Former F1 driver Damon Hill believes Lewis Hamilton was trying to assert his dominance during the British Grand Prix and show Max Verstappen that he’s “not going to back down” in this title fight.
Hamilton and Verstappen collided on the opening lap of the race at Silverstone, with the Dutchman leading the way from pole position.
Verstappen defended hard as the pair entered Turn Nine, Copse Corner, with the Red Bull driver taking the outside line heading into the bend.
The pair tangled as Verstappen’s right rear made contact with Hamilton’s front left, sending the 23-year-old spinning across the gravel and directly into the tyre wall.
Verstappen clambered out of the car, visibly winded from the shunt, and was transferred for further checks at a local hospital, before being discharged later that evening with no major injuries.
And speaking on the F1 Nation podcast, the 1996 world champion Hill said the move will have sent a clear warning shot to Hamilton’s main title rival.
“It was a statement of intent, it was Lewis saying, look I’m a street fighter, and if you’re going to get rough with me I’m going to have to show you what I’ve got, and he’s done that,” said Hill.
“Psychologically that has made a dent in Max, it has to, it’s made him realise that Lewis in a wheel-to-wheel battle is not going to back down, flat not going to back down.
“And that’s got to go down in the mental notebook.”
Hamilton was subsequently handed a ten-second time penalty for causing a collision, taken during his pit-stop, before he stormed his way back up the field to take victory for Mercedes in front of his home crowd, with the crash a firm topic of discussion in the aftermath.
But Hill believed, despite the penalty, there could be another incident like this in the future and suspects the FIA may have to intervene.
He added: “At which point, Michael Masi, the FIA Race Director, is going to have step in and say, guys, I know you’re fighting for a world title, and you’d probably take your crash helmets off and have a stand-up fight in the paddock if it came to it, but you can’t be allowed to do this with this sport.
“There are safety issues that we have to consider at these speeds, so he has to somehow install discipline, and he’s going to have to issue penalties if two cars collide.
“There’s no right or wrong in this one, at some point you have to say two cars collide, they’re both responsible to a degree.
“The objective is to race and not collide.
“I think it was inevitable at some point, there was going to be some coming together of the two.
“But it was so aggressive, I’ve never seen Lewis drive that aggressively. I’m racking my brain to think of a time, the only thing I can come up with is Barcelona with Nico Rosberg [in 2016].
“It was full-on attack mode, and I do wonder if it was something to do with what happened the previous day in the sprint, where he sort of lost pole position.
“[Drivers] presume that the other driver should give way, they kind of have this attitude that is like, well he has to give way because I’m better than he is.
“And when you get two people like that, you’re never going to get them to go round a corner together.
“Actually Lewis was very lucky he didn’t damage his front wing, get a puncture and all the rest of it, on top of his ten-second, which has been something that has been contentious, and I have had more calls and contact from my racing friends who have an opinion on this, and I can not find [an answer], it’s 50/50 either side at the moment.
“It’s not a clear answer whether it was Lewis who should’ve got the penalty or Max who should’ve got the penalty – I think they were both incredibly uncompromising and when you put two very uncompromising people into a 180mph corner, something’s going to happen – and it did.”