Crash at Silverstone
With the 2021 F1 season being a close driver’s title battle between seven times defending champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes and Max Verstappen of Red Bull, it was only a matter of time before a race track incident happened.
Leading into the 2021 British Grand Prix, Verstappen had a comfortable 32 point lead in the drivers championship. This was the result of a streak of successful races by the Red Bull driver, finishing first in the preceding three races and scoring 25 points a piece. Hamilton, on the other hand, was having lesser luck, finishing second, second, and fourth for a total of 48 points from the three races. Red Bull’s luck seemed to continue at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone, Max Verstappen taking home first on Saturday’s sprint race and qualifying for pole position for Sunday’s grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton qualified to begin the grand prix from the second position.
At the start of the race Max Verstappen had a better start than Lewis Hamilton, and for the beginning of the first lap Hamilton was just behind Verstappen, looking for any opportunities to take the lead. This opportunity arose when the two championship contenders entered Cobb’s corner, the fastest corner at the Silverstone track.
Verstappen entered this corner slightly ahead of Hamilton, choosing to take a wider racing line. This left an ample amount of space between his car and the apex, enough room for another F1 car to make it past. Hamilton chose to take the gap, pushing his car at high speeds in between Verstappen and the apex of the turn. Disaster struck when Verstappen began to close in on the apex corner, causing a tiny collision with his right rear tire and Hamilton’s left front tire.
Due to the speeds of the race, even this small amount of contact sent Max Verstappen spinning off the track and into a barrier. Verstappen was forced to retire from the British grand prix and Lewis Hamilton went on to win the race, earning 25 points and cutting down on Verstappen’s lead. Verstappen suffered a stopping force of 51 Gs when entering the barrier, and was sent to the hospital as a precaution after he exited his destroyed car.
Following the race, many were quick to voice their opinions on who caused the crash and who was at fault. Many others believed that the ten second time penalty given to Hamilton for the crash was too little of a punishment given the nature of the incident.
A common view was that Hamilton was mostly at fault for the crash because there was still much space in between his car and the apex of the turn, and that he purposefully took a racing line that would lead to a collision with Max.
Although the onboard cameras do confirm this space, the ultimate decision on which line to take is up to the driver, and based on the recorded steering wheel movements by Hamilton no ill intent could be proved.
At high speeds it is insanely difficult to make the perfect judgment calls, and thus the common consensus was that the crash was simply an unfortunate racing incident.
A racing incident is when the fault of a crash is too much in between the two parties, and thus a grey zone where no driver is designated as at fault. Although it is extremely unfortunate for Max Verstappen to suffer a retirement at such a critical race, what is most important is that he was able to walk away from the crash. This balancing of the scales in the championship race will only brew more competition between the two drivers.
Written by Tony Cao