There was an almost inescapable inevitability to the clash between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen at the British Grand Prix. The two drivers are locked in a fierce fight for the Formula One world championship. They are competitive, determined and, 決定的に, unwilling to yield to one another for fear it would expose a chink that could be exploited. The irresistible force and the immovable object butted heads and when neither gave way at Silverstone the nature of their title fight fundamentally changed.
Hamilton and Verstappen are in a two-horse race for the world championship and have battled closely this season, but this is the first time they have collided on track. In the opening four races when they were similarly matched on pace they vied with one another repeatedly and did brush against each other at Imola, いつ, notably, Hamilton gave ground rather than risk being knocked out as Verstappen muscled his way past.
Come the British GP, しかしながら, the circumstances were different, with the world champion trailing Verstappen by a formidable 33 ポイント. ザ・ Red Bull has improved dramatically, proving to be the quicker car for the past five races, and if Verstappen had stayed in front over the opening laps at Silverstone Hamilton would have likely been powerless against him.
Having battled across half of that first lap, Hamilton attempted a pass up the inside of the high-speed Copse corner. Neither driver would yield and the champion’s left front wheel clipped the right rear of Verstappen’s car, sending it hurtling into the barriers at 180mph, where he took a 51-G impact. He was unhurt and Hamilton went on to win despite a 10-second penalty. It was a high-risk move but acceptable to attempt and, as Hamilton proved by repeating it twice later in the race, entirely feasible.
Verstappen condemned the move as dangerous and his team principal, Christian Horner, insisted that it had put the 23-year-old’s life in danger, the “amateur” act of a “desperate” driver. These were battle lines finally being drawn and Hamilton reacted in turn with the most personal criticism of Verstappen he has yet issued.
“I was pretty aggressive as a youngster – I’m a lot older now and I know it’s a marathon not a sprint,” said the 36-year-old. “I have a better view in how I approach my racing. But we’re in a battle and I think this year he has been very aggressive and most of the times I’ve had to concede and just avoid incident with him and live to fight on later on in the race. But unfortunately the aggression stayed from his side and we collided.”
Verstappen has always been clear he will get his elbows out and Hamilton has now served notice that he will not placidly stand back can take it. With the win and Verstappen’s DNF, that 33-point gap has been reduced to just eight, which will doubtless rankle enormously with him and Red Bull.
Hamilton was judged by the stewards to be at fault and took a penalty but accusations that he is a “dirty’ driver simply do not hold water with his record over 15 seasons in F1. 確かに, Charles Leclerc and Valtteri Bottas both agreed it was a racing incident, as did the double world champion Fernando Alonso. “It was an unfortunate moment of the race, but nothing intentional or nothing that any of the two drivers did wrong in my opinion," 彼は言った.
Which seems a reasonable interpretation from a great driver. But it is unlikely to ease the tension as this cold war hots up. There are potentially 13 races remaining this season, and each one could stage another flashpoint between the two drivers. They are pushing to the limit and the intensity of that fight has now been ramped up to another level.
Intimidation has been part of drivers armouries since the world championship began and what is clear is that neither Hamilton nor Verstappen will submit to being on the receiving end. What had been a gripping fight now has a dramatic personal element that neither can ignore and since neither will be backing off, Silverstone was likely the overture to one of the sport’s great rivalries.