In a throwback to the 2021 F1 season, Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen came together at the 2022 Brazilian Grand Prix, in an incident which would have had a lot more attention if it was not for the other dramas in Sao Paulo.
On the first safety car restart, on Lap 7, Verstappen went around the outside of Hamilton at Turn 1 and had three-quarters of his car alongside the Mercedes going into Turn 2.
The pair met at the apex, which saw Verstappen damage his front wing and forced him to pit, whilst Hamilton dropped to eighth place.
Verstappen was “predominantly at fault” so was awarded a five-second time penalty, which he served at his second pit stop.
What have Verstappen and Hamilton said?
Verstappen finished sixth, albeit controversially as he ignored team orders by not letting Sergio Perez through at the end of the Grand Prix, but feels his incident with Hamilton didn’t cost him the win due to the lack of speed in the Red Bull at Interlagos.
“I went around the outside and I immediately felt he was not going to leave space,” Verstappen told Sky Sports F1.
“I went for it, he didn’t leave any space so I knew we were going to get together. It cost him the race win, for me it gave me five seconds [time penalty]. It wouldn’t have mattered for my race because we were way too slow.
“It’s just a shame, I thought we could race quite well together but clearly the intention was not there to race.”
Immediately after the race, Hamilton said “you know how it is with Max” as he finished second to teammate George Russell, who picked up his maiden Formula 1 victory.
“I am not concerned,” Hamilton told the press.
“I think it is natural when you have success and the numbers on your chest that you become a bit of a target but it’s OK.
“It isn’t anything I haven’t dealt with before.”
Stewards made the wrong decision
There is a simple rule in racing which everyone should know about. When a driver on the inside is more than halfway alongside a driver on the outside going into a corner, they are entitled to some space.
All the driver on the outside has to do to NOT be at fault for any contact, is to leave at least a car’s width. Hamilton didn’t do that against Verstappen.
It was reminiscent of his clash with Fernando Alonso at the Belgian GP earlier this year, when he simply turned in like there was nobody to the inside of him.
Verstappen‘s words are interesting in that he says he felt like Hamilton was not going to leave any room.
But, the fact is, he had enough of his car alongside so should have been given some space. He wasn’t and did not need to back out, given he was not far off being side by side.
More to come in F1 2023?
It’s always thrilling when Verstappen and Hamilton go wheel to wheel, it doesn’t get any better than that in F1.
You can feel the tension suddenly increase with a sense of inevitability when contact is made.
Hamilton may have wanted to lay down a marker to Verstappen for next year, if they are involved in another title fight, to say ‘I will not let you through easily’.
The problem is, Verstappen will never back down as we saw numerous times in 2021 which were sometimes fair enough, and sometimes wrong.
Brazil was a case where Verstappen was right, but let’s think bigger picture here.
Maybe, the two-time world champion might just think again when racing Hamilton and back out, if there is a situation where he cannot afford damage or a possible DNF, and his rival can.
Hamilton cost himself a bigger chance of the win on Sunday, but an element of psychological racing games for 2023 may have played a part in why he was so aggressive and decided to slam the door shut.