The sport stewards appointed by the FIA (International Automobile Federation) for the Italian GP found Max Verstappen guilty of colliding with Lewis Hamilton on lap 26 of last Sunday’s race (12). The two rivals shared turn 1 of the Monza circuit and clashed. The Red Bull car was cornered by Hamilton’s Mercedes, and the rear wheel of Verstappen’s bolide hit the Briton’s helmet, but the impact was softened by the presence of the halo. Max was punished with the loss of 3 positions on the starting grid of the Russian GP and the seven-time champion applauded the stewards’ decision.
According to the statement issued by the FIA hours after the Italian GP, “the #44 car [Hamilton] was coming out of the pits. the car #33 [Verstappen] was on the main straight. 50m before turn 1, car #44 was significantly ahead of #33, which slammed on the brakes later and got side by side with #44, but never got ahead. The driver of car #33 claimed it was the #44’s fault, which opened the wheel in turn 1 and squeezed it into turn 2. The driver of car #44 said that the driver in car #33 tried to overtake too late and should have given up on the curve”.
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“In the opinion of the stewards, the maneuver of car #33 came too late, meaning that there was no right to have space [na curva 2]. The #44 car could turn the steering wheel more to avoid the accident, but the stewards determined that the positioning was sensible, meaning that the #33 bears most of the blame,” concluded the race director in their decision.
Without name-calling his great rival in the 2021 title fight, Hamilton reinforced that Verstappen failed to give up space at that point in the dispute. Therefore, the Mercedes driver considered the decision for the right punishment.
“Ultimately, I’m proud of the commissioners. I think I need some time to reflect on this, but I think it definitely sets a precedent. It is an important precedent to advance in terms of pilot safety that there are strict rules established”, declared the pilot in an interview published by the British magazine Autosport.
Hamilton stressed that it is necessary to be tough in interpreting the rules so that such incidents do not recur. “This will continue until we have to learn from our scenarios on the track, and I don’t have a history of this type of incident. Ultimately, when you get away with things like that, it’s just easy to keep doing it.”
The current vice-leader of the Drivers’ World Championship gave a technical explanation to justify why, in his view, Verstappen made a mistake in the maneuver, which culminated in the accident that resulted in the abandonment of the two drivers in the Italian GP. “All of us pilots are on the edge. When we have the inside line, every rider, past or present, will try to stay in that position. Of course when you go around a corner and the car is still beside you in a wheel-to-wheel dispute, so you have to give in and give it extra space when that car is in front of you.”
“There is a known rule that says the driver ahead of you has [a preferência da] corner and eventually a rider has to give in. We need to pay attention to this and ensure that the right decisions are being made. Nobody wants to see someone get hurt and, if we manage to implement better protocols, maybe we can avoid this kind of thing in the future”, he added.
Lewis reinforced his gratitude for being alive and was especially grateful for the presence of the halo, which saved his life. “Honestly, I can consider myself very happy today. Thank God for the halo that ultimately saved me and saved my neck. I don’t think I’ve ever been hit on the head by a car before and it’s a big impact for me. I don’t know if you saw the image, but my head was tilted too far forward. I’ve been competing here for a long time and I’m very, very grateful that I’m still here.”
“I think Angela [Cullen, sua fisioterapeuta pessoal] will travel with me in the next few days. I’ll probably need a specialist just to make sure I’m okay for the next race. It looks like it’s getting a bit worse as the adrenaline is wearing off, but I’m going to work with Angela to fix that. I’m going to live”, smiled the seven-time world champion at the end.