw Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen collide at the scariest corner on the Silverstone circuit; with the Red Bull driver heavily hitting the wall, while his Mercedes rival continued on to take an eighth win at his home circuit.

Seeing a high-speed accident is the last thing that Formula One fans want to see as the drivers we admire are putting their lives at risk every time they step foot into a racing car - however; with every incident comes a finger being pointed to the party at fault. While we are all thrilled that Max Verstappen has climbed out of his car without injury, the question 'who is to blame for the crash' is still well and truly on the table...

What happened?

Following yesterday's sprint qualifying event trial, Max Verstappen found himself, once again, on pole position ahead of Lewis Hamilton for the full-distance race this afternoon. Following the initial launch, Hamilton got the better start than Verstappen and would draw alongside going into Turn 1; though the Dutchman was able to keep his car around the outside and maintain position.

Hamilton remained close to Verstappen as they approached Village corner, went wide into The Loop and got a great exit to once again draw alongside the Red Bull driver along the Wellington Straight. Verstappen bumped wheels with Hamilton and was able to hold off position once again into Brooklands; but Lewis got a better exit than Max at the exit of Luffield - entered the slipstream through Woodcote and on to the old start/finish straight before the run down to Copse.

Verstappen went defensive, moving slightly to the right of the circuit, while Hamilton pulled to the left, before switching to the right in order to take the inside line. Hamilton was right up against the wall, and Verstappen moved across so he was slightly further left to the middle of the track, before they both turned in for the flat out Copse corner. Hamilton made it almost fully alongside Verstappen before the turning-in point.

Verstappen had more momentum as he was closer to the racing line than a compromised Hamilton was, and attempted a similar move to that of Turn 1 where he held his position on the outside. But, Verstappen's rear-right wheel then made contact with Hamilton's front-left, sending the number 33 driver into a high-speed spin, followed by a heavy, 51G impact into the tyre barrier.

Thankfully, Verstappen was able to safely get out of his car, but was a bit shaken up and winded. An un-aired radio transmission would see Verstappen respond with "argghhh, f**k" after being asked if he was okay, thankfully meaning he was conscious during the long delay of him getting out of the car. Hamilton received a 10-second time penalty that he served during his first pitstop, but was still able to take victory after hunting down Charles Leclerc and overtaking him with just a couple of laps to go.

Personally, I believe that the crash was a racing incident, but the question of who is at fault is still being debated by hundreds on Twitter right now. In order to explain why I believe why this is a racing incident, I will present the reasons why Hamilton is to blame and why Verstappen is equally at fault.

Before we start, take a look at the footage of the accident presented by the official Formula One Twitter account below:

Hamilton's Side of the Story

To start off my case of why the accident was a racing incident, let's analyse Hamilton's movements and what he did wrong in the case of this event.

On the run down the pit straight, after Hamilton moved to the inside, it was very clear from the tight angle of the turn that the Briton had a compromised line through Copse corner. Verstappen was much closer to the racing line, meaning he was able to carry more speed, but Hamilton had not taken the wide entry needed to carry his speed due to the positioning of his and Max's cars.

As a result of the his line, Hamilton risked understeering if he didn't ease off the throttle and made a decision not to take the tightest line possible - at the end of the day, he was trying to overtake for the lead of the race - but found himself with a little bit of space down the inside and a speeding Max Verstappen on his outside.

The area where Hamilton was at fault is for not using the extra couple of metres on the inside as he didn't want to lose speed on his rival. The seven-time world champion knew that the positioning of his car was going to result in a compromised corner-entry; and while he is perfectly within his right to attempt a move there, should have left as much space as possible to minimise the risk of contact.

You can see in the footage that the steering input from the reigning champion was at a consistent angle until the contact was made, and a stronger input to the right during the corner most likely would have resulted in understeer. If Hamilton had turned earlier, he would have been able to ride the kerb through the corner, maximising the space to Verstappen.

This is known as hitting the 'apex' - and is the same reasoning that the FIA used to issue the ten second penalty to the Mercedes driver.

As pointed out by Karun Chandok of Sky Sports F1 (who also believed it was a racing incident); this concept can be seen when you watch Hamilton's on-board, side-by-side with his winning overtake at the same corner against Charles Leclerc - where much more space was left for the Ferrari driver due to Hamilton riding the kerb and hitting the apex.

Verstappen's Side of the Story

The final decision by the FIA deemed Hamilton as the driver to blame; though many, myself included, believe that the positioning of Verstappen's car was a contributing factor to the accident.

Verstappen did everything right when it came to defending the run up to the corner. The Red Bull driver took to the inside, but left a car's width of space for Hamilton to make his move to the inside. The Dutchman could have completely shut the inside door, but this would have resulted in him taking the same compromised line that Hamilton ended up taking.

As soon as Hamilton took to the right hand side of Verstappen, the number 33 would immediately start positioning his car to the left, but crucially not going to the edge of the track that the racing line typically runs across.

Karun Chandok also pointed out in his analysis for Sky Sports F1 that Max Verstappen's on-board shows less consistent steering inputs compared to that of Lewis Hamilton. The championship leader can be seen turning in at a standard angle for the corner, before spotting Hamilton's Mercedes down the inside and making a quick correction to the left to avoid contact.

Following this correction, Verstappen made an even sharper turn to the right than he had before, which Chandok labelled as "aggressive". This steering angle was essentially Verstappen's attempt at 'shutting the door' on Lewis Hamilton, when in reality the 23-year old could have left more space and made use of the run off area to keep his lead on the approach to the Maggotts and Becketts complex.

Verstappen has developed a reputation in recent years for being a very aggressive driver and making overtakes that essentially forces another driver to yield in order to avoid contact. This season has already seen two aggressive manoeuvres from Verstappen when making overtakes on Hamilton (in Spain and Imola); and this incident seems to follow the same pattern of Verstappen refusing to give up the position. The only difference, though, is that Hamilton also refused to yield on this occasion. This is why today's accident was a racing incident.

Final Thoughts

The most important thing to take away from today's race is that Max is okay. All Formula One drivers are humans, and deserve to be as safe as possible while pushing to the limit. While the FIA deemed Hamilton to be at fault of today's accident, personal opinion is present for everybody, including those that made the decision. Whether you believe Hamilton was completely at fault, Verstappen was completely at fault or if it was a racing incident can be debated forever due to the sheer number of factors involved...

What did you think of the accident? Be sure to put your opinions and start (respectful) conversations in the comments below.

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Comments (8)

  • Racing incident for me, looks like the rest of the season is set to be very exciting. The biggest disappointment to me was Christian Horner’s ugly comments about Lewis, also he reckoned that nobody ever overtakes on that corner so it was particularly satisfying to see Lewis overtake on that corner during the same race. All corners are valid for overtakes, Mark Webber proved that on Eau Rouge (in a Red Bull), I don’t seem to remember Horner referring to that as ‘desperate’. Oh well, will keep the Netflix doc spicy ;)

      2 months ago
  • Hamilton had nothing to lose, so Max should have backed out as he was comfortably leading the championship. Hamilton did back out in Spain...

    But as for the incident itself I'd say Hamilton did deserve that penalty. Maybe a drive through.

      2 months ago
    • I feel like Hamilton would be to blame at any other corner, but Copse is a corner where you are committed to the move as soon as you’re alongside another driver. Hamilton couldn’t back out or change his line after the initial corner entry, and...

      Read more
        2 months ago
    • Fair enough! I loved the race man. As a neutral fan this Hamilton v Verstappen fight is just great, hopefully Ferrari sneak a victory in Hungary though...

        2 months ago
  • Hamilton should have backed out of this. He missed the apex and knew that verstappen was gonna turn in (he was ahead of Hamilton) and it’s not the first time Hamilton is driving on this circuit. So he knew what was going to happen. I think he should have been disqualified.

      2 months ago
  • I personally felt the race gave us more emotions in the first 3 minutes than F1 has in ages! That is what people want to see more of, however acknowledging the fact that the collision was in fact at a very bad place. The fact is that Verstappen regularly successfully played "chicken" with other drivers. This time he got roasted! The stewards got it wrong in my view. Hamilton was "in line" with verstappen who had repeatedly (on prior turns) closed the door on Hamilton and arguably felt that if he could keep hamilton behind for another two laps he could win it. He was threatening contact and got it. The two cars had equal performance and were essentially level instants before the collision. People forget that cars are being driven at the limit. What I personally look at is one thing. Who made the final largest change in direction? Hamilton had a consistent steering and, yes, he was holding a wider than necessary curve to retain the speed. He could not hit the apex based on the angle of entry and speed. Had he done so he might as well have ceded the race. Had he tried to hit the apex he would have possibly understeered and careered off into verstappen simply because he was "set up" for speed not optimal cornering Verstappen took the opportunity and attempted to shut the door despite knowing Hamilton's setup and seeing hamilton level with him a split second earlier. Had Verstappen not shut the door a collision would not have happened and they would have continued racing that closely a while longer? I put that down to inexperience of Verstappen and a Hamilton who would not yield simply because the race was "make or break". The driver in front in such a situation is at far greater risk. The driver at the back typically gets some wing damage, the driver at the front will spin off. Verstappen is a great driver and will learn from it.

      2 months ago
  • Hamilton knew what he was doing and probably knows that track better than anyone. I think it came to a point where he could possibly pass but instead was happy to contend for that corner and push verstappen out- either way it seemed like Hamilton was going to get ahead of him but a dnf for max is a tough break in a closely contested season.

      2 months ago