It has been an exhilarating 2021 World Championship so far, but a controversial collision between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton at the British Grand Prix could have a huge impact on the destiny of the title come December.
We’ve been treated to some wonderful racing between the pair throughout the first nine rounds; however, contact at some point looked extremely likely and it ended in tears at Silverstone yesterday.
Let’s take a look at their wheel-to-wheel battles in previous races which led to what happened at Hamilton’s home event.
Round 1 – Bahrain
Verstappen comfortably took pole for the season-opener at the Sakhir International Circuit but Hamilton and Mercedes were far more competitive in the race.
Hamilton had undercut his way to the lead following the first stint. However, Verstappen had 11-lap fresher tyres in the final part of the race and looked set to win.
On lap 53 of 56, the Dutchman tried to go around the outside at T4. He went off the track and was forced to give the position back. Hamilton managed to hold on from there to start the season with a brilliant victory.
Round 2 – Imola
An error in qualifying put Verstappen P3 on the grid with Hamilton on pole for the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix.
A superb launch off the line in wet conditions from the Red Bull driver put him alongside the seven-time World Champion on the run down to the first chicane.
Hamilton attempted to go around the outside but Verstappen was having none of it and put the Brit on the sausage kerbs as the pair looked like they touch wheels.
The restart on lap 7 after a Safety Car saw Hamilton consider trying the same move again, but this time he decided to fall into line behind the Dutchman.
Round 3 – Portugal
Another restart on lap 7 at the Portuguese Grand Prix allowed Verstappen to sweep around the outside of his title rival for P2 as he anticipated Bottas’ restart time better than Hamilton.
A small but critical error from the Red Bull on lap 10 at turn 14 allowed Hamilton to get a great run down the main straight and he reclaimed the position on Verstappen with a nice move into turn 1.
Verstappen had a look on the outside into turn 3 in a bold attempt to reclaim the position, but Hamilton got his revenge for Imola by escorting him wide this time.
Round 4 – Spain
Hamilton narrowly beat Verstappen to pole at the Spanish Grand Prix as the title rivals continued to be very close on pace.
The start of the race was a sign of Verstappen’s intent and aggression. The Dutchman got an even start to his Mercedes rival and absolutely sent it into turn 1 down the inside as he braked as late as he could to take the lead.
While Verstappen made the corner, Hamilton had to take avoiding action to make sure the pair did not collide.
Nonetheless, Hamilton ultimately took the win as he easily passed Verstappen with seven laps to go as Mercedes and the Brit pulled off a strategic masterclass.
Round 7 – France
An error from Verstappen at the start gifted Hamilton the lead as the title contenders put on a great show at Paul Ricard.
Verstappen initially had undercut Hamilton after the first round of stops, with Red Bull deciding to make a second stop, just like Mercedes had done to them in Barcelona.
With only two laps to go, the Dutchman breezed by with DRS to retake the lead and score a huge victory.
Round 10 – Great Britain
In the first-ever F1 Sprint event, Verstappen got the better start from P2 and took the lead.
Hamilton piled enormous pressure into Brooklands and Copse later in the lap as he tried to regain P1. Verstappen placed his car perfectly and ultimately took pole position for the main race itself.
After so many close wheel-to-wheel fights, a controversial collision was bound to happen and it came to pass at Hamilton’s home race yesterday.
Just like in the sprint event, it was the driver in P2 (Hamilton) who got the better start. Verstappen just managed to stay ahead of his fierce rival through turns 1 and 2, albeit it was extremely marginal on track limits.
Hamilton got a better run out of turn 4 and when they headed onto the Wellington straight, he briefly had got slightly ahead as the pair went wheel-to-wheel. However, Verstappen broke very late and fended off his rival.
Once again, Hamilton got in the slipstream heading towards Copse. As was the case in the sprint event, he looked set to try and go around the outside, but then did the dummy and tried to go down the inside...
Hamilton touched Verstappen and the Dutchman heavily went into the wall. Luckily Verstappen got the all-clear after a 51G impact as his championship rival went on and won the race, despite a 10-second penalty for the contact.
Mercedes conceded that Hamilton would have DNF’ed had the red flag period not occurred yesterday as car 44’s front left wheel rim had failed.
Verstappen and Hamilton collide!— Formula 1 (@F1) July 18, 2021
The title rivals come together at Copse, pitching Verstappen into a high-speed crash.
The Dutchman was able to walk away but he has been taken to hospital for precautionary checks#BritishGP 🇬🇧 #F1 pic.twitter.com/ol1s9dRJoa
Who was at fault?
Heading into yesterday’s race, Verstappen had a 33-point lead at the top of the Drivers’ Championship over Hamilton. That’s now 8. Hamilton had to win the race and he did, even if it was under highly controversial circumstances.
Could Verstappen have given more space and played the percentage game considering his gap at the top of the standings? Possibly. However, he didn’t turn in on Hamilton and did leave some room. The days of Verstappen doing silly things in wheel-to-wheel battles are long gone.
Hamilton’s attempted move into Copse showed how much he wanted to win for the eighth time at the British Grand Prix. While he did not deliberately hit Verstappen, he missed the apex and looked like he understeered into his rival.
Did Hamilton decide he had enough of getting pushed around after Verstappen’s aggressive moves at Imola and in Spain? Only he can answer that. He made his feelings crystal clear after the race on Sky Sports F1, though: “I will never back down from anyone and I would not be bullied into being less aggressive. This weekend, we needed the points and there was a gap. He left a gap and I went for it.”
Ultimately, the stewards gave the home hero a 10-second penalty for the collision. That feels about the right decision for what happened, although multiple drivers, including Fernando Alonso and Charles Leclerc, believed it was a racing incident.
What does the rest of the 2021 season hold?
On social media after the race, Verstappen said: ‘’Very disappointed with being taken out like this. The penalty given does not help us and doesn’t do justice to the dangerous move Lewis made on track. Watching the celebrations while still in hospital is disrespectful and unsportsmanlike behavior but we move on.’’
There will be one more race before the summer break: the Hungarian Grand Prix at the tight and twisty Hungaroring.
Judging the comments of both drivers, it’s unlikely either will back down following yesterday’s accident. The gloves are certainly off now.
Verstappen is bound to be pumped up to get revenge and take the way in 13 days' time. He will be seething after that heavy crash yesterday and losing a huge chunk of his championship lead. His new maturity of the past couple of years is going to be tested to the maximum now.
Hamilton is right back in the title hunt following his win on home soil and has now shown to Verstappen that he’ll take no prisoners to try and win a record-breaking eighth title come Abu Dhabi in December. It must be said that Hamilton has been far from a dirty driver throughout his career.
While it’s been a thrilling season so far, which had no huge controversy until yesterday, let’s hope we don’t have a series of collisions to come to ruin the rest of the championship. We have two great teams and drivers going for the title and hopefully it can be fair from here on in.
May the best driver win the World Championship in the end.