- Formula One’s most exciting title race in years just got a whole lot more exciting.
- Lewis Hamilton took out his title rival Max Verstappen on the first lap of the British Grand Prix.
- Hamilton won the race, but angered Verstappen who accused his rival of disrespect.
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The two, who are the only ones with a realistic chance of winning this season’s Drivers Championship, collided on the first lap at Silverstone sending Verstappen into the wall and out of the race.
The Dutchman was subjected to an impact of 51G’s at the moment the car hit the wall, his team Red Bull said.
That’s more than fifty times regular gravity, and around five times the G-force felt by fighter pilots during high speed flying, albeit for a much shorter period.
Verstappen was taken to the hospital for precautionary checks, but was later cleared.
In front of a 140,000-strong Silverstone crowd, the race started in exciting fashion with Verstappen and Hamilton, who lined up first and second on the grid, challenging each other for the lead.
As they entered Copse corner, a high speed right-hand turn, Hamilton tried to force his way on the inside but touched Verstappen’s rear right wheel with his front left and sent the Red Bull driver on a high-speed impact with the tire wall.
The seven-time world champion would later claim he was ahead at the time, but replays showed it was Verstappen who had the lead.
-Formula 1 (@F1) July 18, 2021
The race was stopped as a visibly shaken Verstappen was taken to the medical center and his destroyed car was pulled out of the wall.
Hamilton was adjudged to have been at fault for the crash and was handed a 10-second time penalty but won the British Grand Prix for the eighth time in his career, overtaking Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc with three laps to go.
After a season of respect between the two rivals, the 180mph (290km/h) crash was the first sign tensions are beginning to boil over. Vertsappen, tweeting from hospital, labelled Hamilton’s celebrations of his victory “disrespectful and unsportsmanlike behavior”.
-Max Verstappen (@Max33Verstappen) July 18, 2021
His thoughts were echoed by his team principal, Christian Horner, who pulled no punches in his assessment of the crash.
“Putting a fellow driver in hospital and writing off a car and receiving a menial penalty and winning a Grand Prix doesn’t feel like much of a penalty.
“To stick a wheel up the inside at Copse corner, one of the fastest corners anywhere, there is only ever going to be one consequence of that.
“We are just lucky someone wasn’t seriously hurt. Thankfully we got away with it.” Horner told the media.
Mercedes, meanwhile, was on the defensive, arguing that the crash was a racing incident Team principal Toto Wolff said “it takes two to tango” after the race.
The crash comes just a fortnight after Wolff said it would only take Verstappen failing to finish one race for Hamilton to be back in the title fight.
Regardless of where the blame lies, the crash is the latest proof of a truly competitive title race, something F1 fans have been waiting for since Nico Rosberg defeated Hamilton in the 2016 season.
Fans will now have to wait a further two weeks before the Hungarian Grand Prix, where Hamilton and Verstappen will clash for the final time before F1’s summer break.