Sincere apologies if you’re tired of the Lewis Hamilton/Max Verstappen clash story. It just will not die down – and their Mercedes and Red Bull teams have played a key role in its re-igniting spectacularly ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix.
It was unlikely that any other topic would dominate the Hungaroring weekend and here we are, picking over the debris of an explosive Thursday and a Friday that barely calmed things down either.
Rather than tread over so much old ground with the Silverstone collision and the 10-second penalty Hamilton got, let’s consider some of the things that have emerged this weekend that are keeping this fire burning.
RED BULL’S BID TO REVIEW FAILS IMMEDIATELY
Nobody seemed to really expect Red Bull’s petition for the stewards to review the incident from the British GP would result in a new decision.
But it was perhaps a little more likely that they would at least agree to review. Instead, Red Bull failed at what was effectively a pre-heading.
To get the stewards to review an incident, the applicant must demonstrate new and significant information that wasn’t available to the stewards at the time of the original decision.
If the stewards agree that new evidence has been discovered, they will review the case.
Red Bull didn’t even get that far. The stewards quite emphatically threw the case out, because Red Bull didn’t discover any new evidence they just repackaged some GPS data from the race and, in the words of the stewards, ”created” their own.
Red Bull even went as far as getting Alex Albon to perform a live “reenactment” of Hamilton’s line through Copse in a 2019 car a few days after the race…
Unsurprisingly, the stewards didn’t appreciate any of this. It was nothing new nor discovered. Red Bull had just constructed its own simulations from either pre-existing data or artificially created data, and presented that as new and relevant information.
MERCEDES IS LIVID
One of the most curious parts of the stewards’ decision on this petition was a reference to some allegations Red Bull made as part of its submission.
The stewards wouldn’t say what they were, but felt them serious enough to note their “concern”.
Shortly after that verdict, Mercedes unleashed an extremely strong statement in which it accused Red Bull of trying to tarnish Hamilton’s reputation. Mercedes said that something within Red Bull’s submission showed this as well.
Adding two and two together it’s tempting to conclude this might be Red Bull accusing Hamilton of causing the crash on purpose.
Well, that’s the case for Mercedes, who believe Red Bull has implicitly been doing exactly that.
But it has emerged the FIA stewards were annoyed because of the hint that their impartiality had been compromised by Toto Wolff’s visit – something FIA race director had Michael Masi approved of.
Now both sides are keen to start “de-escalating” the saga. Tell that to Horner, who called Mercedes antagonistic, and Wolff, who said Red Bull had been punching “below the belt”…
HAMILTON AND VERSTAPPEN UNMOVED
As the drivers discussed the incident more it became clear that they still don’t see eye to eye on this.
Hamilton said he’d make the same move again while Verstappen was adamant he was totally blameless and even expressed his surprise that the stewards had only put Hamilton “predominantly” at fault, not wholly.
It’s completely standard for two drivers to disagree when there is an incident like this so we probably shouldn’t be surprised. But given what’s at stake with these two regularly fighting wheel-to-wheel, it would seem prudent for the pair to find a way to make up and at least proceed in a respectful fashion.
Friday practice in Hungary put Mercedes on top while Verstappen struggled with understeer, so there is every chance that he and Hamilton will be closely matched come qualifying.
Regardless of how tight the fight for pole is between the two teams, the chances are they will be sharing the front two rows of the grid here.
That means anything is possible. But for the sake of avoiding another high-profile collision that rumbles on rather pointlessly for nearly two full weeks, hopefully a repeat of what happened at Silverstone isn’t forthcoming.