Monza, Sept. 13, (dpa/GNA) – Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton were already providing the most thrilling Formula One world championship fight in years and their rivalry took another twist in Monza when the pair collided to crash out of the Italian Grand Prix.
That both have reached the stage where points and psychology are so crucial there can be no backing out when wheel to wheel is clear.
But it leaves the question open for just how much can be allowed on track when both are willing to do whatever it takes to win.
“I would say, in football you call it a tactical foul,” Mercedes motorsport chief Toto Wolff said before the stewards sanctioned Verstappen for the crash.
“It was clear to Max in there that it would end up in a crash and I think if we don’t manage this in the right way – and I’m sure the stewards will look at it in the right way – it’s going to continue.
“We’ve had a high-speed crash in Silverstone, we’ve had one car ending up on top of the other on Lewis’ head here.
“How far can we go? Maybe next we have a high-speed crash and land on each other.”
The Russian Grand Prix is next in two weeks time so tempers may have cooled by the time the pair next take to the track.
Verstappen was deemed mainly at fault in Italy and will start the race with a three-place grid penalty – and may even decide to take more by using fresh engine parts to expand his component pool to the end of the season.
He will enter Russia holding a five-point lead in the championship and a sense of being hard done by.
Hamilton, he said, “just kept on squeezing me more and more to the left … he ran me a bit too much out of road, so then I clipped the sausage kerb and that’s why we touched.”
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner back him, saying it was “a racing incident.”
Unsurprisingly the teams view things in the reverse of the last incident in Silverstone when Hamilton attempted to squeeze inside Verstappen as Copse corner and after contact the Dutchman went hurtling into the barriers.
Hamilton, at his home British Grand Prix in July, trailed by a long way in the standings at with nothing to lose took a risk he may otherwise not have done. Verstappen, though shaken, walked away.
And it was Hamilton who said “thank God” for the halo protection device which kept him safe as Verstappen’s car landed on top of him at Monza.
There are eight rounds to go in a fascinating championship which could go either way with the only certainty there will be much more drama to come.