The British Grand Prix at Silverstone served up yet another helping of championship drama in a season where F1 fans have overindulged in the theater at the front end of the grid. This season has excited fans like no other in the hybrid era. The top two in the championship have started alongside each other four times this season, and all have led to thrilling battles at the front.
This last weekend’s British Grand Prix was no different. Lewis Hamilton got pole on Friday in F1’s first-ever Sprint format, which meant that he lined up in first place on the grid for the Sprint qualifying session on Saturday. But, unfortunately, he would get edged out by Max, who took the lead on the first lap and sailed to victory.
The crash between Hamilton and Verstappen
Given how things had transpired on Saturday, Lewis was understandably despondent to start in second place behind Max on Sunday, given that he had qualified on pole on Friday. This made for a thrilling first lap of the British Grand Prix as Hamilton tried everything to get past Max on the first lap. This battle went all the way into Copse, culminating in a crash for Max after he and Lewis touched wheels coming out of the corner.
The crash meant that Max couldn’t finish the race for the second time this season and got Hamilton a 10 second penalty for causing the collision with Max. Lewis served the penalty during his only pitstop and emerged in fifth. He would go on to win the race after delivering a stellar drive to overtake Lando and catch Leclerc in front. This win brought Lewis back to just eight points behind championship leader Max Verstappen, and Mercedes closed the gap in the constructors’ championship to just four points.
That crash between the two championship leaders has created a lot of controversy and drama, with many Max fans feeling that Lewis’ 10-second penalty was not sufficient given that he was deemed to have caused the incident by the FIA.
However, in my opinion, it was nothing more than a first-lap racing incident that should never have been penalized. Nevertheless, I understand why the stewards felt like they had to penalize Hamilton, given how bad Max’s crash looked on the TV.
On the other hand, I also understand why Lewis felt that he had to be more aggressive than usual to win his home race. Furthermore, Lewis couldn’t keep getting bullied by Max during the wheel-to-wheel battles that the two of them have had and will undoubtedly continue to have throughout the rest of the season.
Mad Max the bully
Max is famous around the paddock for being unrelenting and unyielding when battling for position on the grid. His all-or-nothing driving style has won him a lot of admirers and critics alike. This uncompromising approach means that Max has the upper hand against most of the other drivers on the grid who don’t put up much of a fight against him out of fear of causing a collision.
No one wants to take the risk of banging wheels with Max because he won’t hesitate to make a risky and aggressive move that could end badly for everyone involved. As a result, even the seven-time World Champion is wary of racing him. Hamilton has mentioned on several occasions that he gives more room to Max than to any other driver on the grid. But I wonder whether Lewis realized that he couldn’t continue to do that if he wants to win the championship this season.
Just looking back to the battles this season, Lewis has been bullied by Max on a couple of occasions. At Imola, Max drove Lewis off the track for the lead and damaged Hamilton’s front wing in the process. Max did the same thing to get past Lewis on lap 1 in Barcelona in a move that Christian Horner hailed as “vintage Max.”
Are the gloves finally off?
This level of respect and fear that Lewis has for Max has played a significant role in why Lewis always seems to come out worse in his battles with Max. His experience in the sport has given him a marathon perspective that meant that he never felt the need to race wheel-to-wheel with Max and throw away valuable points. But while that approach worked just fine when Lewis had a lead to protect in the championship, it doesn’t work when he’s the one doing the chasing.