By now I’m willing to bet you’ve made up your mind on the crash between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen in the first lap of Sunday’s Formula 1 race at Silverstone. Even if you have, I recommend taking a moment to watch Chain Bear’s just-released video on the incident, which unpacks it from multiple perspectives and introduces some context that might’ve passed you by if you merely watched the action unfold live.
First, the video reminds us that Hamilton and Verstappen quite literally had been in this scenario before — on Lap 1 of Saturday’s sprint qualifying race, of course. The difference then was that Hamilton didn’t get quite the same run he was able to make on Verstappen on Sunday, and didn’t dive in toward the apex of Copse. Instead, the Mercedes stayed wide to the Red Bull’s left, and Hamilton ultimately wasn’t able to mount an attack on his rival for the remainder of the session.
Viewed through that lens, Hamilton had already seen this play out once to his detriment, and wasn’t going to allow that to happen a second time. So it’s little surprise he was much more aggressive approaching Copse on race day. Verstappen was also quite aggressive as Chain Bear points out, showing that while the Dutch driver did momentarily straighten his steering angle mid-corner, presumably to avoid Hamilton, he wasn’t accommodating for long. In effect he turned in twice, the second time to claim the corner.
While both drivers had more than enough room to navigate Copse side by side without incident, that was only going to happen if one backed out, and clearly neither had any interest in doing so. The Mercedes’ ideal line would have been much tighter through the fast right-hander, but thanks to aero wash as Chain Bear tells us, Hamilton likely lacked the grip to hold that path. You know what happened next.
This episode has also proven a useful reminder for what the job of the stewards is after such an event. Race control can’t fix Verstappen’s car and put it back in the race, but it can penalize Hamilton. I can’t help but feel a drive-through would have been more fitting; then again, I probably wouldn’t be saying that if the dude didn’t go on to win the race. The aftermath of the incident can’t factor into the decision-making process the stewards are faced with, nor how we reflect on everything as onlookers. It’s never worked that way before, and it shouldn’t now.
Seeing it from above with Chain Bear’s helpful animations provides a more comprehensive picture of what went down. But it also gives us the benefit of hindsight, and makes the whole episode seem entirely avoidable. That’s the thing about racing, though — you aren’t afforded time to make these decisions. You make them in the moment, and you live with the consequences.