Who's Fault This Time? Hamilton and Verstappen Collide at Jeddah
We analyse the key stake holders and who's to blame under the lights at Jeddah
In the hectic inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, the circuit’s exciting and adrenaline rushing nature proved rather unsafe by two red flags and a comical quantity of crashes. Amidst it all, though the two championship protagonists collided on lap 37 resulting in a 10-second penalty and two penalty points for Verstappen.
So, as is customary when these two have a controversial crash (which to be fair is whenever they have a crash), we’re analysing who is truly at fault.
On lap 36, Hamilton had DRS down the main straight and was sizing up a move on race leader Verstappen into turn 1. Verstappen fought back at him though by braking extremely late on the inside. As the two cars were side by side and they neared the apex Verstappen had too much speed and was forced to cut the corner, subsequently, he cut across Hamilton’s path making him slam on the brakes. This coupled with Verstappen being able to take the corner that much faster meant the stewards deemed he had gained a lasting advantage by leaving the track. As punishment Verstappen who was still leading at this point had to give the position back and his team told him to do so “strategically”. Considering this is a street circuit that is narrow and has little opportunity to overtake the meaning of the team's message was to let Hamilton past before the DRS detection zone meaning Hamilton would be a sitting duck in the lead to Verstappen with DRS who could fight back easily.
The problem was that Verstappen braked heavily as there wasn’t much distance until he reached the DRS zone and also because Hamilton was quite a distance behind him. Hamilton understood the strategy Verstappen was using though and didn’t pass when he initially caught up to the Red Bull, instead of sitting behind him for a few seconds before pulling out and trying to pass. However, the pair were too close and Hamilton hit Verstappen's left rear tyre as he pulled out.The key moment in this accident is when both drivers were moving slowly one behind the other and you can see from their onboard footage that both were being hesitant, accelerating and decelerating as well as shifting to the left and right. It was like watching a busy junction where the two cars don’t know who’s turn it is to go.This happened because neither driver wanted to be leading in the DRS zone however in this instance Verstappen had the right to end up behind because of his punishment, so be it in a strategic way.
Technically you could blame Hamilton in more ways as he could have avoided the accident by passing Verstappen when he initially caught up and by pulling out from a greater distance behind rather than waiting and ending up inches from the car ahead. Similarly, Verstappen could have avoided the incident by slowing down more gradually.This leads me on to who I’m blaming because the reason Verstappen braked so abruptly was to follow his team's order to be strategic. If this message had been given out to him sooner he could have slowed gradually and still let Hamilton pass before the DRS detection point. Similarly, if Hamilton had been told that Verstappen was going slowly to let him through sooner he wouldn’t have pulled in behind the Red Bull and ultimately caused the accident.This is why he came on the radio afterwards and said that Verstappen had brake checked him which is when one car slams on the brakes and causes the other to rear-ended them or take evasive action which slows them down.
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So, in this scenario, I’m blaming the teams and FIA for providing such a slow messaging system. Considering the incident happened at the first corner on lap 36 and it took them nearly two laps to make a decision and give the message, it isn’t good enough.Both drivers have a part in the incident but I think Hamilton had more because he didn’t pass Verstappen straight away but as I’ve explained he didn’t do that because he didn’t get the message that Verstappen was letting him pass.