The 2021 Formula 1 world championship battle took a dramatic turn at Silverstone when Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton collided on the opening lap of the British Grand Prix.
Verstappen hit the Copse barriers at high speed, while Hamilton was able to continue in second.
But who was at fault?
The stewards decided Hamilton was and slapped him with 10-second time penalty. But here are our writers’ snap verdicts:
A pure racing incident with shared blame
This was a no-holds barred, no-compromise straight wheel-to-wheel scrap between the two title combatants.
They had already shown each other earlier in the lap they were not prepared to back down. Hamilton is perfectly entitled to try to claim Copse from the inside, Verstappen is perfectly entitled to take up his line on the understanding there might be contact.
A racing incident. 100%. It shouldn’t even be up for discussion.
The moment neither of them gave in
This was inevitable. Both in the context of this season, and in this specific case.
How many times this year have they seemed so close to colliding but got away with it? Sometimes it’s been great judgement by both, sometimes reliant on Hamilton backing out. But it felt that surely, SURELY, at some point something would change. At some point, neither driver would give.
And in this situation, that happened. It seemed inevitable from the moment Hamilton darted to the inside. Yes, it’s a high-risk move. Yes, Copse is ultra-fast and overtaking is rare. But that doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to try.
Christian Horner: “I think it was a desperate move. Copse is one of the fastest corners in the world. You don’t stick a wheel up the inside, that’s just dirty driving.” 🤬
— Channel 4 F1® (@C4F1) July 18, 2021
Verstappen leaves room, so will feel he couldn’t have done any more. But he’s squeezed Hamilton so tight that if Hamilton doesn’t yield (by braking and backing out), then Max has to. Neither did. And when that happens at that corner, a heavy accident is inevitable.
It’s actually the lightest of touches as they meet mid-corner. Hamilton is slightly more at fault as the aggressor but I think this falls within the description of a racing incident. Just one with an outcome that’s a huge shame – though thankfully Verstappen looks to have escaped serious injury.
The title battle will be different from here
This moment was inevitable, it was simply a matter of where and when it would happen. The championship fight between Hamilton and Verstappen has been cordial so far, and it always seemed a little too much so given how close they have been on track this year.
The question was when, rather than if, they would have a coming together given how often their paths crossed and the stakes.
Even before Copse, it was a frenetic first lap with the pair going at it hard through Abbey and Brooklands. With a world championship at stake, Verstappen determined to hold on to his advantage and Hamilton knowing that the first lap would be his best, and possibly only, opportunity it was a classic case of irresistible force meets immovable object.
This cannot help but change the dynamic of the championship battle, regardless of what conclusions the stewards might draw. Such an intense, season-long fight will push both drivers to the limit and this cannot help but ramp up a dramatic title battle that bit more.
But the way that manifests itself has yet to be seen…
A Hamilton penalty is just about justified
For a driver with a 33-point championship lead, Verstappen was taking a few too many chances there for my liking, whether at the start or at Brooklands.
But that alone doesn’t automatically make what followed a racing incident.
There was definitely no egregious error from Hamilton, and Verstappen definitely contributed to the clash.
But at the same time, Hamilton’s car did wash out enough towards Verstappen to where you could just about justify a penalty – although to do so the stewards would probably have to describe the move as ill-advised a priori.
What bears mentioning is that a 10-second penalty is probably the most politically expedient move. Mercedes will be aggrieved by it, Red Bull will argue it’s not enough, but both will probably be appeased just about enough to not kick up any further fuss and let us get on with the title battle going forward.
Always likely to happen
I don’t think it is anything more than a racing incident.
Both drivers were pushing incredibly hard, knowing that the race would likely be decided on the opening lap, and being true racers, neither of them were going to back out going into the corner.
So in some ways it was inevitable that they were going to come together. Could Lewis have done any more? Possibly not at that angle. Could Max have given more room? Again, possibly, but he would have likely run off the track at the exit and he probably didn’t see where Hamilton was.
In essence, both are to blame, but with the championship battle getting ever tenser, this was always likely to happen at some point and it could change the way these two battle each other again this year.