BusyFormula #015: The Lewis and Max crash was a racing incident

Everyone in the world now knows about the controversial incident that took place between the two championship leaders. Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton touched wheels on the first lap going into Copse, which sent Max Verstappen into a tailspin that ended with him crashing into the barrier. That was the end of Max’s race while Hamilton went on to win the race, despite getting a 10-second penalty for causing the collision.

This incident has divided the F1 paddock and the fans down the middle. One half believes that it was a racing incident. Given how hard the two had raced off the line and the fact that Lewis’ car was at one point halfway alongside Max’s going into that corner, there was nothing much he could do to avoid the incident.

On the other hand, those in Max’s camp believe that the blame for the incident falls squarely on Lewis Hamilton’s shoulders. Given that Copse is taken flat out, many believe that Lewis had no business sending one up the inside of Max at that speed. Red Bull team boss Christian Horner was visibly furious in the aftermath of the crash. He called the move by Lewis “amateur and desperate” and believed that Lewis should have been given a much harsher punishment than the 10-second penalty he received.

“For me, it’s very clear: Lewis has stuck a wheel up the inside of one of the fastest corners on this world championship. He’s driven this circuit for years; you know you don’t do that here. The result – thank God we haven’t had a driver that’s been seriously injured or worse today.”

“I think it was a desperate move. He failed to make the move in the first part of the lap, which he was obviously geared to do, and then it was just a desperate move sticking a wheel up the inside, which you just don’t do. Copse is one of the fastest corners in the world. You don’t stick a wheel up the inside. That’s just dirty driving,” he added.

Not one to bite his tongue, Red Bull’s Dr. Helmut Marko went even a step further than Horner. Dr. Marko asked for Lewis to get a race suspension for causing the collision and stated in an interview that Red Bull had hired a lawyer to explore the available courses of action for Red Bull in this situation.

Was this the worst incident in Formula1?

With all this excitement from Red Bull, I could forgive you for thinking that this was the worst crash to happen in Formula1 history. But the fact is that it isn’t. It isn’t even the worst crash since the beginning of the hybrid era. In fact, it isn’t even the worst crash this season. In my opinion, that honor goes to the collision between George Russell and Valtteri Bottas at Imola earlier in the season.

Before you dismiss this as just another piece of pro-Hamilton propaganda, consider this. Several people in the F1 paddock, including Martin Brundle, Jolyon Palmer, and even drivers like Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc, called it a racing incident.

If it was as cut and dry as the Red Bull team and Max Verstappen fans insist it is, then the opinions of others in the profession would be more straightforward and one-sided. The stewards had a hard time judging the incident as well. They didn’t deliver a verdict till the Red Flag was lifted, and the session resumed.

Lewis’ overtake on Leclerc

If that doesn’t convince you, then consider this. During the Red Flag, Horner said that it was unheard of for anyone to think about going down the inside at Copse the way Hamilton did. Unfortunately, that comment didn’t age well as Hamilton attempted the same move on both Lando Norris and Charles Leclerc to win his eighth British Grand Prix.

Granted, the move on Lando was made on the run into Copse, but the one with Leclerc was almost identical. After rewatching both clips (Lewis vs. Max and Lewis vs. Leclerc), it is clear that Lewis was a bit wider going to Copse against Max than he was against Leclerc. But that makes sense since Max had tried to pinch Lewis going into the corner. That made Lewis adjust his line going into the corner so he wouldn’t compromise his exit from that corner.

Another thing that is obvious from the footage is that Lewis was further alongside Max going into Copse than he ever was to Leclerc going into the same corner. Yet Leclerc managed to stay wide and leave the fast-flying Hamilton enough space on the inside to still make the corner. Everyone that believes that Max is entirely blameless in that incident should look at Leclerc’s line out of that corner and how he managed to stay wide. That compromised his exit and cost him the lead, but it was possible.

Max didn’t want to give up the lead, so he cut across Lewis, hoping that he would back out of it, but he didn’t. In my books, that cannot be anything more than a racing incident. Red Bull is more upset about losing their advantage in the championship than they are about the specifics of the incident. Horner would have been praising Max for his fearlessness and talking about how the FIA was ruining racing if it was the other way around.

Julius Kakwenzire is a self-confessed F1 addict. When he’s not getting emotional at the race track’s proceedings, he’s working on great fintech products at Lupiiya.

Kakwenzire Julius