At around 290 kilometers per hour, Lewis Hamilton clears his World Cup rival Max Verstappen at Silverstone. The Briton wins the Formula 1 race, the Dutchman complains from the hospital. But the accident could be a surprisingly good omen for the Red Bull driver.
For the major controversies in Formula 1, a small combination consisting of a location and a year is sufficient. Jerez 1997 is one of those people who enter it in a search engine and come across an apparently infinite number of results from the ramming, with which Michael Schumacher tried in vain in the season finale to prevent his opponent Jacques Villeneuve from winning the world championship. Spain 2016 stands for the Mercedes drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, whose races came to an end after a collision in the gravel bed of turn four. Baku 2017, when Sebastian Vettel felt so provoked during a safety car phase by Hamilton that he steered his Ferrari into the side of the Mercedes.
There has been a new combination since this weekend: Silverstone 2021. Because Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen fight an outstanding duel for the lead on the first lap of the British Grand Prix, which escalates with a momentous contact at turn nine. Hamilton tries to get by inside, at over 290 kilometers per hour, his front tire and Verstappen’s rear wheel are touching. The Dutchman is only a passenger in his Red Bull, he hits the tire wall violently, and later there is talk of 51 G, i.e. 51 times the body weight that would have acted on the body at that moment. Hamilton’s Mercedes is also damaged, but the Briton can continue the race and crosses the finish line as the winner just under two hours later.
It is an invaluable achievement for Hamilton, which is particularly evident when looking at the drivers’ standings. He traveled to Silverstone 32 points behind, and in the sprint qualifying, which was held for the first time, another came. Verstappen, on the other hand, came to Great Britain with three consecutive wins, with another success he would have expanded his lead to at least 40 points just before the half-time of the season. But because only Hamilton still has a roadworthy racing car after tire-to-tire contact in the first lap and then moved it as best as possible around the 5.891-kilometer high-speed course despite a ten-second penalty, he has now moved back up to eight points.
Even more motivation for Verstappen
The collision at turn nine is the preliminary climax of an argument that Formula 1 has longingly been waiting for for years. With the introduction of hybrid engines in 2014, Mercedes began to dominate; all 14 world championship titles have since gone to the racing team led by Toto Wolff. Sebastian Vettel alone managed to break through the silver subscription to the first two places in the drivers’ standings, but the German gave up any hopes of an end to the monotony in 2017 and 2018 with weak phases in the second half of the season.
And Verstappen also still has to prove that he can prove the extra class that he showed on the first ten Grand Prix weekends in races 11 to 23 (currently planned). The chance of becoming the first non-Mercedes champion in eight years is greater than ever before. On the one hand, because Red Bull seems to have closed the gap to the series winner with its further development of the previous year’s car and the improvement of the Honda engine. On the other hand, because Mercedes looks more vulnerable than it has been in a long time. And because it can be assumed that Verstappen will only see this crash, which was mainly caused by Hamilton, as an additional motivation.
As “disrespectful” and “unsportsmanlike”, Verstappen described it in the evening that Hamilton celebrated his 99th career success with the British fans while he was being checked through in the hospital. “All examinations in order” he tweeted afterwards, the suspicion of a concussion was not confirmed and Red Bull motorsport consultant Helmut Marko said in an interview with RTL / ntv less than 24 hours after the violent departure: “He has a bit of neck pain, otherwise he is everything okay.” The Austrian is also bothered by the exuberance of the World Cup opponents, describes it as “levelless” and then hands it out to Mercedes: “But well, that’s just the style of the house.”
The new Nico Rosberg?
Marko is known for his clear words, and as harsh as the argument between Red Bull and Mercedes after the accident may seem, it does one thing above all for Formula 1: good. Lewis Hamilton has won six of the last seven drivers’ world championships and the question before the start of the season was no longer whether he would win the title again, but only how big the lead would be after the last race. The fact that Verstappen and Red Bull are questioning this apparent certainty brings back tension that had long been lost.
And because even a final clarification of the question of guilt – Hamilton should have slowed down earlier, Verstappen should have given in later – no longer changes the result, the exciting question is not what the cause of the clash was. But what the consequences are. Which opens a parallel to Spain in 2016, to the accident between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg on the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona. There, too, Hamilton initially lagged behind after the start and then tried to overtake on the inside. However, it touched the grass next to the track, lost control and cleared Rosberg, both were eliminated.
Back then, like Verstappen, Rosberg led the drivers’ standings today, albeit at an earlier point in the season. With an outstanding early form, the German had developed a clear lead, which Hamilton shortened after the crash. Back then in the weeks that followed, today in the same Grand Prix. Then as now, Hamilton also ended a five-race winless series after the collision with the biggest rival in the World Championship, so the Briton in the Mercedes never had to wait that long for success in the hybrid era. More importantly, Hamilton had to congratulate his rival on winning the World Cup at the end of the season. Which, if history did repeat itself, the combination would most certainly make Silverstone 2021 a historic one.