The Australian GP saw the re-emergence in on track combat of Formula One’s most recent epic driver duels between Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton.
At the start of the race, both Hamilton and Russell barged their way past the pole sitter Verstappen who later claimed only Hamilton’s rules were in breach of the F1 combat regulations.
Max complains of Lewis behaviour
“He pushed me off the track” I was ahead at the apex! He pushed me off,” exclaimed Max via team radio.
The present rule states that a driver coming from behind must allow room for the driver ahead if the driver ahead meets the apex of the corner first.
Replays did suggest Verstappen’s interpretation had merit.
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Button agrees with Verstappen
However, F1 champion Jenson Button said on commentary, “I don’t know how he pushed him wide if he wasn’t ahead.”
Button then had a rethink and clarified his position.
“He’s not pushed him wide. Max was good at giving him room or they would have collided.”
Of course Button’s revised position does indicate that Hamilton had pushed Verstappen wide. However, the stewards dealt with the matter as a ‘first lap incident’ and no penalty was forthcoming.
Verstappen now defensive on track
Given this was not a championship deciding race and the fact that Verstappen later flew past Hamilton on his way to the race victory meant the issue became moot.
Yet the switch in on track mentality between Hamilton and Verstappen was not lost on Sky’s commentator Ted Kravitz.
“What’s fascinating for me is that we now have Verstappen with a championship to think about,” Kravitz remarked in clearly a reference to when Hamilton was defending championship leads and Verstappen was the challenger.
“We have a complete flip from the Hamilton seasons from 2014-21, when he was going for the championships, when he knew that he had the fastest car and needed to play it safe.
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Lewis mentality has flipped
“You had the upstart Verstappen challenging him, wanting to get in there.
“It has completely flipped.
“Now you’ve got the upstart Hamilton challenging Verstappen, saying: ‘No cares given! I’m out there to take all the risks!’
“He’s putting it on the championship defender Verstappen, who is saying: ‘I’ve got to think about my championship here’.”
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Of course Kravitz notes that Hamilton is not really chasing a championship this season and so has even less to lose on a race by race basis.
“Hamilton knows he won’t win the championship this year, not unless something really weird happens.
“He can go in there and be aggressive with Verstappen, knowing Verstappen will give way.”
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Verstappen stubborn streak evident
However, Verstappen has in the past displayed a stubborn streak most recently when he refused to allow his team mate Perez through for just P6 in last season’s Sau Paulo Grand Prix.
Further, Max strong sense of injustice combined with his stubborn traits led him to mark the cards of the stewards following the race.
“It’s quite clear in the rules what you’re allowed to do now in the outside, but clearly it’s not followed. But that’s okay, we had good pace and passed them anyway. It’s something for the next races to take into account.”
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Max threatens revenge
The world champions comments would seem to suggest should he find himself in the same position as Hamilton in future, then no quarter shall be given.
Many are commentating on how Verstappen has matured since claiming his two world titles, well t seems like Lewis Hamilton may well put that to the test in the coming weeks and months.
So long as they’re on the same lap – of course.
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WHAT A START! 😲 pic.twitter.com/mNuUZxVsrG
— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) April 2, 2023
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