In The Driver's Seat

No crash course in post-collision apologies

Sportsmanship is an elusive commodity, especially in a sport as intense and close-fought as Formula One, 2017-style.

That was highlighted in several ways during Sunday's Hungarian Grand Prix, when two lots of team-mates fell out and two other competitors had an unseemly public spat. But it makes for good television, it has to be said, and a little acrimony can set things up nicely. Look at what happened in Azerbaijan.

The Hungarian goulash of gall began when the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo beat Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes to the first corner.

Verstappen ran wide on the outside of the right-hander, while Ricciardo went down the inside, so they came out almost side-by-side going into Turn 2, a left-hander.

Verstappen, predictably, dived down the inside of his team-mate but, as his car slid out, they collided. He continued. Ricciardo, his radiator damaged, ran wide, regained the road, then promptly spun into retirement on its own leaking fluids.

The Australian, normally a placid fellow with a big smile, was not amused. "Was that who I think it was?" he asked his team over the radio. "Sore loser... It wasn't on, and it was amateur, to say the least. He doesn't like it when a team-mate gets in front of him.

"It was a very poor mistake. I honestly don't think it's trying too hard or that there is an excuse for it.

Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo (left) and Max Verstappen colliding during the opening lap of the Hungarian Grand Prix last Sunday. The incident ended the race for Ricciardo, who had topped Friday's practice sessions. His Dutch team-mate later apologised. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

"It's like he tried the outside in Turn 1, it didn't work and he had the line taken from him. So what looks a good start is a bad start.

"Then I go past and it's, 'Oops, I've got to fix it'."

He and Verstappen generally have a decent relationship, and later the Dutchman apologised, privately and publicly.

At the same time the two Force India drivers, Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon, brushed wheels for the third time this year. They went on to finish eighth and ninth respectively, with damaged cars. There were no apologies.

The Hungarian goulash of gall began when the Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo beat Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes to the first corner.

And then there was Nico Hulkenberg's run-in with the two Haas cars. His Renault slid wide in the general concertina effect and hit Romain Grosjean, ruining the Frenchman's race. And when he tried to overtake Kevin Magnussen around the outside in Turn 2, the Dane widened his line and was given a five-second penalty and Hulkenberg had to run off the road in avoidance.

Hulkenberg sarcastically congratulated Magnussen on being "once again the most unsporting driver". In response, the Dane resorted to vulgarity.

Thankfully, there was a great sporting story at the heart of the race, when Valtteri Bottas agreed to Mercedes' request to let team-mate Hamilton overtake so that he could have a go at the Ferraris.

Hamilton agreed to hand the place back if he failed. And he did precisely that. Bottas admitted he harboured doubts, and was delighted to be proved wrong.

Said Hamilton: "It got difficult towards the end. He was seven seconds behind and I was among backmarkers while trying to go slow. If I had ended up fifth trying to give Valtteri the place back and getting overtaken by Max too, that would have sucked."

He admitted it was a great gesture which came more from the heart.

He said: "The mind is more cut-throat because every point counts. It's do or die this year. But my heart said that was the right thing to do. I want to win this championship, but I want to win it the right way.

"If you do good things, then they come back around for you."

But he was honest enough to add: "If I lose it by those three points, then I wouldn't know what to say."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 01, 2017, with the headline 'No crash course in post-collision apologies'. Print Edition | Subscribe