Max Verstappen hits out after Imola skirmish with Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen almost came together during the second practice session at Imola

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Lewis Hamilton took responsibility for the latest instalment of his Formula 1 rivalry with Max Verstappen as the pair almost crashed in Free Practice 2 at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix weekend when Verstappen swerved right after becoming emotional.

It has been a frustrating Friday for the Red Bull driver, who has really struggled to get dialled in at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola. The defending world champion made a series of unforced errors across both sessions whilst he raged at his stand-in engineer too before turning his attention to Hamilton.

The 26-year-old was left fuming when the seven-time world champion was dawdling around in Sector 1 at Turns 5 and 6, commonly known as the Variante Villenueve, as Verstappen pushed on a hot lap before he had to back off to avoid the slow Mercedes in front of him.

His emotions then boiled over as he pulled alongside and swerved right, almost hitting Hamilton‘s car in a similar manner to Sebastian Vettel at the 2017 Azerbaijan GP as the 39-year-old apologised for getting in the way, something he took full blame for.

“I was on a cool down lap,” Hamilton told media after the session. “I thought I was well clear, would have been well clear, and then he was right on me.

“Ultimately that was my mistake. I tried to apologise but he was too frustrated for sure.”

Verstappen had appeared to calm down after the incident and shifted his focus back to Red Bull‘s set-up woes, which left him struggling to out-pace Sergio Perez and a long way down from Charles Leclerc‘s FP2-topping time.

But did fire one shot at Hamilton and the grid by pointing out it isn’t the first time someone’s got in his way as he tries to set a quick lap.

“It’s not the first time, you try to always stay calm about it,” Verstappen said, dismissively. “But it happened again. I don’t want to really talk about it too much, because that’s not our issue.

“Today we were just severely off pace, that’s what we need to fix.”

Lewis Hamilton at 2024 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix | Mercedes
Lewis Hamilton at 2024 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix | Mercedes

Hamilton praises Mercedes developments

Mercedes are looking to close the gap to the front of the grid after another disappointing start to the season compared to their pre-2022 standards, and their upgrades appeared to give them a better platform at Imola.

The Silver Arrows were fourth and fifth fastest in FP2 and four tenths off the pace, small improvement compared to the Miami GP which allows them to potentially be in the hunt for a podium finish on Sunday.

So Hamilton, who never forgets his team’s contributions, once again praised the factory in Brackley for working so hard to attempt to get Mercedes back to the platform that saw them win eight championships in a row from 2014-2021.

“It’s been a good start to the weekend,” Hamilton added to media. “We’re a lot closer than we have been it seems, but we’ll see how tomorrow [qualifying] goes.

“I’m really grateful to everyone back at the factory for pushing so hard to bring these upgrades, we are seeing an improvement in the performance of our car and on track.”

Brandon Sutton
Brandon is an alumni of an NCTJ and BJTC Liverpool John Moores University course, and has been with Total-Motorsport.com for over a year now. He enjoys covering all forms of motorsport but particularly focuses on Formula 1, and Brandon loves to debate various topics of the sport and other interests, especially if that topic doesn't have an open/shut answer such as the GOAT debate.
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