Max Verstappen says he had nowhere to go in his battle with Lewis Hamilton in the first chicane during Formula 1’s Italian Grand Prix, saying that the Mercedes driver “kept on squeezing me”.
The resulting collision put both drivers out of the race, with the stewards summoning both drivers for a post-race investigation.
Verstappen felt that Hamilton needed to leave him space mid-chicane as they battled after the Mercedes driver emerged from the pits.
He argued that he was left with no option but to hit the sausage kerb, which resulted in his Red Bull then hitting the Mercedes and both drivers retiring.
“Of course, we realised it was going to be close into Turn 1, so he cut across after the white [pit exit] line and I had to go onto the green part to not touch and I went around the outside,” Verstappen told Sky Sports F1.
“And of course, he realised I was going for it so he kept on squeezing me.
“I wanted to work with him because I wanted to race. People then automatically start talking about Silverstone, but these things happen.
“Of course, it was not nice at the time but I think we are all professional enough to just get on with it and keep on racing each other.
“But then I didn’t expect him to keep on squeezing, squeezing, squeezing because he didn’t even need to.
“Even if he had left me just a car width we would have raced out of Turn 2 anyway and I think he would have probably still been in front.
“But then he just kept on pushing me wider and wider and at one point there was nowhere to go. He just pushed me onto the sausage kerb and that’s why, at the end of the day, we touched because the rear tyre then bumped up to his tyre.”
Verstappen’s team boss Christian Horner agreed that Hamilton should have given his driver more room.
“I felt that Max deserved a bit more space to be given at Turn 2,” said Horner.
“I think Lewis gave enough space through Turn 1, and then into Turn 2 it just felt like he could’ve given him a bit more room to work with. And I’m sure the other side will argue it the other way.
“So I think when you look at it objectively, you’d have to say it’s a racing incident.”
Horner also reacted strongly to his Mercedes counterpart Toto Wolff’s suggestion that Verstappen had committed a “tactical foul” because he knew he was going to be beaten by Hamilton in the race.
“I don’t think he’s thinking that going through Turn 1 into Turn 2,” said Horner. “He’s thinking ‘how can I pass the car ahead?’ I’d be disappointed if Toto suggested that.”
Asked by The Race if he felt there wasn’t much he could do once he’d committed to hanging on around the outside, Verstappen said he had made a deliberate decision not to take to the run-off – comparing it to the penalty his team-mate Sergio Perez ended up with for going off-track while fighting Charles Leclerc.
“It takes two people to work together, and I didn’t want to immediately take the easy route to just drive off and you get into a moment like Checo with a penalty or whatever, I didn’t want to get into that scenario,” said Verstappen.
“So I trusted him to fight, because I wanted to fight. Everybody starts to make the link with Silverstone but I don’t think that had anything to do with it, I think we’re all professional enough to just keep on going and race each other but unfortunately we came together.”
Horner backed this assessment too. When asked if he felt Verstappen had scope to avoid the crash too, he replied: “he still had wheels on the track, if he had chosen to go straight on, then does he get a fair advantage? Six of one, half a dozen of the other.”
Verstappen was also by Sky asked to compare it to the battle the duo had on the opening lap, when Hamilton cut across the second chicane after attempting to go around the outside.
But the Red Bull driver insisted that the incidents were different.
“I don’t think you can judge them exactly the same because he just kept on squeezing and squeezing while really I was a lot alongside him,” said Verstappen.
“You need two people to work together to make the corner and we are fighting for position. And unfortunately we touched.”
He was also asked if he considered it a risk not to cut across the first chicane, as Hamilton did in the earlier incident.
“Like I said, you need two people to work together right?
“So if one guy’s not willing to work then what can you do? It’s not going to happen.”
Despite the clash, Verstappen believes the two are both professional enough to move on from the clash and race side by side in the future.
“Of course it’s very unfortunate what happened today, I think nobody likes to see that,” said Verstappen.
“But again, I think we are professional enough to step over it and just keep on going. But like I said, it’s just very unfortunate.”
Verstappen was also asked if he should have checked on Hamilton’s wellbeing after the crash given the Red Bull was on top of the Mercedes.
“Lewis was fine, he was still trying to reverse when I was already out of the car,” Verstappen replied.
“When you are not fine, you are not doing that.”