Based on their claims ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix, Formula 1 title rivals Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen will collide again this season.
The ongoing Red Bull anger over Hamilton’s “lenient” penalty and “disrespectful” post-race British Grand Prix celebrations, plus a futile attempt at getting the incident reviewed, have come to dominate the lingering narrative since the controversial clash at Silverstone almost two weeks ago.
Such has been the criticism, claim and counterclaim during this saga that at some point it feels like the really important fact has been lost: that F1’s titanic championship challengers finally came to blows.
It’s something quite explosive. And as we prepare for the first chapter in their fight since that fateful moment at Copse, the ping-ponging of quotes only strengthens the expectation this will happen again.
Maybe not at the Hungaroring on Sunday. Maybe not in the explosive way they did at Silverstone, which as outlined here by Mark Hughes could become the defining flashpoint.
But they will cross swords somewhere, in some way, with the stakes possibly just as high.
There can be no other outcome when one reflects on the attitudes of the two protagonists.
Hamilton, the aggressor, the driver deemed “predominantly” at fault for the incident by the stewards, said: “I would do the move exactly the way I did it last time. In terms of how I’ve reviewed it and analysed from all my experience – and my experience over the years speaks for a lot – I wouldn’t change it.”
Verstappen, the vanquished (at Silverstone) championship leader, whose role in the clash was recognised by the stewards not deeming Hamilton “wholly” responsible, felt he deserved none of the responsibility.
Verstappen and Hamilton collide!
The title rivals come together at Copse, pitching Verstappen into a high-speed crash.
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 18, 2021
“I will continue to race like I did,” he told The Race. “I felt like I didn’t do anything wrong in that fight.
“I gave him more than enough space but he completely misjudged the cornering speeds, and especially at the angle he went into that corner there was no way he was going to make the corner with the speed he entered it.”
We may assume both are speaking honestly, which means both feel they were not the bad guy, both feel they acted properly, and both would do the same thing all over again.
That means if a ‘Copse, lap one’ moment arises again this season, we will have the same outcome.
How likely is it that the exact same circumstances are reproduced?
Not very. Silverstone was a particularly complex cocktail of factors. But a close enough approximation to pit the irresistible force and immovable object against one another? It seems a near-certainty before the end of the season.
Even if Red Bull confirms the recent trend and maintains a small but decisive performance advantage, Verstappen and Hamilton will surely find themselves briefly fighting over the same piece of track again in what could be another 13 grands prix.
What happened at Silverstone wasn’t the result of Hamilton gradually hunting Verstappen in totally equal machinery and launching an assault, it was an opening-lap clash born from a bid to alter the otherwise predictable outcome of the race (Verstappen gradually disappearing).
All it takes is for Hamilton to get ahead at the start, or live with Verstappen through the first few corners, and the two cars will be able to go wheel-to-wheel.
Should that happen then the better judgement, from either driver, would be to not do the same again.
But if both are speaking so bullishly in the calm environment of media sessions some 11 days after the clash, why should we think that they will reach that better judgement in the heat of battle?
This isn’t about who was in the right and who was in the wrong. It’s just a reflection of the two drivers’ respective attitudes. Ultimately, in such moments one driver must give.
Neither did. And apparently neither would again. So if – or rather, when – their resolve gets tested, the outcome seems rather inevitable.