Lewis Hamilton feels the British Grand Prix proved Max Verstappen is so aggressive he makes collisions inevitable unless the opposing driver submits – something Hamilton will not be “bullied” into.
The Formula 1 title battle descended into acrimony at Silverstone, where Hamilton tried to pass Verstappen on the opening lap at Copse and the two drivers made contact.
Each blamed the other for the incident and Hamilton received a 10-second penalty after being deemed at fault by the stewards.
Hamilton and Verstappen have had several wheel-to-wheel battles this season during an intense title fight and though they made light contact at Imola, they had previously avoided a race-ending collision.
Verstappen and his Red Bull team raged over what they perceived to be a reckless and “desperate” move at Silverstone, but Hamilton made it clear after the race that he felt Verstappen’s style had finally got the better of him, and said the clash did not take the shine off his victory.
“This is racing and of course I would love to be able to race and for us to leave one another space,” Hamilton said on Sky Sports F1.
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 18, 2021
“There is plenty of space on the track for us to get around, and I managed for a long time without colliding with someone.
“But when someone’s just too aggressive these things are bound to happen.
“There’s not a single driver here that doesn’t know how aggressive a driver could be.
“I hope he’s OK because of course I would love to have a wheel-to-wheel battle for the whole race. I enjoy racing with him.
“But I will never back down from anyone and I would not be bullied into being less aggressive.
“This weekend, we needed the points and there was a gap. He left a gap and I went for it.”
Hamilton had to avoid contact in Spain, where Verstappen made a bold move to pass him at the first corner after the start.
The implication from Hamilton is that on this occasion he did not feel it was his responsibility to do that, and that the crash was the inevitable outcome with Verstappen unlikely to yield himself.
In addressing a question about the context of their rivalry and whether this was more than just a race-specific incident, but the result of a bigger back story, Hamilton claimed it is a “normal battle” but again suggested that he has been the only driver willing to yield in a 50/50 scenario – and that he cannot keep doing that.
“When I was younger, I was pretty aggressive,” Hamilton said. “I’m a lot older now, I know that it’s a marathon not a sprint. And so I think I have a better view on how I approach my racing.
“But we’re in a battle and I think this year he has been very aggressive and most of the times I’ve had to concede and just avoid incidents with him and live to fight later on in the race.
“Once he’s out in the clear, they are too fast. So, when an opportunity comes, I’ve got to try and take it.
Verstappen and Hamilton collide!
The title rivals come together at Copse, pitching Verstappen into a high-speed crash.
— Formula 1 (@F1) July 18, 2021
“That’s what we’re out there doing and racing, and this one moment I got a great exit out of Turn 7 [Luffield], and I was really happy with the dummy, that I was able to go to the left and then go to the inside and get up that gap. Fortunately he wasn’t able to close it.
“But, unfortunately, the aggression stayed from his side and we collided. So, it’s unfortunate, but it’s a racing incident. These things happen.”
Red Bull has established a performance advantage in recent races and Hamilton admitted he was willing to take bigger risks in the British GP because of the limited opportunities he feels he will have to beat Verstappen.
Verstappen’s retirement, and Hamilton’s subsequent victory despite the time penalty, has closed the gap between the two in the championship to just eight points.
“I just don’t feel like he needs to be as aggressive as he is,” Hamilton said on Sky Sports F1.
“We’re going down to Turn 6 [Brooklands] and he’s bumping wheels with me, but it’s cool because there’s footage of old Formula 1 great drivers bumping wheels on a straight and so on, so I’m sure it looks cool and everything, but I tried to give him space.
“I was quite a long way up the inside into Turn 9 [Copse] and none of us backed out and that was the end result.”
Hamilton said that such incidents are “never one person’s fault, it’s always a balance of the two” and admitted both drivers probably needed to learn from this clash.
“There’s things that we can both learn,” he said.
“I would say that Max is probably one of the most aggressive drivers here.
“He does a great job of course, but I think we have to really try and find the best balance we always can on track with space and respect between one another, so that we can continue racing and have good races without colliding.”