Desperate times call for desperate measures.
With Max Verstappen threatening to run away with the title and defending champion Lewis Hamilton seemingly unable to beat his rival on the track, desperate measures are exactly what Red Bull team principal Christian Horner accused the Mercedes driver of using.
This season’s title battle boiled over in Sunday’s British Grand Prix on one of the hottest days of the year, in front of 140,000 fans at a packed Silverstone, with a terrifying incident that saw the race red-flagged, Verstappen taken to hospital and Hamilton issued with a 10-second penalty.
As they tussled for position on the first lap, the two championship contenders crashed in a 190mph shunt, which registered at 51G, sending Verstappen hurtling into the tire barrier and out of the race.
Verstappen was released from hospital later but Horner was scathing about what he felt was a life-threatening move by the 36-year-old Hamilton.
“His actions have left in jeopardy another driver’s safety and for me that is unacceptable,” Horner said. “You don’t put a wheel up the inside without there being huge consequences. We are just lucky today there wasn’t someone seriously hurt.
“What I am most angry about is just the lack of judgement, and the desperation in this move. It was never on. Lewis is a world champion who has won seven titles. It is an amateur’s mistake and a desperate mistake.”
Hamilton was given his penalty following the crash but delivered a superb comeback drive to record his eighth win on home soil as the best, as well as the worst, was seen of the British driver.
Horner called the victory “hollow” but Hamilton said it was anything but.
“I don’t really have anything to say to Christian. The win doesn’t feel hollow,” he said. “I don’t think I am in a position to have to apologize for anything. We are 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 really care what people think, so I just do what I do and I am really grateful for today.”
Hamilton agreed, however, that he was desperate for the win after a dismal run of five races without a victory.
“There was so much riding on this race,” he said. “The will to succeed for the crowd … everything compounded has made this a momentous kind of event for us and so important.”
The incident split the paddock although most drivers tactfully agreed it was “a racing incident,” including Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, the man Hamilton pipped to victory, passing him with just two laps to go — and on the same corner where he tangled with Verstappen.
The 23-year-old Verstappen was fuming, labeling the move “disrespectful and unsportsmanlike”.
“Glad I’m ok. Very disappointed with being taken out like this,” Verstappen posted on Twitter. “The penalty given does not help us and doesn’t do justice to the dangerous move Lewis made on the track.”
What there can be no argument about is the title race has been blown wide open again. Verstappen was hoping for a fourth successive win but instead his advantage has been slashed from 33 points to eight.
And Formula One now has an epic battle and a rivalry similar to that between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, or Michael Schumacher and Damon Hill.
Fans are relishing the next meeting between the two, in Hungary in two weeks’ time.
As Hamilton said: “The race is on.”
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