Accident largely Max's fault

Red Bull driver gets 3-place grid drop, 2 penalty pts; insists rival forced him out

MONZA • Formula One world championship leader Max Verstappen will have a three-place grid drop at the Russian Grand Prix after stewards ruled he was "predominantly to blame" for a collision with title rival Lewis Hamilton at Monza on Sunday.

The crash put both men out of the Italian Grand Prix, with Verstappen's Red Bull landing on top of Hamilton's Mercedes.

The Russian Grand Prix is next up on Sept 26.

Verstappen (226.5 points) leads Hamilton by five points in the drivers' title race after 14 of the scheduled 22 races.

Both drivers were summoned after the race to review video evidence. The stewards also gave the Dutchman two penalty points, his first in the current 12-month period.

The stewards said: "At the 50m board before Turn 1, Car 44 (Hamilton) was significantly ahead of Car 33 (Verstappen). Car 33 braked late and started to move alongside Car 44, although at no point in the sequence does Car 33 get any further forward than just behind the front wheel of Car 44.

"The stewards observed on CCTV footage that the driver of Car 44 was driving an avoiding line, although his position caused Car 33 to go onto the kerb.

"While Car 44 could have steered further from the kerb to avoid the incident, the stewards determined that his position was reasonable."

Hamilton was pleased the stewards had acted.

"I'm ultimately proud of the stewards. It definitely sets a precedent and I think it's important for us moving forward for the safety of the drivers," he said.

"When you get away with things like that, then it's easy just to continue to do it."

Verstappen, naturally, disagreed with the penalty.

"Today was very unfortunate," the Dutch driver tweeted.

"The incident could have been avoided if I had been left enough space to make the corner.

"You need 2 people to make that work and I feel I was squeezed out of it. When racing each other, these things can happen, unfortunately."

Sunday's incident was the second big collision between the two this season, with Verstappen crashing out after contact at the British GP in July, a race his British rival went on to win.

Then, Verstappen had criticised Hamilton as the world champion celebrated his eventual win while the Dutch driver was being checked in hospital.

On Sunday, Hamilton returned the criticism, saying that he had been surprised to see Verstappen get out of his car and "just walk by".

"Ultimately when we do have incidents, the first thing we want to make sure is the guy that we crashed into or collide with is OK," he said.

The war of words also reached the paddock with Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff calling the incident a "tactical foul".

But Red Bull counterpart Christian Horner said he was disappointed by the Austrian's comment.

"It's a racing incident and thankfully nobody was injured today," he said after a race that ended in a McLaren one-two with Australian Daniel Ricciardo the winner.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 14, 2021, with the headline 'Accident largely Max's fault'. Subscribe