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Lewis Hamilton and George Russell collide as Max Verstappen wins in Qatar

Verstappen’s emphatic win played second fiddle to Hamilton’s crash with Russell which left the seven-time world champion in the gravel

Philip Duncan
Sunday 08 October 2023 21:20 BST
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Verstappen 'This is the best one" - Verstappen on 3rd world title

A furious George Russell lashed out at Lewis Hamilton following a dramatic crash with his Mercedes team-mate at the very first corner of Sunday’s Qatar Grand Prix.

Max Verstappen, crowned champion of the world for a third time following Saturday’s sprint, started his title parade by racing to his 14th win from the 17 rounds so far.

McLaren’s Oscar Piastri followed up his victory in Saturday’s 19-lap dash by taking second place while his McLaren team-mate Lando Norris completed the podium.

But Verstappen’s emphatic win and McLaren’s continued resurgence played second fiddle to Hamilton’s crash with Russell which left the seven-time world champion in the gravel. Russell fought back from last to fourth.

Hamilton, third on the grid, attempted to drive round the outside of Russell, one starting place higher, and pole-sitter Verstappen in a gung-ho bid for glory.

But Hamilton tagged the front-left of Russell’s machine. An out-of-control Hamilton was sent into the gravel with the right-rear wheel of his Mercedes flying off into the air.

Russell was sent spinning round before limping back to the pits for a new front wing. Out came the safety car and the inquest started.

“F****** hell,” yelled Russell, 25. “Come on! What the hell! I have got damage.”

Referencing their ding-dong battle at the last round in Japan, Russell added: “Guys, come on, f***! Two races in a row.”

Sitting in the sandtrap, Hamilton, 38, pointed the finger at his younger team-mate.

“Yeah, I got taken out by my team-mate,” he said.

Back on track and sitting at the rear of the field, Russell returned to the intercom.

Lewis Hamilton was sent crashing into the gravel (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)

“Sorry guys, I wasn’t even looking,” he added. “I was focused ahead and he came from nowhere.

“I am lost for words. Honestly. I have just seen the replays on the TV screen. I couldn’t do anything. Totally sandwiched.”

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff is absent from this race – his second in a row – as he recovers from knee surgery. But the Austrian came on the intercom in a move to calm Russell down.

“George, let’s race now and get the best out of it,” he said.

Forty minutes after the accident, Hamilton, 38, accepted blame for the coming together.

“In the heat of the moment, it was frustrating because I felt this tap from the rear but I don’t think George had anywhere to go,” said the seven-time world champion using a towel to mop the sweat from his brow.

“It was an unfortunate scenario and I am happy to take responsibility because that is my role. I need to go back and look at it, but I don’t feel like it was George’s fault.

Max Verstappen won his 14th race of the season (Getty Images)

“Before the race, we knew we were on different tyres so we wanted to work together. I had the soft tyre and everyone around me was on the medium and I needed to get by. I tried going round the outside of Max and it just didn’t work out.

“It was not our plan to come together. It is just really gutting for the team. I feel just really sad for everybody for my part in it.”

Hamilton wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, after the race, saying: “I’ve watched the replay and it was 100% my fault and I take full responsibility. Apologies to my team and to George.”

He insisted his partnership with Russell had not been damaged by the collision.

Mercedes announced at the end of August that Hamilton and Russell will continue alongside each other until at least the end of 2025.

TOP-10 - QATAR GRAND PRIX

1) Max Verstappen

2) Oscar Piastri

3) Lando Norris

4) George Russell

5) Charles Leclerc

6) Fernando Alonso

7) Esteban Ocon

8) Valtteri Bottas

9) Zhou Guanyu

10) Sergio Perez

He continued: “The relationship is not broken. I don’t have any problems with George. We have a great relationship and we always talk about things.

“This is just unfortunate and I am sure he was frustrated in the moment, as I was, but we will talk about it offline and move forwards.”

Amid safety concerns about the Pirelli tyres, Sunday’s 57-lap race featured a flurry of mandatory pit stops – with the drivers only able to do 18 laps on a single set of rubber.

Yet, the disruption had little impact on Verstappen who sealed another comfortable win, taking the flag 4.8 seconds clear for the 49th win of his career.

Charles Leclerc finished fifth for Ferrari ahead of the Aston Martin of Fernando Alonso.

Sergio Perez, whose crash in Saturday’s sprint officially handed Verstappen his third title, started from the pit lane and crossed the line ninth on yet another weekend to forget for the Mexican.

Perez was also handed a five-second penalty for exceeding track limits, demoting him to 10th.

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