Rivals Verstappen, Hamilton crash at Monza
A simmering battle in Formula One (F1) erupted in spectacular fashion yesterday as championship leader Max Verstappen and defending champion Lewis Hamilton crashed out of the Italian Grand Prix, which was won by McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo.
As both Hamilton and Verstappen fought for position midway through the race, their cars came together in a move that could have seriously injured Hamilton. Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff went as far as describing it as “a tactical foul” by Verstappen.
“The stewards will decide who is to blame,” Wolff said. “In football, you would call it a tactical foul. He knew that if Lewis stays ahead, then that is the race win.”
The stewards did decide, judging that Verstappen “was predominantly to blame for the collision”. They gave the Red Bull driver a three-place grid drop for the start of the next race, the Russian GP, on September 26.
“I’m proud of the stewards,” Hamilton said after learning of their decision. “I need some time to really reflect on it, but I think it definitely sets a precedent and I think it’s important for us moving forward, for the safety of the drivers, that there are strict rules set in place.”
Hamilton, who had been outspoken against the protective halo at the front of F1 car cockpits before its introduction in 2018, thinks it might have saved his life on Sunday.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been hit on the head by a car before. It’s quite a shock for me,” added Hamilton, who still sounded distressed several hours after the incident. “And I’ve been racing a long, long time. So I’m so, so grateful that I’m still here. I feel incredibly blessed. I feel like someone was watching over me today.”
Verstappen maintained his championship lead, which he had slightly extended to five points by coming second in the sprint on Saturday.
“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,” Verstappen said.
“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.”
It was the second major incident between the two in as many months. They clashed on the first lap of the British GP in what Red Bull called a “desperate” move by Mercedes driver Hamilton that saw him given a 10-second penalty and Verstappen hospitalised.
Ricciardo celebrated in his traditional style on the iconic Monza podium, drinking champagne from his shoe — and then getting teammate Lando Norris to do so, too.
It was McLaren’s first win in nearly nine years, since Jenson Button took the chequered flag in Brazil in 2012, and Ricciardo’s first win since Monaco in 2018. He finished 1.747 seconds ahead of Norris and 4.921 ahead of Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas, who turned in a strong performance after starting from the back of the grid after a penalty for taking a new engine.
“About time. Oh wow,” Ricciardo said. “Even if we got the start, it wasn’t guaranteed that we’d lead the whole race. We didn’t have mega speed, but it was enough to keep Max behind.
“To lead literally from start to finish I don’t think any of us expected that. But there was something in me Friday, I knew something good was to come.”
Driver Championship standings:
1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 226.5
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 221.5
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 141
4. Lando Norris (McLaren) 132
5. Sergio Pérez (Red Bull) 118
6. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 104
7. Carlos Sainz Jr (Ferrari) 97.5
8. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) 83
9. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) 66
10. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) 50
Italian GP results:
1. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) 26
2. Lando Norris (McLaren) 18
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 15
4. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 12
5. Sergio Pérez (Red Bull) 10
6. Carlos Sainz Jr (Ferrari) 8
7. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) 6
8. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) 4
9. George Russell (Williams) 2
10. Esteban Ocon (Alpine) 1
Constructor Championship standings:
1. Mercedes 362.5
2. Red Bull 344.5
3. McLaren 215
4. Ferrari 201.5
5. Alpine 95
6. AlphaTauri 84
7. Aston Martin 59
8. Williams 22
9. Alfa Romeo 3
10. Haas 0