Hamilton and his Red Bull rival traded positions numerous times at the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on Sunday, in one of the most chaotic races in Formula 1 history.
Hamilton emerged victorious in Jeddah, and in doing so the defending champion erased Verstappen’s drivers’ championship lead. As such, the pair will enter the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi level on points.
The Belgian-Dutchman is ahead on races won, though he couldn’t beat Hamilton in Jeddah as the seven-time title-winner claimed the victory in a race that saw two red flags as five drivers crashed out.
The biggest incident came after Verstappen went off the track entirely to overtake Hamilton. The Red Bull man was subsequently ordered to let Hamilton past but braked abruptly, causing the 36-year-old to hit the back of the 24-year-old’s vehicle.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff told Sky Sports after the race: “I don’t want to have dirty laundry in here...
“The telemetry shows that [Verstappen] was slowing down, then accelerating again, then slowing down.”
“No, [Hamilton] didn’t know [Verstappen was supposed to let him past], and I think that [was due to] the wrong sequence of messages coming through there.
“I don’t remember, honestly. It was so intense, the sequence of events. I think it could have been confusion, absolutely, but the stewards will look precisely at the telemetry and come to a judgement.
“If the drivers were not informed properly, that’s going to play a big role.”
Wolff commended the race directors on their attempts to manage a wild event, before saying: “We’re biased, obviously from our side there was frustration [after the first red flag]. I need to reserve judgement, see the race again tomorrow.
“It’s really [Verstappen’s] driving that needs to be assessed and looked at. It’s hard, really hard, maybe over-the-line hard.
“We just want a clean championship. If it’s Max [who wins], I’ll make peace with that. But we just want it to be [fair].”
Hamilton called Verstappen “f*****g crazy” for the manner in which the Belgian-Dutchman drove during the incident, and the Briton also said he was “confused” by Verstappen’s actions.
Meanwhile, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner suggested that Hamilton was “messing around” instead of getting past Verstappen.
“Max was trying to give the place up,” insisted Horner, speaking to Sky Sports. “We informed race control that we were going to give the place up and Max was lifting off. I think Lewis was lifting off.
“I don’t know if [Hamilton] was messing around looking for the DRS line. It was clear that we had given the place up.
“It’s weird because Lewis is slowing down behind him, it sounds like he’s lifting off.
“It was like [Hamilton] didn’t want to pass him because of the DRS. We were trying to give the place up and Lewis then drives up the back of Max’s car.
“We’ve picked up quite a bit of damage from that. Very, very frustrating.”
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