Formula One world championship leader Max Verstappen will have a three-place grid drop at the Russian Grand Prix on September 26 after stewards ruled he was mainly to blame for a collision with title rival Lewis Hamilton at Monza on Sunday.
The collision put both men out of the Italian Grand Prix, with Dutch driver Verstappen’s Red Bull landing on top of Hamilton’s Mercedes.
The stewards also gave Verstappen two penalty points, his first in the current 12 month period.
Both drivers were summoned to the stewards after the race to review video evidence.
The stewards said in a statement that they had found “the driver of Car 33 (Verstappen) was predominantly to blame for the collision with Car 44 (Hamilton) at Turn Two.”
“At the 50m board before Turn One, Car 44 was significantly ahead of Car 33. Car 33 braked late and started to move alongside Car 44, although at no point in the sequence does Car 33 get any further forward than just behind the front wheel of Car 44,” it added.
“The stewards observed on CCTV footage that the driver of Car 44 was driving an avoiding line, although his position caused Car 33 to go onto the kerb.
“While Car 44 could have steered further from the kerb to avoid the incident, the stewards determined that his position was reasonable.”
Earlier, Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff had slammed the incident as a ‘tactical foul’.
Red Bull and championship leader Verstappen saw it differently and accused seven times world champion Hamilton of not leaving enough space at the first chicane.
The collision ended in the gravel with Verstappen’s car wedged on top of the Briton’s, the Halo head-protection device proving its worth again with both drivers clambering outsmarting but unhurt.
“I would say it was a tactical foul. He probably knew that if Lewis stayed ahead that is the race win possibly, ” said Wolff.
Verstappen had started the day five points clear of Hamilton after finishing second in Saturday’s sprint race for a bonus two points.
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The Dutch driver was running in second place but lost 11 seconds in a slow pitstop that dropped him down to 10th place while Hamilton passed Norris to take the lead with Ricciardo having already pitted.
Hamilton pitted three laps after Verstappen and they then went wheel-to-wheel, with the cars making contact and the Red Bull lifting off the kerb and into the air.
“It landed on my head but I’ll be O.K.,” said a sore Hamilton.
“I was racing as hard as I could, finally got past (McLaren’s) Lando (Norris) and was in the lead so they pitted me. The pitstop was slow, I lost a couple of seconds and I came out. Daniel came past, Max was coming. I made sure I left a car’s width on the outside for him, I went into turn one and I was ahead and going into turn two and then all of a sudden he was on top of me.
“He just didn’t want to give way today and he knew when he was going into two what was going to happen…but he still did it,” the Briton told Sky Sports television.
Verstappen said he had gone around the outside and “he just kept on squeezing me.
“I wanted to race… I didn’t expect him to keep on squeezing, squeezing, squeezing. He didn’t even need to. If he would have left me just a car width we would have raced out of turn two anyway and I think he would have probably still been in front. But he just kept on pushing me wider and at one point there was nowhere to go.”
Today was very unfortunate. The incident could have been avoided if I had been left enough space to make the corner. You need 2 people to make that work and I feel I was squeezed out of it. When racing each other, these things can happen, unfortunately #ItalianGP pic.twitter.com/9xOmnqAtd8
— Max Verstappen (@Max33Verstappen) September 12, 2021
“I think our opinion would be that Lewis perhaps closed him too much into Turn Two,” said Red Bull boss Christian Horner.
“I’m disappointed that Toto would say it was a professional foul but I think it’s a racing incident and thankfully nobody was injured today.”
The title rivals have collided before this season, notably at Hamilton’s own British Grand Prix when Verstappen ended up in hospital for checks and Hamilton took the win.
“It was clear for Max that it would end up in a crash,” said Wolff. “If we don’t manage that in the right way, and I’m sure the stewards will look at it in the right way, this is going to continue.
“We had a high-speed crash in Silverstone, we had one car ending up on top of the other one, on Lewis’s head here. So how far can we go? Maybe next time we have a high-speed crash and land on each other.”
Wolff said Hamilton’s car was damaged all around the halo and the wheel had been on the Briton’s head.