Christian Horner has argued that the FIA could have given Lewis Hamilton a grid penalty for his part in the incident, which took himself and Max Verstappen out of the Italian Grand Prix.
After Hamilton had completed his scheduled pitstop, the two championship rivals went wheel to wheel into the Lesmo corner, with Verstappen moving alongside the Brit as he exited the pitlane.
But as the pair approached the exit of the corner, Verstappen drove over a sausage kerb, causing his right rear wheel to launch into Hamilton’s car, sending both into the gravel trap and out of the race, with the seven-time World Champion narrowly escaping severe injury courtesy of the halo after Verstappen’s wheel had struck the Brit’s helmet.
The stewards blamed Verstappen for the incident, awarding the championship leader with a three-place grid penalty for next week’s Russian Grand Prix at Sochi.
In his post-race column, Horner blamed a slower than usual pitstop for putting Verstappen out of sync with the Red Bull team principal, believing that both drivers could have received a grid penalty for the incident.
“There was a rare human error in our pit stop, as a result of the new Technical Directive, but nonetheless something we need to learn from, that slow stop put Max out of synch from where he should’ve been on track. Mercedes compounded that situation as they faltered with their own stop on Hamilton's car, which meant both drivers were neck and neck. Both drivers knew they needed to be ahead because of the difficulty to overtake. Max was keen to seize the momentum and Lewis was eager to retain track position.
“It was an awkward shunt, but both drivers were instantly able to confirm they were ok. With Lewis trying to reverse and get back in the race, even the medical car didn’t see the need to deploy. I’m grateful the halo did its job. I think even the most vocal of doubters have now changed their mind about it. I still share the same belief today - both played a part in it and it is difficult to apportion blame to one side more than the other.”
“If the FIA wanted to make a statement, they could’ve imposed the same penalty on both drivers but the fault was deemed to be more on Max's side and, because he didn’t finish the race, the only option was to give him a grid penalty, which we accept.”
Despite Verstappen’s grid penalty putting Red Bull on the back foot going into Sochi, Horner remains hopeful for a good result, with the Milton Keynes based team bidding to end Mercedes’s 100% record at the circuit.
“It has been a Mercedes stronghold; for me, Monza and Sochi, I’ve them marked down mentally as Mercedes circuits, so it will be a challenge. We have the grid penalty to take for Max too, but in Sochi it’s not such a handicap because of the strength of the tow down to turn one. I’m looking forward to it and seeing how we get on.”
Away from the championship fight, Red Bull’s reserve driver Alex Albon announced his return to Formula 1 in 2022 with Williams, replacing the Mercedes bound George Russell with Horner delighted to get the Anglo-Thai driver back into Formula 1 after spending the 2021 season developing the RB16B and competing in the DTM championship.
“I was really pleased we were able to help Alex get back on to the grid next year. Williams have strong aspirations and we’ve retained our relationship with Alex for the future.”
“His focus between now and the end of the season is doing the best he can to support our drivers and the Team and help with next year's car. It will mean he’ll leave a gap because he has performed such a great role, but we are fortunate we have Sebasiten Buemi and Jake Dennis, plus we have young drivers in Jüri Vips and Liam Lawson, so we don't have a shortage of talent to call upon.”