The Italian Grand Prix this weekend was set up well to be a thriller around the fast Monza circuit. Having started with a sprint qualifying that left Hamilton in fourth and Bottas starting from the back on Sunday (due to a power unit change) despite winning the sprint. This left Max Verstappen on pole with Ricciardo alongside him.
However, what looked like a day of celebration for Red Bull was anything but as Max Verstappen showed his dark side. This has left many, including me, wondering whether Max belongs in modern Formula1, let alone become a world champion.
The incident between Max and Lewis
Max and Red Bull fans were in total outrage after the incident at Kopse between Max and Lewis during the British Grand Prix earlier in the season, with many, including Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner and Driver manager Dr. Helmut Marko calling for a race ban for Lewis Hamilton.
They continued to push for the race ban even after Hamilton served his 10-second penalty, and the FIA rejected their appeal for a harsher punishment. Red Bull even went as far as deploying their reserve driver Alex Albion in a 2019 Red Bull to do a reenactment of the line Hamilton took into the corner to prove that he was never going to make the corner without crashing into Max. However, these antics didn’t amount to much as Red Bull was scorned and laughed at for attempting to fabricate evidence.
Fast forward to this weekend’s Grand Prix at Monza, and the tables were turned around. However, what Max did this weekend was incomparable to what Lewis did in Silverstone. Max’s actions were deliberate and dangerously close to injuring or killing Lewis Hamilton.
What actually happened?
If you didn’t watch the race or the highlights, here’s a breakdown of the events as they transpired. After Ricciardo’s pitstop from the lead, Red Bull pitted Max on Lap 24 for what they hoped would be another sub 2 second stop, but it was anything but. An error from the wheelman on the front right meant that Max was stationary for over 11 seconds. This brought Max back onto the grid, well out of position behind Lando Norris.
That botched stop brought out beast mode in Max, who was driving in anger to keep the race win on despite it. On Lap 26, Mercedes pitted Lewis from the lead, but his stop was no good either. He was stationary in the box for 4 seconds and was fed back onto the grid behind Lando but ahead of Max.
Lewis went wide on the run down to Turn 1 to get onto the racing line before the corner and narrowly squeezed Max but made sure to leave him a car’s width. However, Max continued going for a gap into Turn 2 that was never going to be there once he got there, as Lewis had a right to claim the apex as the car ahead. They didn’t actually touch until Max hit one of the sausage kerbs on the inside of Turn 2 and pitched his car into the back then over the top of Lewis Hamilton’s. That left both of them out of the race and the Red Bull sitting on top of the Mercedes like scrap metal in a junkyard.
Did Max crash into Lewis deliberately?
It has been suggested by a few in the F1 paddock, including Sky Sports F1 pundits and retired drivers Damon Hill and Johnny Herbert, that Max crashed into Lewis deliberately. Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff called it a “tactical foul,” referencing the deliberate fouls by players in football.
The more I watch the replays of the incident, the more I find myself in agreement with Toto and Damon that it was deliberate from Max. Having lost a chance of the win with the lousy pit stop, Max’s only concern was retaining his slim championship lead regardless of whether it meant wrecking his and Hamilton’s car in the process.
However, the damning evidence of Max’s intentions wasn’t anything he did leading up to the crash, but what he said after it. Immediately after the crash had happened, Max came onto the radio and said, “That’s what you get when you don’t leave the space!”
Does that really sound like the mentality of someone who just had an accident or one who deliberately crashed into another because he wasn’t left any room? How entitled is Max Verstappen that he expects to leave no room for others, but everyone has to step aside and let him pass?
Max took to Twitter in the aftermath of the incident and doubled down on his earlier statement, saying he should have been left more room. When has Max ever left room for another driver to overtake him? And where are the outraged F1 fans calling for Max’s banning? Is a 3 spot grid penalty really enough for deliberately crashing a championship rival and almost injuring him? Max’s tyre rolled over Hamilton’s head, and had it not been for the halo, Lewis might have been a goner.
This is not the attitude of a modern F1 driver, let alone a championship contender in a top team. How do you deliberately crash into a rival and say, “that’s what you get”? Is this really the attitude of a future world champion?
Max’s actions were nothing short of disgusting, and I hope that penalty is enough to get him to change his approach because he could kill someone with that attitude.
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.