If one thought the battle between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen couldn’t get more intense, the Italian Grand Prix proved otherwise. On Lap 26 of Sunday’s race, the pair crashed out of the race in stunning fashion, with Verstappen’s car landing on top of Hamilton’s.
Following the race, the FIA dished out a three-place grid penalty to Verstappen, which sparked a furious debate. Recently, former world champion Jacques Villeneuve shared his thoughts on the incident and the penalty which the Dutchman received.
In the British Grand Prix, contact between the pair sent Verstappen into the barriers, suffering an impact of 51G. While the FIA judged Hamilton to be predominantly at fault, he received a 10-second penalty.
At Monza, Hamilton looked to cover off Verstappen‘s entry into Turn 1. However, the Dutchman refused to back down, going alongside the Briton into the chicane. This caused contact between the pair, as Verstappen’s rear-wheel briefly landed on Hamilton’s head, earning him a three-place grid penalty.
Compared to Verstappen’s penalty for the incident in Monza, many admitted it seemed harsh to hand out such a penalty to the Dutchman. Speaking to Corriere Della Sera, Villeneuve believed the FIA gave the Dutchman his penalty based on the impact it had.
He said, “They gave him the penalty because the Red Bull wheel ended up over Hamilton’s head. For the consequences of the action, they said that one should not judge on the basis of the consequences but they did it.”
While giving his analysis on the crash, the 50-year-old believed the crash could have been avoided. However, he also admitted their drive to succeed meant they couldn’t afford to give an inch.
He said, “Max was aggressive: he could have cut the chicane but then he would have had to give up the position. Lewis could have left 10 cm more but he wanted to stay in front. It seemed like a process of intentions. You cannot punish someone thinking that he did it on purpose when the contact starts meters before the maneuver becomes intentional.”
With the Russian Grand Prix up next, Verstappen leads Hamilton by five points in the driver’s championship. However, with both drivers separated by fine margins and intense battles, fans can only wonder what the next chapter of this rivalry holds.