Formula 1

“Lewis just kept squeezing until there wasn’t room” – Max Verstappen

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Credit: LAT Images

World championship leader Max Verstappen has been awarded a three-place grid penalty for the Russian Grand Prix, after being deemed to be predominately to blame for horrific crash with title-rival Lewis Hamilton at the Italian Grand Prix.

Verstappen suffered a day to forget at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza despite starting the race on pole. The Dutchman made a mediocre start to the grand prix and quickly lost the lead to Daniel Ricciardo, before almost colliding with Hamilton on the first lap at turn five. Hamilton was forced to run across the sausage kerbs at turn five in what was a mirror image of the pairs coming together at Imola earlier in the season.

Verstappen’s race was then uneventful for several laps, before everything quickly spiralled out of control. The championship leader suffered a terrible pit-stop, the Dutchman was stationary for just over eleven seconds in what was a stop nowhere near Red Bull Racing’s impeccable standards.

This put Verstappen into the clutches of Hamilton, who pitted a lap later and came out a cars length ahead of the Red Bull driver. Verstappen who’s temper was clearly flaring after the slow stop, tried to go around the outside of Hamilton at turn one, to then have the inside line for turn two. There simply wasn’t enough room though as neither driver prepared to yield.

Verstappen’s car bounced over the hideous sausage kerbs and launched into the air, landing on top of Hamilton’s Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team car in terrifying style. Verstappen’s rear-right tyre even made contact with Hamilton’s helmet, as the halo device yet again proved it’s worth, quite literally preventing Hamilton from being crushed by Verstappen’s car.

The pair thankfully walked away uninjured, with Hamilton only complaining of a sore neck. Both drivers were seen by the stewards after the race. The stewards decided to award Verstappen a three-place grid penalty for the next grand prix and add two penalty points to his license, after coming to the decision that Verstappen was predominately to blame.

The championship leader doesn’t agree with the penalty and believes that he was squeezed by Hamilton, in what is becoming one of the most talked about rivalries in recent years.

“We were racing for position today but you need two people to work together to make the corner and Lewis just kept squeezing until there wasn’t room anymore for two cars and that’s when we crashed. When he exited the pits, he started to squeeze me going into Turn 1 so I had to use the green part of the track.

“It was very tight but there was room for me to go around the outside and then I was pushed onto the orange sausage kerb. I was there to try and race hard but fair. I don’t fully agree with the penalty as I believe it was a racing incident. It’s very unfortunate what happened today but we are both professionals and so we will move on.”

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