Automobile

Red Bull Isn’t Done Talking About That Hamilton-Verstappen Clash

After a highly normal first attempt at running Formula One’s sprint qualifying format, everyone went home from the British Grand Prix satisfied that things had gone well and no one was angry at all. Wait, no—unfortunately, this is F1 and as Drive to Survive has showcased, everyone loves drama. And now Red Bull is trying to force a stewarding review to see if it can get Hamilton a harsher penalty.

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen crashed at Silverstone’s famous Copse turn in what was genuinely a very dramatic way. Verstappen’s car bit into the tire barriers for a 51G impact and although he was able to get out of the car mostly unaided and walked to an ambulance, he was visibly pretty shaken and having to be guided by medics. Verstappen was taken to hospital, Hamilton was given a 10-second time penalty for when the race restarted, and Verstappen was still undergoing checks by the time Hamilton ultimately won the Grand Prix.

The lines Hamilton and Verstappen were taking through the high-speed corner were a case of “two into one doesn’t go.” The apex of each of their lines would have put them in each others’ way. Hamilton was narrowly ahead at the start of the corner, as the driver on the inside, but the stewards ruled that he should have avoided Verstappen (by braking earlier or taking a different line) and so he was the one penalized.

Some commentators afterward said it was a racing incident for which they were both to blame. Some said it was Hamilton’s fault. A smaller number argued it was even Verstappen turning in on Hamilton. It doesn’t really matter, as Hamilton’s penalty isn’t appealable under FIA stewarding rules (whereby any in-race time penalty is not subject to appeal) and that would, normally, be the end of things.

Red Bull didn’t want to leave it, though. Team principal Christian Horner called the penalty “menial” for what had happened. Helmut Marko, mouthpiece of the Red Bull Racing empire, said that Hamilton should get a race ban for the incident, even though that is not one of the options available for stewarding this kind of clash.

In a social media post confirming he was ok after the crash, Verstappen himself said, “The penalty given does not help us in any way and doesn’t do justice to the dangerous move Lewis made on track. Watching the celebrations after the race while still in hospital is disrespectful and unsportsmanlike behavior but we move on.”

Then Horner started talking about the costs of the impact, which Red Bull say was about $1.8 million of damage to Verstappen’s car. That’s believable—F1 cars are mindbogglingly expensive—but it’s not the stewards’ problem if Red Bull is getting close to the $150 million spending cap this year already. They’re there to make drivers behave reasonably during a race and any financial penalties are for Red Bull’s insurance lawyers.

Finally, ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix this weekend, Red Bull has sent its lawyers working overtime ahead of the summer shut down in order to secure a review with the FIA. 

The official documents say, in FIA language, that Verstappen, Hamilton and up to three representatives, including the team manager, from Red Bull and Mercedes, need to attend a virtual meeting at 16:00 central European summer time this Thursday. Both sides will be able to put forward their arguments and can supply other evidence—for instance, whatever Toto Wolff was emailing Michael Masi during the original deliberations. 

Verstappen has said he now “isn’t interested” in any further word-slinging about the incident, leaving it in the team’s hands. But presumably, he and Hamilton will have to attend this meeting, where if Red Bull or Mercedes can provide “significant and relevant” evidence that the stewards did not have to base the decision on when they made it, something might change.

F1 teams have a considerable history of being really bad at protesting decisions. After Sebastian Vettel got a penalty during the 2019 Canadian Grand Prix that gave Lewis Hamilton the win, Ferrari submitted evidence in a very similar review, which turned out to be five things the stewards had already seen and a clip of Sky commentator and former F1 driver Karun Chandhok analyzing the incident afterwards. All seven submitted clips were considered not new or significant to the stewards’ decision and the review went nowhere. 

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