The championship battle between the pair, which has been bubbling along all season, finally boiled over on the opening lap of the Silverstone race.
Verstappen, who took the lead from pole position, was under attack from Hamilton through the first half of the lap. Hamilton attempted to pass the Red Bull into Copse corner, a right hander at around 300km/h. Hamilton’s left front tyre hit Verstappen’s right rear, sending the Dutch driver into the barrier.
However, replays showed Hamilton and Verstappen almost side-by-side on the entry to the corner, before Hamilton appeared to back out slightly.
Hamilton was hit with a 10 second penalty during the race, but was still able to recover and claim his first win since the Spanish Grand Prix in early May, cutting Verstappen’s championship lead to just eight points.
But the lap one crash has divided opinion among the F1 community.
“I don’t know what the maximum penalty would be, but such dangerous and reckless behaviour should be punished with a suspension or something,” Helmut Marko said on Sky Germany.
“If a competitor massively touches our rear wheel with his front wheel, then that’s no longer a racing accident in the fastest corner of the course.
“That is negligent to dangerous behaviour.”
When Marko was told that Mercedes was blaming Verstappen for the crash, the former F1 driver didn’t hold back.
“Then they are all blind,” he said.
“The replays showed that quite clearly. He went into our right rear wheel with his left front wheel and sent Verstappen into the barrier.”
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner was understandably livid about the accident, laying all the blame at Hamilton’s feet.
He was immediately on the radio to FIA race director, Michael Masi, telling the Australian that the “full blame lies on Hamilton”.
“You could have had a massive accident. Thank God he’s walked away. I hope you’re going to deal with it appropriately,” he said.
Speaking after the race, Horner remained unrepentant.
“He stuck a wheel up the inside in a corner that you just know that you don’t do that,” Horner told Sky Sports.
“You just don’t stick a wheel up the inside at Copse in that circumstance.
“He was nowhere near ahead, contact (was) left-front to right-rear, and it’s one of the fastest corners in the championship.
“Lewis has got more than enough experience to know that that’s unacceptable.”
Horner revealed that Verstappen was subjected to a 51G impact with the barrier in the crash. He was taken to hospital as a precaution, but later released.
“It’s dangerous, it looked desperate, and he’s put a competitor in hospital,” Horner said.
“I don’t care what Lewis said, have a look, draw your own conclusion, for me, that’s a hollow victory.
“It wasn’t much of a penalty, was it?”
But world champion Jenson Button, a former teammate of Hamilton’s, wasn’t prepared to apportion blame to either driver.
“It’s a difficult one, Lewis was almost alongside him,” Button said on Sky Sports.
“But that’s for me not the most important part, it’s that Max left enough room, but at that speed it’s very difficult on the inside to get around that corner at the speed he was going.
“Lewis had to back out to get around the corner, he’s misjudged the apex, which is completely fair enough because he’s coming in at such a speed at an angle he never has before.
“He has missed the apex, there was enough room for two cars, but it’s a difficult one to have a definitive answer on who was wrong.
“I get the penalty for Lewis, because he put someone in the wall, but it’s a tricky one.”
Speaking immediately after the race, Hamilton wasn’t ready to accept any blame for the crash.
“I’ve not really seen the footage, I saw a quick clip of it when I went back to the garage but I will go back and have time to reflect on it,” Hamilton said.
“I don’t think, from my current understanding, that I am in a position to have to apologise for anything. We were out there racing.
“I don’t agree with the stewards but I take my penalty on the chin and get on with my job. I am not going to whine about it. Everyone is going to have a different opinion and I don’t particularly care what people think. I just do what I do and I am just really grateful for today.”
Hamilton did take exception to Horner’s claim that the win was “hollow”.
“I don’t really have anything to say to Christian other than it doesn’t feel hollow,” he said.
“There are 2000 people in my team who work incredibly hard and it is not just about me.
“I have already said this is not the way or anything I want to happen in the race. It is important for all of us to take a step back as emotions are running high and I know what it is like to lose points within the team and be in that position, so I don’t generally worry about it.”
Former F1 driver Karun Chandhok, analysing the crash for Sky Sports, said the accident was inevitable with neither driver prepared to concede an inch.
“At no point is he (Hamilton) in front, at no point has he moved in front of Max Verstappen.
“Lewis does appear to be wide of the apex. When they make contact, his trajectory is heading wide of the apex.
“He’s (Verstappen) trying to give him room, he has given him racing room, but he’s also expected Lewis to have backed out of it. That’s the critical thing.
“Lewis expected Max to back out of it. Max expected Lewis to back out of it.
“But they’re both racing drivers fighting for the world championship, and neither of them are going to back out of it.
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