BEHIND THE HEADLINES – Italian – Crash of the title rivals two

Behind The Headlines Features

Another on track collision between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen was always going to be enviable this season, but the dramatic crash which it happened on lap twenty-three was scary and shocking. On a day where McLaren took the victory, their first win since Interlagos in 2012 and first one-two since Montreal.

Throughout the last eighteen months, McLaren has been on the up following a tough five seasons where they were at the back and then slowly working there way back into the midfield and this season locked in a battle for third with Ferrari, its has almost been like a early rival of the past, for me those early seasons when I started watching F1 in 2007-08.

But, while McLaren had the pace on merit following a strong qualifying and sprint qualifying, I still believed a win would have been unlikely, but taking both Verstappen and Hamilton out was an almost perfect weekend for them. McLaren you need to believe are a team on the up.

Lando Norris really stood out for me in his maturity, he was prepared to sacrifice a win or a podium to ensure a McLaren victory.

Clash of the title rival’s

Another collision like we saw at Silverstone was always going to happen at some point between Hamilton-Verstappen although this was just as dramatic. We know that they are both hard racers and don’t like yielding position, and following the break, things did appear to quieten down.

Earlier in the race, I think we saw the thing which is defining this battle the fact neither of them is willing to be the one who wants to concede positions, particularly as big points swings in the title chase could prove decisive in the title outcome. It will now ultimately boil down to a test of wills in not being the first to blink, but equally managing the risk versus reward factor.

In the earlier part of the season, at Imola or Portimao I think, Hamilton admitted to backing out of moves to avoid accidents, but there was always going to be another crash, as well as them continuing to push. It was a scary accident, but the halo did its job, one question remains did the sausage kerb play a dangerous role in launching  Verstappen over the top of the Mercedes.

There was a real chance without the halo that Hamilton wouldn’t have walked away from the accident. Questions need to be asked about Verstappen, through his career he has pushed things to the limits which we enjoy watching, sometimes has raised questions about safety but normally he pulls it off.

For Hamilton it was his second retirement since Sepang in 2016, where it arguably cost him the championship. There will be hope from the accident that this doesn’t affect the championship, but you need to ask does this shift momentum back towards Hamilton? Verstappen is unlike to give up without a fight.

This incident has been described as both lucky and unusual, it happened at low speed but then to me it was a bit surprising how the car got launched into the barrier. but we will learn the lessons.

Verstappen had just re-joined following a slow pit stop where he lost track position to Hamilton who had stopped a lap earlier, as they reached the chicane and started braking, Hamilton squeezed his rival to the outside of the track before Verstappen responded in the next phase of the chicane by attempting to barge his way past on the inside of Turn 2.

The resulting squeeze saw Verstappen’s Red Bull hop over the kerbs on the inside of the second apex, make contact with Hamilton’s rear tyre and launch itself into the air and over the Mercedes. The right rear tyre of Verstappen’s car rolled over the cockpit of Hamilton’s, touching the 36-year-old’s helmet before being deflected away by the halo above his head.

.The steward ruled that Verstappen was “predominantly to blame” for causing the collision and gave him a three-place grid penalty for the next race in Russia. Deciding that Hamilton did not have enough time to respond, but Verstappen had the right to attempt the overtake but it was too late.

Essentially, Given the relative positions of the two cars through the chicane, Verstappen was never fully alongside Hamilton, the onus was on Verstappen to avoid the accident, not Hamilton. Will Verstappen be more careful? To me, listening and reading interviews I think its unlikely that he will, but after six years Verstappen to me still appears to not learn, not just only on track but generally.

His behaviour following the accident was in my view wrong, not checking that Hamilton was OK, but yet not unsurprising witnessing previous incidents like with Esteban Ocon following their collision at Interlagos in 2018.

There will be more wheel-to-wheel drama between Hamilton and Verstappen this season, but the question will be as we get nearer to Abu Dhabi will it get more intense or will sensible driving to secure the championship take place?

Are McLaren back?

McLaren has had a tough six years, but I believe they are back on the up and have been for the past fifteen months. Daniel Ricciardo has been outshone by Lando Norris to the surprise of many but I think he never lost that ability or confidence to go and win races.

I think as we have often reflected on this season, those drivers who have switched or joined new teams have struggled. But Ricciardo’s victory was a real team effort after spending the last nine years in the wilderness when it comes to victories, we know the change of management in 2018-19 has almost rebooted McLaren.

Norris has been the unlikely leader, this season with the arrival of Ricciardo there had been speculation about how the young Englishman would respond. I believe have seen a more professional and grown up Norris, one thing which is a rarity by racing drivers asking the team for team orders to secure victory despite him being second.

After the race, Norris said being part of that historic feat for the Woking team was “incredible” but also admitted he was thinking about how he could snatch the win himself.

But Norris said the clash between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen halfway through the race, which forced both championship rivals to retire on the spot, discouraged him from trying to launch an attack on the Australian.

Adding “I got a bit closer on one lap and I just – I don’t know why – I had a few flashes seeing the incident between Max and Lewis – because I saw it quite well in my mirrors. So, when I thought maybe I’ll try, that was flashing up in my head and I thought ‘naaah, maybe this isn’t the wisest decision!’”

Norris, I believe could have fought Ricciardo for victory and he will certainly get a chance of one in the future. Aged twenty-one I think if he plays his cards right he could be a multiple champion, but you never know in this sport. This partnership could become one of the strongest on the grid.

I wonder more generally if not only with McLaren but the majority of the teams towards having an older driver and a younger driver, for example your Hamilton’s, Alonso’s, Perez’s and Russell, Ocon, Verstappen. Not that these young drivers are not inexperienced they have now a few years of experience in F1 they are finally starting to deliver.

The ‘best-kept secret in f1’ was confirmed last week, with Russell’s promotion to Mercedes you need to wonder if we will see similar situation like we had at Ferrari with Leclerc and Vettel. Russell is a driver on the up, but still is unproven over a course of a season, Sakhir last year he can race amongst the top drivers given the opportunity.

He has also out driven the Williams car several times this season, and we know he has been so close to being in the points and Russell met his target as he revealed in a Channel 4 interview to get that drive with Mercedes he had the last three seasons to prove himself and he has done that!

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